Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Travelogue – international music

Tuesday, July 31

This was the first day of the 15th International Handbell Symposium. The morning was time to set up the bells. I finally found out which bells I'll be playing and began to mark my music. I'm in an international “orphan” group, those who came by themselves. I am playing British made bells and have British ringers on either side of me. This group also has a couple Germans, a Swiss, and I think an Australian. I haven't met them all yet.

I had a quick lunch in time to be ready for Opening Ceremonies at 12:30. There were the usual speeches by the head of Handbell Ringers of Great Britain (our hosts), the head of the International Handbell Committee, and the Deputy Lord Mayor of Liverpool. All speeches (as well as everything else this week) were translated into Japanese and Korean. There was a procession of flags, this time including Hong Kong, who have been officially recognized has having a handbell guild and put into the rotation for hosting a future Symposium. The heads of the various national guilds played an opening chord (similar to American events where an opening bell is played).

I think I heard attendance is about 450, which makes this the smallest Symposium (at least the smallest I've attended). One in Japan many years ago had 900 attendees, which was the largest.

I met many people that I met at previous Symposiums. Alas, this is the only place I see them.

After the ceremonies came the group photo. We're in a big arena, so the participants filled the stands on one side and the camera man was at the top of the opposite side.

Then we launched into rehearsals for the ten massed ringing pieces. All the music looks interesting, though the Swiss guy, a beginner, gulped at the difficulty. Most of the ten directors are well prepared and know what to do to get a massed ensemble to play together. The exception is the Korean director, which is frustrating because that piece is the most rhythmically challenging. When things fell apart, she kept on going and it was only because of a couple people singing the tune that the rest of us could find our place.

At 7:30 we had a dinner that was also to serve as a mixer, a chance to meet people from other countries. It didn't go well. We were in a restaurant that didn't seem big enough. It didn't have tables and chairs for all of us. The upper floor didn't have good ventilation and got very hot. It took them an hour to serve us all in two buffet lines. The servings were small (they served us and didn't have enough people doing the serving), and they still ran out of some of the menu items. About the time they started serving the house band got going. They were a group pretending to be the Beatles, though they sang more than Beatles tunes. And they were loud. So loud that conversation was impossible. Which defeats the point of the mixer. And when the band took a break, the recorded music system was turned on. It wasn't as loud as the band, it merely made conversation difficult. Someone joked, where are my wire cutters when I need them? I left about 9:15, before the band came back on.

To bed. Rehearsals start promptly at 9:00 tomorrow morning.

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