Ringing Thanks – Repertoire for Thanksgiving

Autumn is here and Thanksgiving is seven weeks away. If you haven’t already chosen repertoire for the holiday, ChimeWorks has some great ideas for your ensemble.  The popular tunes below have several settings for beginning to intermediate choirs and feature handchimes or handbells alone to arrangements that are more flexible to include percussion, keyboard or optional instrumental and choir parts.  All of the titles listed below are available for immediate purchase and digital download.  Click the links to view sample pages and listen to a recording upon availability.

The Ash Grove (Let All Things Now Living)

2 Octaves, Level 3

2 – 3 Octaves, Level 1

 

Many and Great

2 – 3 Octaves with Percussion, Level 1

3 – 5 Octaves with Percussion, Level 1

3 – 6 Octaves, Level 2 with Keyboard & Narrator

 

Now Thank We All Our God (Bach)

4 – 6 Octaves, Level 3 with Keyboard, Optional Brass & Optional Choir

 

Now Thank We All Our God

2 – 3 Octaves, Level 1+ with Optional Bb or C Instrument

3 – 5 Octaves, Level 1 + with Optional Bb or C Instrument

 

All Things Bright and Beautiful

2 – 3 Octaves, Level 2

 

Processional on All Things Bright and Beautiful

3 – 5 Octaves, Level 1

 

This Is My Father’s World

2 – 3 Octaves, Level 1+ with Flute

3 – 5 Octaves, Level 1+ with Flute

3 – 5 Octaves, Level 3- with Optional Flute, Organ and Congregation

Adding Life to Music When Ringing

 

We know a being is alive when we check for pulse.  So, it is for music!  Without pulse, music can be dull.

Some think that only music with quicker tempos can be exciting.  This can’t be farther from the truth!  A case in point would be Ravel’s Bolero.  Watch it here.  Yes, it is pulse that brings music to life.  It’s the underlying beats which are strong and weak that add ebb and flow to our sound that makes it so musical, so alive!

We can bring this concept to our ringing ensembles by having them do a couple of things to accent beats.  But before doing so, we have to teach our ringers to feel the music with its stronger and weaker beats so that it is innate.

Teaching about meter initially is a lesson worth the time as it will always remain.  As you introduce different time signatures, be sure to take the time to introduce the stronger and weaker beats.  Having your ringers clap the 4 beats in 4/4 time and give a heavy stomp on beat 1 and a lighter stomp on beat 3 is a great exercise for new musicians.  Follow suit with ¾ time with the stomp only on 1.

Before stressing too many musical points in the handchime or handbell rehearsal, practice the score so that the notes are fairly comfortable.  At that point, the ringers can focus on musical issues rather than struggle with note reading.

One of the easiest ways to bring out the line in a melody is to have your ringers sing it.  Any nonsense syllable like “la” or doo” will be fine if they are unfamiliar with the text.  Your ringers will naturally accent the beats that are important as they sing and it is important that they feel it with their entire body, especially their arms.  The arm motion is the breath support for the chime or bell and will help the melody to be more lyrical.  Encourage the ringers to move in some as they sing stressing the stronger beats.

Pulse is probably more important in the harmonic accompaniment as it carries the melody.  Sometimes, it may be harder to feel.  When rehearsing, separate the melody from the harmony and have those ringing harmony clap when their notes ring, stressing stronger and weaker beats.   Adding a stomp of the foot on the strongest beat will help as well.

Once your ringers are feeling the pulse in the music, there are few things that they can do to bring out the stronger beats.  The obvious one would be a stronger flick of the wrist when ringing.  Plane is important as we ring and holding the instrument higher (between the breast and shoulder) for stronger beats and lower (between the waist and breast) for weaker beats.

These are just a few concepts to consider as you teach your ringers that all beats are not created equal!

Stopped Sounds on Handchimes

 

Because of their design, handchimes do not lend themselves to all of the special ringing techniques as handbells.  Many of the techniques when performed, could be damaging to the handchime itself in the area of the tines which determines the tuning of the instrument.  The damage is done when the chime tube cracks at the base of the tines, changing the length of the tines.  If the vibrating tine’s length is altered in any way, the pitch is distorted permanently.

A tine generally cracks when it is bent from ringing or malleting with too much force or from using the martellato technique.  Larger tines can also bend when their vibrating cycle is interrupted.  The larger the chime, the lower the pitch and the slower the vibrating cycle.  Playing short, repeated notes on bass chimes will weaken the tines.  Shaking on treble handchimes will weaken the tines.  A rule to follow would be:  the larger the chime, the longer the duration of the note to be played.  Bass chimes should be used for a harmonic support to the handchimes above it – C4 on up.

ChimeWorks® has created the chart below as an easy reference when using special ringing techniques with handchimes:

 

The Finger Damp is an acceptable technique in creating a stopped sound on a handchime.  The size of the hand and the handchime will dictate who can employ the technique.  The handchime is rung with the finger already in place therefore, the vibrating cycle is not interrupted.

Finger Damp (TD)

Slide the forefinger to the top area of the handchime and place the finger pad in the center of the tine slot and ring the chime. 

This should result in pitch with little resonance. 

The size of the handchime will determine if more than one finger is needed to properly execute the technique.

 

 

 

 

 

While we would like handchimes to be a full replacement for handbells, it is not possible because of the design and material of the instruments.  We encourage you to embrace the unique qualities of handchimes and use their strengths in choosing repertoire and determining when to substitute them for handbells:

  • A strong fundamental pitch with fewer overtones creates a richer sound quality which is why we love to use them for slow moving harmonies.
  • Chimes are ethereal. Because aluminum is a softer metal, handchimes are more mellow in color.  This is also the cause of handchimes being slower to “speak” than handbells and why slower tempos are recommended.
  • A pure, intense tone is created by handchimes which resonates through more complex tonal sounds making them perfect to solo a melodic line.

 

 

 

Get in Step with Processionals

Get in step and add some interest to your next program by beginning with a ringing processional.  There are plenty of resources available for ensembles of every age and ringing level.

Memorizing isn’t as difficult as it seems as many processionals are based on repeated patterns (ostinati).  The key to successfully programing a processional is giving your ensemble plenty of time to rehearse and memorize before putting their feet into play.  Often, memorization comes naturally with repeated playing – consider using a processional as a rehearsal warm-up and months later, it will be inherent.

Impressive, processionals add a little WOW into a performance adding aural and visual variety.  Consider adding in some non-pitched percussion for more effect and it will also help to keep the group together rhythmically.

Children will jump at the idea of processing while adults may be a little less excited about the idea.  If you do meet some resistance, you may consider having the first processional memorized but rung in place behind the tables.  This will give your ringers the opportunity to connect visually with their audience and welcome them into the performance.

Here are some recommendations from ChimeWorks for you to consider all available for immediate purchase and digital download:

Processional Celebration

Processional Jubilee

Processional on All Things Bright and Beautiful

Processional on Good King Wenceslas

Processional and Joyful Dance (2 – 3 Octaves) or (3 – 5 Octaves)

Six Processionals

Earth Shall Ring (Personent Hodie)

Bell Processional

Fanfare and Alleluia (2 Octaves) (2 -3 Octaves) (3 – 5 Octaves)

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Processional and Bell Chime