Ever have those days where you think “Ack! I forgot my camera, and I really need it now!” Of course you don’t—you’ve joined the 21st century and have your phone, computer, and camera all rolled up into one device. I’m still stuck in 1999 with my technology. I forgot my camera yesterday, and so failed to get pics of our Bells Across the Land commemoration of the end of the Civil War.
But I can tell you that the sky magically cleared as we played, the geese honked, the cars zoomed by on Lake Shore Drive, and church bells from a distance quietly accompanied our hand bell ringing. Ulysses S. Grant rode tall and proud on his horse on the memorial statue. Almost 20 people participated in our metallurgical commemoration of peace, and a handful of audience members listened. As our organizer Ed Herrmann explained it, we were reclaiming metal from war to ring for peace. Bells are vulnerable to the war and peace cycle; in times of peace and plenty bronze is formed into bells, while in times of war the bronze is smelted into ammunition. Bells literally and figuratively ring for peace.
One of our pieces, “Union” by Ed Herrmann, turned the Civil War into a musical metaphor. The performers stood in two lines, back to back. We rang our bells loudly and assertively for several seconds. Then we paused and took a step forward, so that our lines drew apart. We did this four times, then turned around. In doing so, it was as if the war was reaching a reconciliation. Rather than playing in antagonism with each other, we began to play in duet with the partner across from us. The lines slowly drew together and formed an oval at the end. The piece closed with the performers playing their bells in harmony with each other.
The entire event was a beautiful, thoughtful, creative commemoration for the end of war.