This past week I enjoyed a bell choir concert. It was at my home congregation. Most of the faces are new but some are the same familiar friends I have known for years. My father is still in the Bell Choir. He has an amazing talent for music, both instrumental and vocal. My brother was in band all through his youth continuing on in the US Navy’s Band, playing well into his mid twenties. My sister participated in band, choir, bell choir, chorus, University Of Nebraska Marching Band and continues to have a beautiful singing voice also. My mom well let’s just say we are cut from the same cloth.
I am not musically inclined. I was blessed by the “Make a joyful noise, unto the Lord” gene in my family. I love to sing, and I sing with gusto! I have played instruments in my youth. I played the trombone for five years when I was in elementary/middle school. I enjoyed the baritone sound it produced. The long armed positioning of the slide was an excellent workout for my gangly slim arms. I was never a good trombone player, per say, I had no commitment to practicing and I couldn’t read music, without words, to save my soul. So when the music director of my future high school came recruiting for marching band I was done. Seriously? He wanted me to play trombone and walk in perfect synchronicity with others. I put that beautiful brass instrument back in its case and shoved it under the eves of our attic, gladly. The funny part of my musical escapade with the trombone, is all through my nervous, side wards glancing of the positioning of the player next to me, I gleefully played in the Youth Bell Choir at my church. I loved ringing the bells! I would practice in my room at night holding pencils like the handbells. I would tap my toe to keep beat and visualize the hymn in my mind’s eye. I was in the choir with my best friend so that helped too. We would giggle and joke on our way up the back stairs to the choir loft. Talking constantly through practice until we were separated. Slipping on the white gloves just to hold each bell without tarnishing the shiny brass. You could not let the bells bump one another, “$0.25 for each bump!” we would be scolded by the director if her unruly youths became too silly. I of course still couldn’t read the music but I cheated. I knew most of the hymns by heart and would underline the notes I got to ring. I would memorize everyone’s movements so I knew when to ring, if I got a little confused. Notes were missed, giggling resumed, looks of exasperation crossed our directors face, and then it was a hymn. The individual magical notes combined to make a beloved hymn come to life.
I watched the ringers play their bells this last Sunday remembering my involvement so many years ago. The director of the choir is not the same as my director but the reaction was distinctly the same when a musician bumped a bell. They played a hymn I still to this day could play if given my bells and a fancy pair of gloves, which are now black instead of white. I sat in awed reverence as the music continued on. Each note resounding through the church like it was looking for an easy exit to the heavens. The calming, blue colors of the Advent season on the altar giving the choir a beautiful background. If ever one needed a prompting to this season of anticipation this was it!