JULY 17, 2011 — MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. — Startled patrons in the lobby of the Minneapolis Hilton hotel looked around in confusion as two dozen handbell musicians ambushed them in a flash mob today.
Daniel M. Reck was among the performers, led by Rima Grier, who parodied "Mickey, You're So Fine" and "La Bamba" with new lyrics about how any kind of music can be played on handbells. The stunt was to help publicize tonight's handbell concert at the hotel.
"We know how to have fun," says Reck, "but we're also working to show that handbell musicians are like just like any other musicians."
Tonight's concert will feature Reck in one of the two National All-Star Handbell Choirs, along with an advanced group of teenage musicians which has participated in a series of special classes over the weekend. The entire event is the finale to the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers National Seminar, which combines a mult-day professional conference with marathon rehearsal sessions.
"It's been a great deal of hard work to prepare," says Reck, who successfully auditioned into the ensemble as its bass ringer. "The all-star ensembles are each performing four advanced works with about six hours of rehearsal before the performance."
"Our conductor, Deborah Carr, has helped us gel well," Reck says. Minneapolis-St. Paul native Bill Alexander is conducting the other national all-star ensemble.
For her ensemble, Carr will be conducting Louis Vierne's "Carillon" as arranged by Jeffery A. Hall, as well as her own arrangement of the traditional Catalonian carol, "Carol of the Birds."
The other two works are both arranged by Cathy Moklebust, who joins the all-star ensemble as its percussionist. One is an original work for handbells, "Vision Quest," and the other is an arrangement of the 16th century Spanish carol "Ríu, Ríu, Chíu."
"'Ríu, Ríu, Chíu' has been our greatest challenge to rehearse," says Reck. "There is a great deal of complexity under the hood, masked by the repetitive simplicity of the melody."
As the group's bass ringer, Reck covers nearly an octave and a half—seventeen in all—of handbells weighing up to twenty pounds and measuring two feet across. He also plays the handchimes for the same range, some of which are taller than he is.
"A handchime is simply an amplified tuning fork," Reck says. "Of course, these tuning forks are six feet tall and correspond to notes three octaves below middle C."
The concert begins at 7:30 PM in Ballroom D on the third floor of the Minneapolis Hilton. It is open the public, with a minimal admission fee.
Photos by J.R. Smith.