The conductor’s anthem

Sometimes there is a perfect marriage of thought and outside influence.  One such happy coincidence occurred this morning as I was driving along listening to Radio 2. The song playing was The Four Tops “I’ll be there….” and my immediate thought was “how appropriate” because I was considering the tricky role of the handbell ringer conductor, and how hard they have to work in order to successfully reach the end of the ringing, especially if the ringers are not very experienced. Ring two bells, make the calls, watch the others and try to put them straight – all at breakneck speed when the time to engage brain/analyse problem/ open mouth is limited.  Oh, and not get cross however frustrated you might be, because shouting at your co-clangers will not improve the situation.

For those of you not familiar with the lyrics of The Four Tops classic – “Now if you feel that you can’t go on, because all of your hope has gone, and your life is filled with confusion….reach out (reach out for me), I’ll be there…to always see you through….When you feel lost and about to give up, ‘Cause your best just ain’t good enough….I’ll be there, you can always depend on me.” If you are lucky, that is what a good conductor can do for you. You reach out in confusion, and they are there – not shouting or short tempered, but reliably pointing you in the right direction, and if you are in such a mess that they can not sort you out, then they reassure that it is OK – we all make mistakes and let’s try that particular tricky bit again.

One thing we have learnt as a handbell ringing group, is always keep going and never give up. You may not have a clue which direction/pattern you are meant to be heading in, but the wily conductor might.  Thus, you are thrashing around in confusion when the command comes “course” – so you course.  You may not think it is right to course at this particular point, and in the early days I would protest and argue back (“I don’t think that is correct….”), but now I understand that, even if it is not quite correct, it very soon will be. If I am ordered to “lead with the 2”, I try to lead with the 2 and trust that the conductor has a plan. I have confidence that she will see me through. Someone else will work out the correct action and shuffle the bells so that they almost magically fall back in to line.  Although, it is not magic.  It is the result of experience, hard work and talent that enables someone else to sort out a muddle which is threatening to crash everything. So the rule is – whatever the mess, DO NOT STOP.  Keep ringing and the solution may be in the next row, although the instruction “one of you ring a bell” is not particularly illuminating.

When I got home I went on YouTube to find those classy singers, in their impeccable suits, belting out the conductor’s anthem.  By mistake, I chanced upon The Jackson 5 warbling in their unbroken voices, “I’ll be there…” a totally different song and not the correct message at all. 

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