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Putting the “International” in “International Symposium”

3DA774C3EAC9442CBC29FB159A3D461AThe recent summer Olympics in Rio ended with the handing over of the Olympic flag to the prime minister of Japan, the country that will host the event in 2020. The recent 17th International Handbell Symposium held in Vancouver B.C. ended with the ceremonial passing of the IHS flag to Carmel Davison, President of the Handbell Society of Australasia, host of the event in 2018 in Cairns, home of the Great Barrier Reef.

The enthusiasm grew from the solemn opening ceremony featuring the parade of flags of the seven associations and guilds that host the symposium, to the end of five spectacular days of activities. Vancouver was one of the best symposiums Dian and I have attended, and this was our fourteenth! 2016 was the first year Hong Kong (host for 2020) participated in the opening ceremonies, and it was announced at the end of the gathering that Singapore was being added for the future.

To describe an “International” would require a small book and many adjectives. First, Vancouver, B.C. presented a spectacular setting, as the beautiful convention center is located on a harbor site where enormous cruise ships line each side of an isthmus on which the center is located. The beautiful mountains, gorgeous weather, seaplanes flying off the bay waters into the sky, skyscrapers rising in the downtown section of the city, and a multitude of tourist activities within a short walk or bus ride, made for an exciting experience.

But one goes for the ringing experience at a ringing event, doesn’t one? Well, this ringing experience is quite different from the “normal,” as international directors from various parts of the world directed 750 plus “delegates” from different parts of the world in music from a variety of cultures. By the final concert on Saturday, new friends from different lands speaking a variety of languages had been made and old friendships from previous “Internationals” renewed through the traditional meet and greet reception as well as through sharing around the table at one of the many inter-cultural meals provided.

Standard workshops in ringing and conducting techniques were held, but cultural workshops on the First Nations of Canada, and from several of the different cultures, like “Writing Chinese Lucky Messages” or “Furoshiki” (Japanese Wrapping Cloths), were also offered by international teachers. Two wonderful gala dinners were part of the symposium menu including an aboriginal experience by First Nation dancers and singers, and the traditional final closing dress-up banquet.

Because of its location, Canadian and US attendees were well-represented, including many from Area 12. Ringers from the San Francisco Bay area were able to gather on the pier for a brief photo op before returning to activities. A professional photo of the gathering is always taken and available to all. Of course, photos of the directors, showcase performers, individual candid shots, and pictures of the massed ringing abounded as folks wanted to capture various ringers in their colorful outfits and inspiring performances. The Canadian planning committee and volunteers are to be congratulated for preparing and carrying out a fabulous event. We came away inspired to book plans for Australia for 2018. Consider your own attendance some time. You’ll love it!

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