I am fortunate to play in a hand bell choir. I say that even though I'm certainly not the most talented musician at any level, nor am I always the most willing.
Oh, it's been fun and challenging (since 1994 )to find another way to use my music. It's just that sometimes the absolute last thing I want to do at 8:00 a weekday evening after a long day is to go stand at a table for an hour. If we play in church that Sunday, after we practice then we get to tear down everything, haul it all down a flight of stairs, and then set it all up again in the sanctuary ready for Sunday.
That said, I must admit that these three octaves of hand bells played by beautiful women make truly beautiful music. Our director pushes us just enough to try more difficult music and new techniques so that we are all challenged.
Sometimes I think that hand bells were made for Christmas. All of the arrangements we play during Advent are lovely. While we're not doing an official holiday concert this season, we are playing at a community celebration this week, so that counts.
Concerts - or just playing in public - make everyone in whatever group it is do a little better. Now is concert time of year at the middle school where I work. I stepped into the gym where the sixth grade band was practicing one morning recently for their concert that evening. I thought the band sounded good, and everyone seemed to be trying hard to do it right. There were a few squeaks, but nothing serious.
Too bad I didn't make it to the real concert. That's when you get to see the young musicians cleaned up, dressed up, and all slicked up. As my high school band teacher told us regularly before a concert, "Before you come back tonight, make sure that you clean all the manure off your shoes after you do chores."
Sure, by the time you're in high school you get to wear a robe or a band uniform for a concert. I wonder whoever decided that you make better music if everyone is dressed alike. Probably the same person who encouraged matching jerseys for ball players and scouts to wear the same uniform shirt and neckerchief. I wonder if it makes one play better. I don't know about that, though, because my parents always claimed our concerts were really good. Of course I believed them.
I guess I knew then, even at that age, how special it was to be in a group that made music together. As I read somewhere recently, "Music is what life sounds like."