This Tuesday night was our annual end-of-year maintenance for the Choir of Bells.
Well, *mostly* annual -- I've just completed my
5th SIXTH season there, having started in the Fall of 2002. We did the maintenance in 2003, 2004, and 2005. Then, in the summer of 2006, we sent the bells back to the factory for a complete refurbishment on the inner 3 octaves, and "clean & inspect" on the 4th & 5th octaves. After they came back, we switched to using "Sunshine Cloths" instead of those awful rouge cloths, which meant that the bells were much less gunky inside & we didn't need to do the EOY maintenance on them in the summer of 2007. This year, however, we did.
So, instead of meeting in the Sanctuary as we usually do, I reserved us a room in the Fellowship Hall with access to the newly-refurbished kitchen. Then, we followed this procedure:
*) Disassemble all the bells;
*) wash the castings (This removes the surface dirt - you wouldn't wax your car without washing it first, would you??);
*) clean the "innards" - basically, wipe off any dust or gunk from the clapper head, shaft, and springs;
*) paste polish the bells;
*) re-assemble the bells; and
*) put them away.
Meanwhile, we check to see if anything needs to be replaced or repaired. This year, Brian had to replace the index pin on the D3, but that was it.
Of course I took pictures and uploaded them to Flickr!
And, here's one of the pics, just to "wet" your appetite! ;-)
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
This Tuesday night was our annual end-of-year maintenance for the Choir of Bells.
Posted by Michele Sharik at 22:09
Monday, May 19, 2008
I said I'd post the concert program & here it is:
We started out with one of the processionals in John Behnke's Processionals for Handbells collection. I've never regretted buying this collection because over the course of 5 years, we've used all 4 of the processionals in it! Although, we haven't always done them *quite* as written....
We've never used the processionals as stand-alone pieces; we've always used them as a sort of prefix for our "real" opening number. The thing is, sometimes our opening number is in a different key from any of the processionals -- that was the case this year. This year, our "real" opening number was Karen Lakey Buckwalter's Praise to the Lord which starts out in the key of B-flat - this is, with 2 flats. The processional we chose to do was the first one in the book -- but it's in E-flat (3 flats).
So, my solution: We played it as written *except* that all the A's were natural instead of flat. That means we played it in Lydian mode! Pretty darn cool, huh? :-) We didn't play the final chord of the processional (an E-flat major chord), either, but rather skipped that measure & just started Praise to the Lord. So we went from a chord consisting of B-flat3, F4, A4, C5, F5, C6, F6, A6 (basically an F major chord with B-flat in the bass) to unison B-flats in 3 octaves to begin the hymn.
(It's not really all *that* weird -- F major is the Dominant chord in the key of B-flat major, producing a nice V-I authentic cadence (with the addition of the new Tonic note in the bass), so it worked really well.)
Speaking of Praise to the Lord, I added a french horn part to it. One of my ringers (Jim Millar) is a very good horn player & since all the bell parts were adequately covered, I wrote a part for him. I also doubled the handbell melody 15va - that is 2 octaves higher than written (and yes, I know it should really be "15ma") - on the first verse. Let me clarify for a moment: the melody begins on F5. I asked for it to be doubled beginning at F7 -- NOT for both the F6 & F7 to play. (This is a trick I learned from James Meredith - which he apparently got from Ernst Bacon's original piece for handbells, "Constable Cycle".) It was a marvelous effect when combined with the horn!
The next piece was the American Folk Hymn Suite for organ, harp, and handbells by Dale Wood. In the first & the fourth movements (I Love Thee & Pisgah, respectively), the organ & harp have the main material while the handbells provide color and texture. In the second & third movements (Happy Land & Beach Spring, respectively), the organ is tacet and the handbells and the harp share melodic material, as well as serving as accompaniment for the other instrument.
Our wonderful harpist for the evening was Mary Pless, who rings handbells at my other church in Menlo Park. The organ was in the very capable hands of Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church's organist, Valerie Sterk.
We always try to feature small ensemble music at our concerts, too. This year was no exception!
Marsha & Debbie Dyslin (mother & daughter) played the duet version of Christine Anderon's It Is Well With My Soul, accompanied by Valerie on piano. They played this as a postlude for worship back in March -- and many people from the congregation stayed to hear them play it rather than leaving right away for fellowship out in the courtyard. They did a great job and the audience really really enjoyed it.
Next up was a trio of our youngest members -- Debbie Dyslin, Sara Millar, and Christine Reilly playing The Cold of Between by Rima Greer. A popular addition to Campanile concerts for years, it was also a big hit at our concert! The 3 girls sat on the Chancel steps with their chimes and played. (Christine even had it memorized!)
