How can Schools and Pupils Demonstrate their Progress?
We know that this is an important objective for music hubs, schools and young people themselves.
In Singapore and Hong Kong handbell teachers use handbell grade assessments developed in conjunction with the London College of Music. HRGB has agreed that handbell musicians in Britain can now demonstrate their progress in this way and the first few UK schools have achieved certification.
In addition HRGB runs the Crescendo scheme which has been in existence for over 10 years and has become an accepted and popular way of keeping young ringers interested in improving their style and knowledge. There is no cost to the scheme - unless presentation Certificates and lapel badges are required as the young ringers mark their progress.
From Alex Nairne, Surrey:
"I really enjoy bell band and when I go to senior school I still want to play bells"
What about the future? Handbell ringing is an option in music courses in universities in other countries. We would like to see students ringing regularly in some British universities as soon as possible.
Watch these secondary age pupils - The Bournemouth Youth Handbell Team playing InThe Mood.
These reports, written by young people in the USA, show how it could be (should be?) in the UK:
“Bell ringing is a hybrid: it's a cross between a team sport and a musical instrument. It takes about ten people to perform a piece of music. If someone doesn't show up, the group cannot function properly, so playing bells has taught me to be reliable.
I have become enthralled with the psychology and the physiology of playing music as a team. Music tugs at my soul. The degree of cooperation my bell choir achieves knits us together emotionally. Not only are the rhythms of my group emotionally stimulating, they are physically stimulating as well!
When I ring, the bell is an extension of my arm, and my entire body is my instrument. Thus, I have to dance-move my entire body in sync with the music in order to play.
I consider handbells to be an intellectual interest because ‘academic’ subjects have never challenged me the way bell choir has. Apart from the constant cooperation, when I ring, I have to keep a lot of key components of technique constantly in mind: space, time, energy, weight, balance, and plasticity.
I am excited by the thought of discourse [in college] with other musicians about how these concepts can be applied to other musical instruments.”
“A friend of mine wanted me to join our church's handbell team. I was adamantly resistant to the idea of joining - I never considered myself musical, and figured I would just embarrass myself. I agreed to show up for a practice if she(!) would watch Lord of the Rings with me. [She accepted, and grudgingly, I showed up].
At the first rehearsal, I was more than a little apprehensive and was unable to do anything but stand there and watch the notes parade past me.
By the second rehearsal, I was able to play a handful of my notes.
I soon grew to love playing handbells. It combines physical movement with musical expression, almost a cross between choral music and dance. Tim Waugh (a well-known music/handbell instructor) says that the musical instrument you are playing is not a bell; it is your body. Indeed, few other instruments allow you to feel the music as much as bells.”