NEW PORT RICHEY
Wednesday morning found David Braman battling a sore throat, stuffy sinuses and all the last-minute stress that comes before taking a group of high school students overseas. ¶ "Just two rehearsals left and I'm borderline crazy" was the message Braman wrote to his first period students on the music classroom white board.
The upcoming trip to France is a new kind of venture for the Genesis Preparatory Handbell Ringers, who typically perform at local churches and such.
In a couple of days, the 14 ringers and their music director will be donning their signature black gloves and formal wear to perform in some rather different venues: the music gazebo in the Champs de Mars garden near the Eiffel Tower, St. Michael's Church in Paris and the Church Saint Pierre du Martroi in Orleans. Those performances will be sandwiched between sightseeing ventures to places like Notre Dame Cathedral, the Latin Quarter, the Champs Elysees, Opera Garnier and Chocolatierie Royale.
"I've always wanted to go to Europe," Erica Crowle, 17, said. "This is the best opportunity — especially because all my friends will be there."
"It's going to be a whirlwind," Braman said.
There's still much for him to tackle before the plane lifts off at 2:55 p.m. Friday: packing suitcases and reviewing last minute instructions with students, parents and chaperones. Add to that a laundry list of other stuff that has to make it on the plane, including eight cases of very expensive shiny handbells, five long, black corduroy-covered foam pads, 14 collapsible music stands and 14 folders of sheet music.
"We're going to be the talk of the airport," said Parasah Razdar, 17.
Then there's practice.
On Wednesday's session, students rang through about half of the 20 tunes they planned to play. With white baton bouncing, Braman led the ringers in Fanfare for Bells, Gloria, Arioso, Cannon in D, Adagio, Beauty and the Beast and Laudation.
Some would earn compliments: "Very nice, very nice." Other tunes earned few grimaces: "Come on — this isn't the first time we've been on this rodeo."
And while bass section ringer Joe Nurrenbrock, 16, would say that "today wasn't one of our best practice sessions," that was to be expected because the group playing was two ringers short.
That meant Erica Crowle and Elise Giordano, both 17, were filling in — ringing 10 bells instead of the typical six. Not an easy feat, although they made it look that way. Both are quite adept at "doubling," ringing two bells at the same time in one hand.
Impressive, even to Braman, who inherited the planned trip to France and the very talented group of ringers after the former music director departed in October.
"I've worked with bell choirs in churches up north — mostly just Christmas music," Braman said. "But not on this level."