Study these pictures of Kiriku ringing and tell me in the comments what you observe about their technique that enhances their tone. Hint: It is something that you have heard from both Debbie Rice and your very own flawed, but fervent, director.
Needless to say, Kiriku completely blew me away with their supremely musical ringing. I put together a slideshow from the concert at North Raleigh United Methodist Church. Obviously, not the same as being there, but the soundtrack for the slideshow was their exquisite opening number, "By the Seaside." click here to see the Kiriku slideshow.
Griff Gall, the Artistic Director of the Back Bay Ringers in Boston wrote this fitting review of the concert on the handbell mailing list: (all emphasis is mine. JoyBell Ringers: Pay Attention!!)
"Saturday night, at the Hancock Church in Lexington, Mass. I had the pleasure of hearing one of the most musical and technically brilliant ensembles I have ever heard. Kiriku, a small design handbell ensemble from Japan under the direction of Taiko Otsubo, performed an hour long concert that left the audience breathless and in awe!
What makes their performance amazing is how well they they respond to each other. When they are playing a melody line between positions, they lean in towards each other, and watch each others ringing so they remain connected to the musical line at all times. Their interpretation of Schubert's Ave Maria was a key example of this. The accompaniment was gentle, flowing and extremely legato. The melody line was "sung" by the bells in the top position fluidly and with incredible phrasing. Perhaps my favorite pieces where the selections from Pleiades Dances by Takashi Yoshimatsu. These exciting piano compositions spoke beautifully on handbells, what a treat to hear! The ensembles technical skills were exemplified in their final selection "Csardas" by Vittorio Monti. The selection demands virtuosity with its incredible glissandi and dramatic changes in tempo and dynamics. The audience sprang to their feet and erupted with applause after this selection.
I enjoyed watching this ensemble perform as much as I enjoyed listening to them. Their ability to watch and stay connected with each other through out their playing was engaging. Each of the ringers are constantly in a fluid motion that is grounded and organic. Michael Joy has often spoken about the ringers should look like the music, and Kiriku has this down. Their movements are not choreographed to simply look pretty, there was no wasted motions just to impress the audience, their movements add to the musical line and release the sound. After the performance, I had a chance to briefly speak with Taiko. Although we had a language barrier, her passion for creating beautiful music with handbells came through. As the artistic director of Kiriku, Taiko said "I can teach technique, but it is much more difficult to teach how to share the heart of the music." I responded by assuring her that their performance shared the heart of the music, and inspired many in the audience."
I wish you all could have been there! And all of Rejoice, too.
I'll wrap it up with just a few shots of my ringers who made the trip to Raleigh with me that didn't make it into the slideshow.
This first shot is P.L. Grove, of Velocity Handbell Ensemble, and the emcee for the evening. I only wish she was one of my ringers . . .
This last shot is Karen, from Rejoice Ringers, and her
unknown twin that Michael Glasgow found in his church!
And last, but not least, your puzzle of the day!