Then soloist Elaine Collins played the solo version of Arnold Sherman's Grazioso with Valerie on piano. This is one of my favorite solos & Elaine did a fabulous job with it -- it ain't easy to play, but she did it with grace and aplomb and received *extended* applause from the audience! She deserved it, too! YAY!
For the Offertory, I played a handbell solo accompanied by Mary on harp. We played the fourth movement (Andante Cantabile) from Vincent Persichetti's Serenade No. 10 for flute and harp.
Theda Howard joined us as the character "Cubby" (CUB = Common Use Basket) from Tammy Waldrop's Ring-a-Story The Little Boy & the Lunch. Her mom, my dear friend Gretchen Rauch, made the most *adorable* costume from a quilting hoop and strips of brown fabric (3 different shades!). We schticked it up a little more than the score suggested (I know you're wondering: how is that even possible?!?) with 2 fish (drawings of, mounted on foam board & attached to short sticks) and with 5 loaves of bread (real bread, sourdough baguettes) as well as a giant plaid napkin. Oh my goodness, the audience just *ate this up*!! Whee!! :-)
(If you have never done anything from Tammy's "Ring-a-Story" series, you *should*! They are hilarious and so much FUN!)
After a question and answer session, we closed with Lloyd Larson's Antiphony of Joy, complete with 4 ringers at the back of the Sanctuary ringing the antiphonal bell choir part. Valerie joined us on organ & the audience sang along on all 3 verses of Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee. It was an absolutely glorious way to end the concert - all those voices raised in song!
After the final number, I expected us to do as we had rehearsed: bow, then exit. However, my ringers had other plans! The ringers presented Theda, Mary, and Valerie with gifts to show our appreciation for their participation and support. They also said some *very* nice words about me & then gave me flowers - and jewelry! Swarovski crystal earrings!! Here's a pic:
All in all, it was a FABULOUS concert! I am SO PROUD of my group -- the compliment I heard most often from the audience after the concert was "they just keep getting better and better every year" - and it's true!
I am *very* blessed to be their director. :-)
Posted by Michele Sharik at 15:18
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Just a quickie post to say that I uploaded pics from today's church service & concert (well, the pre-concert rehearsals & post-concert stuff) to Flickr.
Check out the set here!
I will post our concert program tomorrow. Meanwhile, here's one pic from the set -- taken from the church balcony while we warmed up for the 10 am church service:
Posted by Michele Sharik at 23:50
I've got a bsuy day today!
The Choir of Bells is playing for the 10:00 service - our call time is 9:00.
Immediately after the service we will be setting up & rehearsing for our Annual Spring concert.
Immediately after that rehearsal I will drive an hour to Oakland for Sonos rehearsal (to which I will be about an hour late).
That's over at 4. I will go home & quickly get ready to go back to church for our 7:30 concert - call time is 6:15.
whew! Busybusy! I will post more details - and hopefully pics, too! - later tonight.
Posted by Michele Sharik at 07:30
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Back in November, I attended PASIC (the Percussive Arts Society International Conference in Columbus, OH.
Immediately after the conference, I played for a church service at Faith Lutheran Church in Mount Vernon, OH, a suburb of Columbus.
I set up my bells in the hotel room & practiced!
Posted by Michele Sharik at 21:13
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Marsha Dyslin rings in The Choir of Bells, my bell choir from Sunnyale Presbyterian Church. Her daughter Sara has been ringing chimes with the church's LOGOS program & has been subbing with the bell choir, too. (We hope she'll be able to join the group next year!)
On Tuesday, Marsha & Sara did a presentation about handbells at Sara's school! In Marsha's own words:
The day is set up with 4 classes of 20 coming to your room for 30 minutes each.Doesn't that sound like fun??
As the students came in the room we had your cd, Chimera, playing a few selections. We asked the kids to tell us what instruments they heard. They all got handbells since they were standing in front of a table of handbells and knew they were coming to a demonstration about handbells. We were pretty impressed when one of them said harp, and then they did pretty good with piano, organ and even cello. Then we asked them how many were playing the handbells they heard on the selections. Hands shot up, 100? lower, 50? lower, 20? lower, 10?, 5?, 3? And when they finally got to ONE, they were pretty amazed.
Sara and I played a short duet, Harry Potter movie theme (13 bells), showed Jason's "Humility" You tube video , and then had the kids play nursery rhymes, or familiar songs on the hand chimes. We had written out the note letters on a sheet, so I pointed to the sheet, said the number while Sara pointed to the right line of kids to play their note.
30 minutes was over really fast, and 4 sets of 20 kids (1st - 3rd graders) got a fun introduction to handbells and chimes.
