Saturday, December 10, 2011

Rehearsing with Youth Choral Theater

Getting ready for this afternoon's concert in Techny.

Concert in Northbrook

Friday, December 2, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chicago Bronze on TV

Chicago Bronze will appear on the 10pm evening news on Friday, December 2, 2011. The Chicago CBS affiliate, WBBM-TV Channel 2, came out to film us this week, the last rehearsal before our first concert. Kate Sullivan interviewed a couple of our members and learned about handbells.
Ms. Sullivan is a very experienced reporter, but we're guessing she doesn't usually spend that much time recording her subjects with her personal phone camera when there's a perfectly good camera crew right there.
We're really glad she was able to come to our 7pm rehearsal, since she anchors the 5pm and the 10pm news downtown. Thank you to the CBS2 Chicago crew for giving us the opportunity.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Congrats to CB Member Laura Olsen

Congratulations to Chicago Bronze member Laura Olsen, on her recent award from the Piano Technicians Guild.

"Our first honoree for the PTG Hall of Fame has spread her sunshine and support through all corners of this organization and most of Chicagoland PTG. Laura Olsen, RPT, is not daunted by many tasks; she is as comfortable atop the mast of a sailboat on Lake Michigan as on the top of a stepladder in the PTG Home Office storage room. The first ever recipient of the PTG Foundation Scholarship to attend the convention and take an exam, Laura went on to give back service to the Foundation by serving in four of its offices and as a director. She served as chair of the Economic Affairs Committee and was elected to the PTG Board of Directors as Central East Regional Vice President.

One reason Laura is a valuable resource to our organization is that she is as comfortable sitting at the table to brainstorm solutions as she is rolling up her sleeves to get the actual work done. Anyone who has served five years on the Institute Committee definitely knows how to roll up the sleeves and brainstorm both.

She is a friendly and engaging communicator who brings people into the organization and helps them become active and productive members. Laura is a person who chooses to take a positive outlook on life, not someone who has simply been handed an easy road to go. Her determination and dedication are intentional.

Laura served as vice president and president of the Waukegan, Illinois, Chapter in the late 1990’s, before transferring to the Chicago Chapter in 2002. In 2002, she was also awarded PTG’s Member of Note.

Laura Olsen, on behalf of the members of the Piano Technicians Guild, we thank you for sharing your talents, time and loyalty to our profession. It is our pleasure to enroll you in our Hall of Fame."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Behind the Music: A Large Day

This Spring we're playing "A Large Day," by Kath Wissinger. It's also featured on our Second City Sounds CD. You can just tell it's music that has a story behind it. We thought it would be fun to ask Kath to tell it to us, and she graciously accepted the challenge! She also included some performance notes for any bell choir interested in playing it. Our thanks to Kath for writing for our blog, and for writing great new music for handbells.

This is the first ever installment of "Behind the Music of Chicago Bronze." We hope there will be more in the future. Now here's Kath:

  During Fall of 2000, my 14-member, 5-octave teen church group, "touch of Jesus" ("toJ,") was riding a crest of amazing ability. They could ring anything I threw at them, so I was free to write all kinds of advanced music for them. Pieces like "Jazzin'," "La Mer," "Tre Regali," "Broken for You," "The Travelers from Nazareth," "To Snow or Not to Snow," "Festive Promenade," "Chopsticks and How!," "The Sower," "Rhythmic Fanfare," and "A Large Day" were all written for this particular group as they progressed into more and more advanced music...
  At the same time, I was a fan of "The Weather Notebook" - a noontime series on our local NPR radio station which offered 2-minute tidbits of "lighthearted weather wisdom." One day, the announcer reported on a special term for a weather phenomenon on Prince Edward Island: That invigorating kind of day which sometimes follows a storm; a rarified day with azure blue skies, intense white puffy clouds, a crisp clean breeze a bright warm sun, beckoning you with inspired clarity to breathe deeply and live life fully. The PEI locals call this unique kind of day - "A Large Day." I loved the term. Even in Virginia we have "Large Days." So with this bold vision, I started working on musical ideas for this piece.

  The lilt of 6/8, a few grace notes and some rhythmic mallet and mart work coupled with a Celtic-inspired melody were the foundation ideas for this work. Three distinct themes emerged, with little transition needed from one to the next, taking the form ABCBA - palindrome-style.

  The first "A" section introduces the lyric melody in octaves with sparse, open accompaniment. "B" theme jumps right in with a driving, syncopated pulse in both the melody and the malleted bass. A simple nod to the "C" theme is the transition to "C" itself, which is more sultry and enticing in rhythm and mode. Back to "B" with an optional bodhran solo before landing back in "A" in a new key, repeated at the end with a new mart/mart lift rhythms in the bass.

  Use of an Irish drum called the bodhran is optional, but certainly recommend if possible. The bodhran is a large flat drum, held in one hand and played with a 2-ended beater called a tipper (or tipple). Unique, signature rhythmic patterns are possible with this instrument. While the score includes basic rhythmic patterns - in case you need some ideas - we invited our drummer to play whatever rhythms she wished. I encourage you to do the same. A skilled bodhran player will really make the piece sparkle! I had also intended a penny whistle to join us, but I couldn't find a player. Feel free to add this element as well.

  "toJ" played this piece for many concerts and a FirstNight Celebration and recorded it on CD ("Ring Around the Moon.") I've used it for Advanced/Bronze Events, and I know it has also been used at Distinctly Bronze by David Davidson and in another Bronze event by Debbie Rice. I've also heard from a number of Advanced Community Handbell Ensembles who have used it. Thank you, all! By using "unusual" original handbell literature, you support the possibility of more "unusual" and original pieces being published.
  I often hear "A Large Day" played too slowly - it really needs to move with energy. Check the dotted-quarter pulse at 90 or 92. Now you know why it's a Level 5 piece!!

  Score Notes for "A Large Day": The D3 should be "air" malletted ( + ) (lifted quickly and malletted - not table malletted as written) in Mm. 53, 54, 55, 57, 58, 59, 87, 88, 89, 91, 92, 93. Also m. 148 beat 1, play Ab5.

  To read more about my pieces, as well as my background and events, you can go to my website: Contact me directly at

Kath Wissinger

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Why is Bach's Little Fugue little?

We've played "Little Fugue" by J.S. Bach before, but Michael Kaster has published a new version that we're using this year (our old one is permanently out of print).

Little Fugue in G Minor is one of Bach's most recognizeable melodies. A classic fugue: "a contrapuntal composition in two or more voices, built on a subject (theme) that is introduced at the beginning in imitation and recurs frequently in the course of the composition."

But why is it little? There's nothing little about it. But it is shorter than Bach's later work, "Great Fantasia and Fugue in G minor," and so the subtitle "Little" was added to distinguish between them.

For extra credit: compare the performance this season with the earlier Kastner transcription on Second City Sounds, and see if you can tell what was changed!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Video: Sleigh Ride

If you weren't able to come to our concert series last December, here's a chance to see a small part! Presenting Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride," performed Wheaton College on December 11, 2010.