gordon.dewis.ca - Random musings from Gordon


Ringing and remembering: There aren’t enough tolls

February 27, 2018 @ 15:00 By: gordon Category: Current affairs, Handbells

One of my favourite pieces of music to play on handbells is Make Me An Instrument Of Thy Peace by Kevin McChensey. It’s a beautifully moving piece of music, that takes full advantage of all the handbells my choir has. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve played it over the years, playing it both with just my choir and organ, and larger massed choirs, including in 2005 at a handbell festival in Ottawa with a huge number of choirs.

He based it on the 13th century prayer of St. Francis of Assisi and dedicated it to “the victims of the shooting at Columbine High School and other acts of senseless violence”. A few years ago, while talking to him (Kevin, not St. Francis) about commissioning a piece of music, I mentioned it. He told me that it was actually his second attempt at writing a piece of music in memory of those who died at the Columbine High School massacre in April 1999. The first attempt was apparently too dark and sad and not what he was trying to achieve. I’m glad he made a second attempt, but I wish he hadn’t had to write it at all.

The piece starts and ends with 12 tolls and a final chord. Each chord represents one of the people who were killed at Columbine.

Here’s a photo of the last couple of lines. You can see the chords starting at bar 109.

We’ve been rehearsing it for the last few practices, but yesterday evening’s practice was the first I’ve been at since the horrible shootings in Florida and I couldn’t help but think about the victims and survivors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. There aren’t enough tolls for them.

One of the many videos on YouTube of it being played on handbells…

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