Here's a pic of Marsha & Sara!
Posted by Michele Sharik at 14:54
Thursday, May 8, 2008
My concert last Sunday in Minneapolis was sponsored by Dean Jensen, one of the hosts of the Handbell Podcast. At this Tuesday night's taping of the show, he & Paul (his co-host) reviewed my concert!
You can download this episode from the podcast's shownotes page or from this link (which is a copy of the MP3 I saved for my own archives).
The show's only half an hour & they talk about me for the first 15-20 minutes, then play the solo version of Arnold Sherman's Grazioso from the Red River publisher demo CD (a song I played at the concert, but what they're playing is NOT me - it's Sueda Luttrell), then they talk about me some more.
Posted by Michele Sharik at 16:09
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
This past week on my Midwest Tour, a lot of people came up to me to thank me or otherwise compliment the "spoken notes" between pieces at my concerts.
When I first started playing solo concerts, the notes were just a way to "cover" the re-setting of the bells between pieces. However, the more I researched the music I was playing, the more fascinating material I found. Being a total geek, I loved the trivia and other exciting information & decided to share it with everybody!
I mean, how many people know that one of the pavilions burnt down at the "Royal Fireworks"?? Or what "Greensleeves" has to do with potatoes??
I hear people say that "classical music is dead" - if it seems that way, then it's because performers haven't been doing their jobs. We seem to put music - and especially classical music - in a museum display. It's behind glass, in "white space", totally out of context, with no relation to our lives.
Through my spoken notes, I hope to break the display case glass & bring the music back to life. Every piece of music has a story; it was written for a reason, for real people and their activities.
William Congreve said, "Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak" and it's true! There's a reason we still play this music 200, 300, even 400 years later & I want to share that reason with my audience.
So far, judging from the comments I receive, it seems as if I'm doing a pretty good job of it. I'm happy for that because it means that my music touches people's hearts, which is all any performer can ask for.
Posted by Michele Sharik at 23:28
Monday, May 5, 2008
I'm on the plane heading from Minneapolis to Phoenix. (Obviously I can't send this yet, but when I touch down this will go out.)
I'm thinking back over the last week....
First, Paul Kinney was a gracious host. I've known him via email for over 10 years now, ever since I joined the Handbell-L back in 1997. He's a very nice man & a knowledgeable musician - he has recently completed a Masters degree in Composition. In addition to my concert this week, we talked about my interest in some of his works.
My next recording project is with Bronzewood Paedeia, but after that, I want to do a CD of small ensemble pieces. It will definitely be a "studio CD" - I have no intention of forming a performing group to "tour" with the music, even though that would be awesome. Paul has some pieces that I'm very interested in recording.
I also want to commission him to write some things for solo bells with orchestra. He has a very similar musical vision to mine, so I think we're a good fit.
We chatted about the recording project for a little while on Wednesday. He showed me some sketches for some things he's writing. I am looking forward to working with him in the future!!
When I saw Stevie she said that it seems like we talk face-to-face a lot, but in reality we've only seen each other maybe 3 or 4 times. I love Stevie & had a wonderful time not only performing with her, but also just hanging out with her. She is a really neat person & I genuinely like her.
Of course I'm jealous that she gets to work with Phil Pletcher all the time - what a jewel he is!!
The retirement community gig on Friday morning was really special. I'm so very glad that Stevie invited me along to do that with her!!
I've also known Matthew Prins since he joined the -L back in 2003 or 2004. When Sonos was touring after the 2004 National Convention in Norfolk (the 50th Anniversary), we played near him in Richmond, VA (maybe even at his church?), but he wasn't able to come see us.
He wrote a piece for Bronzewood Paedeia (which we have yet to play, but it's on the list!).
Friday was the first time I ever saw him in person. He's a great guy - quite unassuming, almost shy, unlike his online persona. He was an excellent host & I had the privilege of meeting his 2 year old son Benji. Very articulate & polite, Benji benefits from the attentions of his stay-at-home dad. I wish them all the best - they deserve it!!
Saturday was a travel day for me. I met up with fellow -L'er Alice Teter - another person who I've known for years via email but had never met in person - and her friend Sally Meredith. We had a great lunch at an Irish pub in Madison, WI, and talked about handbells for over an hour, just like old friends.
Upon my arrival in Minneapolis, I discovered another "separated at birth" friend of mine (the other is Gini Rainey from East Texas). Dean Jensen & I have many interests in common & we got along famously. His wife Shereen is also a great person & I hope to spend more time with both of them in the future!! They are welcome to come visit me in the Bay Area anytime they want!
