One of the things I have always admired about the Brees Bell Choir is how willing its members are to help each other in order to make difficult passages of music work. This usually involves one player ringing a neighbor’s bell for a beat or two. However, it has on occasion meant taking responsibility for the bell for an entire piece. I have even seen them pass a bell behind someone who is ringing so it can be rung by a third ringer several measures later. The best part of all of this is that I rarely need to say anything. They discuss the problem at hand and then figure out how to make it work. I often here them ask “do you need me to take that bell?” or “how can I help?” This discussion can go on for quite a while (which can be a bit frustrating when trying to move the rehearsal forward) and solutions often evolve as we return to that passage week after week, but I know it’s what is needed to get to the desired level of performance.
This quality of the ensemble has been particularly apparent in a piece we are currently preparing. I chose it knowing we did not have enough players to get every note in the arrangement. I had gone through the lower parts and crossed out notes that I thought we could get away with not playing. This was not acceptable to one of our ringers. He recruited a former member to come back and play this one piece. It has also involved extensive negotiating with three of the players to get in all those low notes. But – they are ringing everything and ringing it quite well. My favorite part is where the ringer in the middle takes a step back so another ringer can mallet bells all the way up the table. It’s great choreography.
This got me thinking about how much our world would benefit from the example set by the Brees Bells members. What if we all simply turned to our neighbor and said “can I help you with that?” It’s surprising how often a huge obstacle for one person can be overcome by a simple “flick of the wrist” for another person. Or if we didn’t take “it can’t be done” as an acceptable answer? If we, all on our own, started discussing (not yelling) solutions to little problems as well as big ones, understanding it might take a long time and solutions may evolve as we continue to discuss, but that’s how we will get to a truly beautiful the ending.