I attended my very first Area 5 Festival in Spring 2006 in Akron, Ohio. And what an experience it was! The clinician was Dr. Bill Payn, and I was one of approximately 800 ringers in the room. Not kidding, it was huge. And I loved every minute.
A rare moment of down time at the Area 5 Festival in Akron, Ohio. That’s me with the dark hair, eight ringers in.
A year before that festival I wasn’t playing handbells much at all. I’d learned as a kid and I still knew how, but it wasn’t an active part of my life. Then I joined a community choir (a fun story all by itself) and I attended that first Area 5 Festival with them and everything changed. The Akron festival was only my second mass ring ever, and with 90 choirs in such a huge room with such a prolific clinician it was a bit overwhelming. By the end of the event I had learned more about timing and control, about listening to the groups around me, and above all, about getting out of the music faster and watching the director! I don’t remember which classes I attended, but I do remember having an excellent time meeting other ringers and learning from them. It always fascinates me to see how ringers find different solutions to their handbell challenges.
I didn’t know it at the time, but the one-two punch of that community choir and that Area 5 Festival would become a significant milestone in my life. Joining together with so many ringers to make great music was amazing. Handbells was rapidly becoming an essential part of my life; something I loved and needed as opposed to something I simply did.
From there it was a short step to attending Distinctly Bronze, a massed event for advanced ringers organized by the Handbell Musicians of America. I was terrified (“Surely everyone here is more advanced than me!”), but it was just as amazing, and I learned just as much if not more about ringing and ringing musically. I’ve been back almost every year since.
The Area 5 contingent at Distinctly Bronze East 2009, New Bern, North Carolina
See you there!
Area 5 Webmaster
Royal Oak, Michigan
My ringing buddies from Distinctly Bronze East, 2014. L to R: Donna Thomas, Denise Holmes (current Chair-Elect of Area 5), and me.