JULY 9, 2018 — GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," says Brenda E. Austin, artistic director of Detroit Handbell Ensemble.
For Daniel M. Reck, though, the performance at the 2018 Handbell Musicians of America National Seminar is a return visit. He is joining the Detroit Handbell Ensemble for its ad will be featured playing bell trees with Ellen Woodard. Reck is a handbell soloist from the Shadows of Bronze and has performed handbell music across North America and Europe. He has previously performed with the premiere Agape Ringers in Illinois and with the Handbell Musicians of America All-Stars.
Reck and Austin, both long-time conductors and published composers, look forward to the challenge of performing for their peers.
"It is equally exhilarating and scary to know our sophisticated listeners will be simultaneously scrutinizing our every move and cheering us on, she says. Nonetheless, "The handbell community is strong, and tight. We support one another."
"I really appreciate Brenda's invitation to collaborate along with composer Alex Guebert," says Reck. "It is a privilege to work with such talented musicians." Guebert, Reck, and Ann Buland will play various percussion instruments as the Detroit Handbell Ensemble performs Guebert's Drive on the program.
The group will take the stage at DeVos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids at 1 p.m. on July 18. General admission tickets are available now and seminar registrants may attend using their event credentials.
It is a prestigious invitation to perform at the multi-day conference, whose purpose is to present educational sessions and concerts to elevate the art of handbell ringing.
"The audience at National Seminar will be comprised of composers, clinicians, handbell ringers and directors from all over the country, and even some international guests," says Austin. "These people know the instrument, the music and what it takes to make a magically musical performance."
Each year, the National Seminar showcases a mix of community ensembles, education-affiliated groups, and church musicians from the region hosting the event. Detroit Handbell Ensemble represents the finest handbell musicianship in southeast Michigan. Joining them are the Kalamazoo Ringers, hailing from the middle of the Great Lakes State.
Alumni of the Rooke Chapel Ringers will represent Bucknell University in Ohio and Campanas Cristalis from Toledo's First Seventh-day Adventist Church will also perform. Rounding out the region are the Chancel Ringers of First United Methodist Church of Downers Grove, Illinois, and the Milwaukee Handbell Ensemble of Wisconsin. Composer-conductor Michael J. Glasgow will also perform at the seminar.
"Each ensemble [at National Seminar brings] a unique experience, some providing a glimpse into their hometowns as spoken through the music," says Detroit Handbell Ensemble musician Kyle Webber. "I am excited for Detroit Handbell Ensemble to present the 'Motown Makeover.' After years of decline, our city is on the rise again."
For the performance, Reck and Austin collaborated to create a photographic accompaniment for two pieces on the program. For Austin's Reconcilliation, Reck collected depictions of Detroit's history, the urban decay that followed its economic decline, and scenes of the Motor City's rebirth and revitalization today. In What a Wonderful World, Reck featured photographs depicting the natural beauty across Michigan's penninuslas. Both photo collections are available on the Detroit Handbell Ensemble's official gallery.
"Our concert will hopefully provide the listener an experience that leaves them with a better understanding of Motown and hopeful that a new day is dawning in our great city," he says of Detroit, the home of Motown.
The National Seminar is one of several national and regional events presented annually by the Handbell Musicians of America, which was founded in 1954 as the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers. Its membership of 7,000 seeks to sponsor educational activities and promote the exchange of ideas for the advancement of the art of ringing handbells and handchimes nationwide.
Grand Rapids is hosting the National Seminar, along with the concurrent Distinctly Teen conference, for the first time. However, Michigan routinely hosts the nation's finest and learning handbell musicians during the Bay View Week of Handbells, which began its annual gatherings in 1978.
"In the world of handbell music, there is no better place to learn from colleagues than National Seminar," says Reck. "It is an approachable event where everyone welcomes you, so I always encourage handbell musicicians of all abilities to come out, have fun, and learn along with us."