Their kids - 2-year-old Anneka & 5-year-old Andrew are also both really sweet. This morning, as Andrew was getting ready for school he said to me "I wish you could stay here all week!" That just melted my heart!
Both Anneka & Andrew are great kids - very smart & articulate - I can tell they're going to be great people & I am exited to know them as they grow up.
*This* is a large part of why I love my job! I meet so many great people in my travels. I see so many great
sites sights, too, but really it's the *people* that make it special.
Whether it's Taiko in Tokyo, Emily in Hong Kong, Keith in England, Malcolm in Scotland, Antje in Germany, or any of the hundreds of people I've met in the States, it's definitely the people I meet that make all the hard work worth it.
Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for making this so much fun!!!
-Michèle (from my mobile phone, on descent into Phoenix)
Posted by Michele Sharik at 20:16
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Tonight's concert in Shoreview, MN, went VERY well. My accompanist, Dave Tidball, was wonderful. It's such a great joy to make music with people who are so talented - I am truly blessed.
The comments I received tonight - wow. Let me just say that I will cherish them forever. Something about tonight's show just seemed to really touch people's hearts.
Tomorrow, Dean, Shereen, & I are going to the Guthrie Theater for a tour, then Dean & I are going to lunch with Monica McGowan. We're also planning to go to the Mall of America & ride some roller coasters before I have to go to the airport & catch my flight home. I fly MSP-PHX-SJC, arriving home at 11:17pm, where my husband will be waiting for me.
I've had a wonderful trip - I needed this; the emotional release has been very therapeutic for me, but I think I'm ready to go home.
Posted by Michele Sharik at 22:56
Saturday, May 3, 2008
I arrived safely at the home of Dean & Shereen Jense in Wyoming, MN, at about 6:30. We had a great dinner & conversation - and did I mention that their 2 kids (Andrew & Anneka) are ADORABLE??
It's time for me to go to bed now - tomorrow is a busy day! 8:00 rehearsal, then 10:00 church service, then rehearse for the evening concert, then we're going to attend the Twin Cities Bronze concert (then they're coming to see my concert!), then it's showtime!
Posted by Michele Sharik at 20:46
Friday, May 2, 2008
The 3 of us played for a retirement community this morning & that was great fun, too. So many of the residents came up to us afterwards with tears in their eyes to tell us how much they enjoyed the show. That's part of why I do this; to bring joy to people's lives. :-)
after lunch with some of Stevie's family, I drove through 2 lightning storms & sat in Chicago traffic to get to West Dundee for my concert tonight. Linda is also a gifted pianist & a very flexible & responsive accompanist.
Matthew was kind enough to get me a hotel room for tonight, so I have taken the opportunity to re-pack my luggage & get a bit more organized.
Tomorrow I drive first to Madison, WI, to have lunch with fellow -L'er Alice Teter. After that I might be taking a side trip to Winona, MN, to visit a former ringer, but our plans are not yet firm. I will arrive @ Dean Jensen's house Saturday evening.
Sunday is both a church service & a concert, and with a 6 hour drive tomorrow, I'm kind of glad I don't have to play tomorrow night. I'm looking forward to meeting new friends & re-connecting with old.
Posted by Michele Sharik at 22:16
Thursday, May 1, 2008
I'm on my way from Detroit to Grand Rapids today - no, I'm not typing while driving; I've made a short pit stop to rest for a moment.
Last night's concert went well. There were 112 people in attendance, which I know pleasantly surprised my host Paul Kinney. He was worried that a Wednesday night concert would be poorly-attended, but he did all the right publicity & there were people from far and wide there.
My accompanist Dick Lenz was outstanding! I hope to get the chance to work with him again in the future.
Everybody seemed to enjoy the show - I received many compliments especially on my "spoken notes" between pieces. I do spend time researching the music I play & I'm glad my audience appreciates it. :-)
I was tired, though, and fumbled a bit in the 2nd half. That's always disppointing, of course, but ç'est la vie. :-(
I was happy to see some old (and new) handell buddies there. In addition to Paul, Julie Sigler from Classical Bells was there & brought 6 people with her. Sue & Dave Berry were there, as were Lynnette Hoestler & Ellen Woodard. (I know I'm spelling some names wrong; please forgive me!)
Unfortunately, I completely forgot to take any pictures!! I blame the jet-lag. Speaking of which, I feel much better today, but I'm sure I could've slept another 2 or 3 hours with no problem!
I'll try to remember to get pics tonight. I'm being hosted by Stephanie Wiltse (director of Embellish) & accompanied by Phil Pletcher, who accompanied Nancy Hascall on her solo CD. Should be fun!!
-Michèle (from my mobile phone)
Posted by Michele Sharik at 07:37