The banners outside proclaimed to all who entered, “The hippest place to retire,” and that must be true. Why else would they request the Granite State Ringers to perform? On Saturday December 12, 2009, GSR played for a packed crowd at Havenwood-Heritage Heights retirement community.
The whole experience was truly amazing. The audience was eager for the performance to begin. Residents and guests alike filled the auditorium. There was a positive buzz in the air. Many wondered out loud what they would expect to hear. Once the ringers started, people’s eyes grew bigger, some pointed, and often those in attendance shared with the person next to them what they were seeing.
You must understand that a live handbell concert is a visual feast for the eyes. In front of you stands 15 people, 61 bronze handbells, 61 aluminum handchimes, a tambourine, a hand-drum, temple blocks, and a very focused conductor with a baton.
When any piece of music starts you watch for movement. At any given time you see:
- a handbell being swung
- a musician playing four bells at once (two in each hand)
- musicians sharing half a dozen bells between them
- another musician ringing then gently tapping their bell on the table
- someone using mallets on bells resting on the table.
There’s also the optical illusion of light traveling faster than sound. The glimmer of those golden bells happens seconds before the melodic sound hits your ears. Your mind tries to attach the angelic notes to specific bells. But with a huge group of handbell ringers you can’t keep up.
Finally, you must accept what comes to your ears and flows all around you. No more thinking it over. No room for Mr. Spock and his stellar logic. You must surrender to the divine euphoric sounds and just enjoy. A transformation takes place and that’s when it happens– A smile appears on your face. You can’t avoid it. It’s as if a weight is lifted and all is well.
If you have the opportunity to attend a handbell concert in your community- do so! There is no single experience in the world like it.