Remembering David Davidson
   

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David Davidson's Handbell Legacy

David R. Davidson, Dallas, Texas, became active in handbell ringing and the AGEHR more than 20 years ago. He became acquainted with handbells when he began a position in a small church as an organist. He worked with a group of junior high students ringing two octaves of bells. He took them to AGEHR festivals, which is where he became connected with other well-known people in the art and began to make handbells an important part of his career.

He became heavily involved with the Guild, first as secretary and chair of Area V, then as national secretary. It was during his involvement with the national board that he also became involved as a workshop leader and festival clinician.

In 1981 he became president of the national board, during which time he was instrumental in establishing the national office in Dayton and the first Director's Seminar (now National Seminar).

It was also during his term as president that he met Sun-Joo Shin, executive secretary of the Handbell Ringers of Japan, when she invited him to conduct a festival in Japan. Finding that they both had a desire to see such a festival happen on an international level, the two worked together to develop the first International Handbell Symposium in Arcata, California. The event has continued every other year since then in the U.S., Japan, U.K., South Korea, Canada, and Australia, and led to the development of the International Handbell Committee, which oversees the event.

In 1996, David was honored with AGEHR’s Honorary Life Membership award, an award which is reserved for individuals of the highest caliber who have made outstanding contributions to the art of handbell ringing.

Musicality has always been at the forefront of David’s goals for the art of handbell ringing, so in 1998 he conducted the first Distinctly Bronze, an auditioned performance event for advanced ringers. And in February this year he helped launch and conducted the first Distinctly Bronze West, securing a place for advanced literature on both sides of the country. On musicality he told an interviewer, “I once had a very famous choral clinician say to me, ‘it must be very frustrating to do handbells because you can’t develop a musical line.’ It was at that point that I made it my mission that people were going to hear a musical line and that we can change that idea…I think in anything, whether it’s choral music, orchestral music, handbell music—we have to engage the listener, and if we don’t appeal to their emotional and intellectual sense, then we’re really not doing a very good job.”

In 1993 David was appointed Interim Director of the Dallas Symphony Chorus and was subsequently named Director of the chorus in 1994. According to the DSC website, “the Dallas Morning News recently stated that the Dallas Symphony Chorus in recent years has become one of the hallmark musical organizations of Dallas.”

Since 2003, David has served as director of music and arts at Highland Park United Methodist Church and has for some time served as an adjunct instructor of choral conducting and handbells at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. From 1985 until 2003, he served as the director of music at Highland Park Presbyterian Church.

Earlier this year, David was honored by the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, being named Distinguished Alumni of the Year, an award bestowed on CCM alumni that recognizes individuals with particularly noteworthy achievements, values, and accomplishments.

To further recognize David’s achievements, Dallas mayor Tom Leppert signed a proclamation recognizing him for “his achievements as an outstanding man and musician in Dallas, Texas,” and citing his work as a church musician, choral director, conductor, and teacher.

Anyone who has had the chance to work with David or to chat with him knows that he has always held a deep admiration and passion for the art of handbell ringing. He told an interviewer during the most recent International Symposium in Orlando, “My goal has always been that the professional musician would look at this as a viable expression of art and see us on similar levels to choral groups, to orchestras, that we would have great composers that would see the opportunity to write for the idiom itself and then perhaps write for the idiom and other ensembles, whether they be choral, percussion, orchestral, band. I think, just get it more in the mainstream of artistic expression.”