Festival First-Timers

Festival First-Timer? Help is on the Way!

By Beth Ann Edwards

As I write this article, the Area 8 2020 Festival is exactly one year from today: June 18-19-20, 2020! I love handbell festivals, and I love massed ringing. What could be better than ringing gorgeous music conducted by amazing clinicians, with 250 of your favorite handbell musicians! Many who will attend in 2020 are Faithful Festival Friends, any many will be attending for the very first time (Future Faithful Festival Friends). We all take time away from family, work, and friends to attend a Festival, and we budget time and money to spend a few nights away. We want to have the best experience possible, and we’re willing to prepare as best we can. So here are the BAE top 10 suggestions for a successful Festival prep:

  1. Review the options listed on the Area 8 website that best fit you and your choir. Massed ringing and classes take place on Friday and Saturday, June 19 and 20. A directors Seminar and Worship Seminar are offered on Thursday, June 18, and an extra Brush-up and Double-Check rehearsal is offered for Thursday evening. The BronzeFest ensemble is designed for advanced ringers who want a concentrated time to ring more challenging music and present a concert on Saturday afternoon. YouthFest is designed for ringers in middle school and high school and it’s an excellent vehicle for creating lifetime ringers.
  2. Choose your ringing division. The Blue Division will ring music that’s primarily Level 2. The Gold Division music is primarily Level 3. Both divisions will ring the massed pieces. The clinicians, John Behnke and Alex Guebert, will work with both divisions.
  3. Register early to get the best discounts. All groups are welcome: full choirs, partial choirs, and individuals. The Festival Committee will assist with matching individuals with choirs that have space for an extra ringer or two.
  4. Order your music and start your score study. Mark all conductors notes that are distributed before the event. If you are a director, some of the music might be a good choice for your choir to ring this next year, and then they’ll be one piece closer to Festival ready! Set a schedule for practicing the Festival music.
  5. Make hotel reservations. Staying at the Conference hotel is convenient, easy, and fun, and a continental breakfast is included with your stay. Ringers are everywhere, and they are very friendly. Hotel stays are a great way to meet new friends, and a great way for you and your choir to bond. When attendees stay at the Overland Park Sheraton, the 2020 Festival Hotel, overall Festival expenses are reduced.
  6. Talk it up. Create some “Festival buzz” in your handbell community and choir. Invite someone who has attended a Festival to talk to your choir. Encourage others in your community to attend with you and invite ringers from other choirs to fill available assignments in your choir.
  7. Watch videos of massed ringing videos on Youtube. (I searched for “massed ringing.”) Watching these videos, however, is like watching someone else drive a car. You’ll get an idea of what is happening on the ringing floor, but it’s nothing like experiencing it for yourself as a ringer.
  8. Familiarize yourself with the conductors and the music, and know a bit about them before you arrive. Watch videos and listen to music they have composed or conducted. Find information on the music you will ring. Is it original? Based on a hymn tune? An arrangement of a more contemporary song? Listen to recordings of the Festival arrangements and other arrangements of the same melody.
  9. Start a packing list: music, gloves, water bottles, band-aids and tape for your hands (if you’re not accustomed to ringing several hours in one day), pencils, clear tape, page turners, hole punchers, risers, comfortable shoes, cushiony floor mats. Bring your own equipment for massed ringing: bells, chimes, mallets, singing bell sticks, and more! Tables are available for a modest rental fee, and then you won’t have to transport your own.
  10. Plan to shop with the Festival vendors. Make a shopping list for music, accessories, and equipment, then carve out some time for shopping and attending reading sessions while you are at the Festival. The vendors have lots of items you never knew you needed!

And finally, ask questions! Feel free to contact me or any A8 Board Member if you are curious or need clarification. All of us have been first-timers, too, and we look forward tyo seeing you on the ringing floor.