Highlights of 2007:
With so many events over the past few years it was time to take a break from performing and work at developing our skills, which constant preparation for performance doesn’t allow us to do. So the first six months of 2007 were a quiet time for the handbell team. The only event we attended was the National Handbell Ringing Weekend at Hatfield in April. Not all the team were able to attend but those who did enjoyed the weekend and found the workshops valuable.
Ann McHale gives a ringer’s perspective…
At 11 o’clock skaters whirl and twirl, slip, slide, fall over and pick themselves up. Reindeer shuffle in their pen, and a festive horse and carriage carries children and grown-ups alike to see the sights – Its Christmas again at Kew. After the excitement of the cold, it is warming and festive to go inside the Orangery for something hot and to hear the Christmas Handbell ringers play familiar tunes – that is us! I’m dreaming of a White Christmas and Silent Night bring back happy memories, and excited but nervous children look imploringly hoping to be chosen to play the Jingle bells or to clip clop the coconuts. At one o’clock the bells stop and provide a different kind of entertainment as tables and drapes are whisked through the Orangery windows, the bells are packed into their boxes and vanish to the waiting trailer, for we have another venue to go to.
The Christmas Season is always our busiest time of year, and 2006 was no exception.
A typical day at the weekend during December comprised ringing for 2 hours at Kew in the Orangery at Lunch time, a run back down to the Chobham area for a performance at a retirement home during the afternoon, followed by playing as part of a Carol service in a Church in the evening.
Events of 2006 (in reverse chronological order):
Christmas ringing 2006
August 2006, some of us visited Brisbane, Australia (with our bells!) for that year’s International Handbell Symposium.
Events of 2005:
2005 was another active and successful year for the team. Our year began, as
always, by reviewing our repertoire in order to achieve an exciting and entertaining range of music, both for audiences and for ourselves. Once again we retained some favourite pieces and added some new ones, and the range of our repertoire has been commented on favourably by audiences.
Events of 2004 (in reverse chronological order):
2004 was an active and successful year for the team, beginning on St Valentine’s day, 14th February, by hosting a very successful rally for handbell teams from all over the South East Region. Further details of our activities may be found on our website (http://handbells.chobham.org/) and here we just provide some of the highlights.
August 2004, we made a tour to Ohio, USA, and Ontario and Quebec in Canada, taking in the International Handbell Symposium at Toronto.
Our first major event of 2003 was the national handbell rally at York in April. Teams from
around the country gave impressive performances, while we were all very gratified at the
tumultuous applause the Chobham team received for our medley of selections from “Les Miserables”. The summer was a time of change and sadness for us as Alan Collings, the founder of the team and its leader for 26 years, left the area to move to his retirement home in Sussex. He generously donated to us most of the music that we use, and the ancillary equipment (tables, stands etc.). We celebrated Alan’s outstanding contribution with a special farewell party in June, including a bell concert in the church involving former and current team members.
We are extremely fortunate that Tim Willetts has both agreed to take over the musical direction of the team, and has allowed us to use the handbells that he recently acquired (we previously used the bells owned by Alan). Many of you will know Tim as the one who wielded the huge bass bells! If anyone would like to take those on as a challenge, I am sure Tim would like to hear from you, or indeed anyone who would be interested in joining the team.
We have continued our regular Friday evening rehearsals and are particularly grateful to St Lawrence Church for allowing us to use the hall, since Alan’s departure. Our regular schedule of concerts, peaking in the run up to Christmas, has varied from large concert halls through a variety of churches to small retirement homes. We also participated in the South East Region “Stars and Stripes” rally. We now have our own website (http://handbells.chobham.org/) hosted on the village network (thanks to Nicholas Young) and we have released a new CD of Christmas music.
Looking forward to 2004, we have established a formal constitution and committee, we are hosting our own rally on Valentine’s day for teams in the South East, and we shall be one of the UK teams attending the International Handbell Symposium in Toronto in August.
Steven Edwards, Chairman
Moving large and heavy boxes full of bells on a long journey is no joke, not to mention our specially modified tables and padding to avoid damage to the bells when playing. Despite a series of unexpected challenges it was an interesting experience, and we had the opportunity to perform in some novel locations. We even had to jump start our bus at one point, and were to be seen pushing it, by hand, off the Eurotunnel shuttle on return to Folkestone!
Highlight of the tour was undoubtedly the Dutch National Carillon Museum at Asten. Here there are bells from ancient China, from around the world, and from continental Europe where the “Carillon” is popular in churches. This is a system by which tunes can be played on tower bells either via a special type of keyboard, or by a large drum like a giant music box. You can visit their website and see some of the exhibits, but be warned it is only available in Dutch!
We stayed in Amstelveen, a community near Amersterdam that is twinned with our neighbouring town of Woking in Surrey, and gave a concert at the local music school.
Sunday morning we particpated in a service at a Lutheran church outside Amsterdam, where the bells made a fine sound with the acoustics of the high roofed church.