JULY 11, 2012 — CINCINNATI, OHIO — More than 200 musicians will descend upon the Great American Ball Park to perform the national anthem before the Cincinnatti Reds open their home series against the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday, July 20.
"We will have upwards of 450 instruments on the diamond," says Daniel M. Reck, one of the musicians. "Or we'll have just one really big one, depending on how you look at it."
They musicians will be performing "The Star Spangled Banner" on handbells. Most will play two bells, while some as many as six. Together, they hope to set a record for the largest ensemble to perform "The Star Spangled Banner" at a baseball game.As for the confusion about the number of instruments involved, it really is a matter of perspective. Each bell is like a single key on a piano.
"So handbells can be considered a singular or plural instrument," says Reck.
Either way, this performance will not be like any other handbell performance you've seen.
To account for the logistics of the situation, "we will not be ringing with tables," says Jennifer Cauhorn, executive director of the Handbell Musicians of America. Each musician will carry their bells throughout the performance.
In an e-mail to the musicians, who are all also attending a national handbell conference at the Duke Energy Convention Center that week, Cauhorn says, "You must have your part memorized prior to arriving at National Seminar."
The hundreds of musicians will have just one rehearsal to put it together before show time.
"I memorize parts for my solo performances, but this is different," says Reck. "I'm playing just two bells, not the entire melody, so it's a different exercise to remember where you play and where you don't."
Reck will be playing just two bells, C3 and G3, and they are big ones.
"C3 is two octaves below middle C and weighs as much as a bowling ball," he says. "G3 is lower than that, and measures nearly a foot and a half across."
Reck played these bells, and many more like them, when he was selected for the All-Star Handbell Ensemble in Minneapolis, Minn., last summer.
Baseball and handbell fans alike can still get tickets to the game at the Cincinnatti Reds' website. Everyone is encouraged to arrive early at the park to witness the national anthem performance. The game is also scheduled to be broadcast on Fox Sports Ohio, although the national anthem might not be featured on television.
"We will be on field for the anthem by 6:50 p.m. at the latest," says Cauhorn. "The game begins at 7:10 p.m."
Great American Ball Park photo by Pat Dye. Used under Creative Commons license.