Handbell festivals ring in good cheer, better choirs
    March 24 2014 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

    Gathering handbell choirs together may seem odd to an outside observer.
    But choir directors across North Carolina find the annual youth and East/West adult handbell festivals a great place to learn better techniques and to practice and learn songs together.
    “Our students look forward to this event every year,” said Dawn Tatum, youth handbell choir director for First Baptist Church in Huntersville. “It’s a highlight of the year’s experience. Festival helps our individual groups be a part of the bigger picture of music ministry. It encourages them to achieve a higher level of excellence in their ringing skills, while affirming their own abilities.”
    Tatum said the youth handbell choir has been attending the annual festival, which is sponsored by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), since 2001.

    BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
    Seventeen handbell choirs took part in the East Adult Handbell Festival Feb. 28-March 1 at Winter Park Baptist Church in Wilmington.

    Comprised of students from grades seven through 12, Tatum said the festival helps the youth advance their music reading and helps “them become great ‘appreciators’ of music. These kids also gain poise and presence, and confidence that transfers to all areas of life.”
    Both the Youth Handbell Festival and the East and West Adult Handbell festivals met in February. Planning the festivals takes time and organization said Jim Davidson, minister of music at First Baptist Church in Hickory. Davidson is the handbell event coordinator for the BSC.
    For the youth festival, Davidson said seven choirs totaling 85 people (including drivers and directors) attended this year’s festival at Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro. The adult choirs are divided most years with one gathering in the East and one in the West. The East festival attracted 17 choirs totaling about 180 people at Winter Park Baptist Church in Wilmington. The West festival is usually bigger. Its location was at the LeGrand Center in Shelby. Around 400 ringers from 34 choirs participated.
    “Each clinician brings some new insights into music and into handbell ringing,” Davidson said.
    The festivals help ringers with technique and provide fellowship. If churches have a handbell choir there is usually only one so they never have the chance to hear another choir unless they come to the festival.
    “Having the chance to ring under the direction of a widely known director is a privilege and a pleasure,” Tatum said. “It’s exciting and exhilarating to ring alongside so many other choirs. Festival truly unites our ringers through a specific musical art.”
    Tatum considers handbells a team sport because it requires elements of team play and commitment to the group. She also believes involvement in handbell choir “enhances the students’ spiritual development through the teaching of scripture, praise and prayer.” 
    Davidson has a tough job of mapping out where choirs are located in the festival space. Since the choirs bring their own equipment, Davidson has to figure table lengths appropriate for each choir. Each festival has a set list of music which helps build the church’s repertoire for its playing schedule at its respective church.
    Every five years, Davidson said the BSC hosts PraisRing, which joins East/West festivals together. Next year’s PraisRing is April 17-18 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro. At least 60 choirs are expected to attend. Directors will be Tim Waugh and Ed Tompkins from The Charlotte Bronze. The festival is for TINS (2-3 octave choirs) and COPPERS (4-5 octave choirs). PraisRing also offers breakout sessions teaching anything from handbell repair to various types of techniques like ringing four bells in hand.
    Registration will open July 2014 for the adult festival.
    The 2015 Youth Handbell Festival is scheduled Feb. 27-28 at Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro. Registration will open later this year.
    For more information, contact Sherry Thompson at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5624, or sthompson@ncbaptist.org.
    3/24/2014 2:48:38 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments
    Filed under: BSC, handbells

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