The Virtuoso group performing during a Raleigh Ringer's concert.

The Virtuoso group performing during a Raleigh Ringer's concert.

What Do We Have In Common With Ms. America 2011?

Posted by

Here’s a hint: it doesn’t involve tiaras, sashes, or being able to walk in high heels.

The answer: we can both play Calvin Jone’s insane arrangement of the popular children’s song Chopsticks.

White Water Shopsticks sheet music and coffee

Studying “White Water Chopsticks” late at night before Virtuoso in July, 2013.

When Bryce and I went to the Virtuoso Experience this past summer, one of the pieces we were given to perform was Marcia Murphy’s arrangement of “Whitewater Chopsticks”.  The piece was insane.  I have never seen so many black dots on a page.  The time signatures shift between 3/4 and 6/8, meaning that on top of keeping track of all the notes you also had to keep track of a shifting pulse within the measure.  I can’t tell you how long I spent trying to decode the piece before heading to North Carolina.

That weekend we had only two days of rehearsal to learn it and several other pieces.  Dr. Payn, the clinician that weekend, didn’t really give us a chance to rehearse.  He just jumped in full tempo and let us hang on for dear life.  The first run throughs crashed, as you would imagine, and my head seriously hurt after that rehearsal.  But low and behold, the whole thing came together relatively quickly.  This was the result after only that one weekend of rehearsal.  You can see Marcia the arranger of this piece fifth from the left in the front row.

So that was a handbell adventure…

I have been wanting to share this piece on the blog for quite a while, but I couldn’t figure out some bigger story to go with it besides “Look how fast Bryce and I can play”.  Then I stumbled across an amazing fact on Google.  Teresa Scanlan, winner of Miss Nebraska and Miss America 2011, performed this piece on piano as the talent portion of the competition.  I had to go find a video of her performing, so here is Ms. Scanlan performing with Calvin Jones, the original composer of this piece.

There you have it.  What can be more American than taking a simple piece of music, making it more complicated than anyone can possibly perform, then using it to show off?!  Now this means that all 28 of us who went to Virtuoso need to apply to be Ms. America, right….

What is the fastest handbell piece you have performed?

One Comment

  1. Laura Swafford says:

    For fastest piece, Morton Gould’s “American Salute” comes to mind. I think other pieces may have faster sections (e.g. treble bits), but American Salute takes the cakes for across-the-board fast for almost the entire piece. All those rapid-fire eighths rung (not malleted) in the 3s…fun times!

What are your thoughts?

%d bloggers like this: