ALGEHR Life Members

1984              Lorna Davidchuk                 2011

ALGEHR Life Members:

John Nelson Sr. (1921-2015).
Leonard Davidchuk
Peter Bortolin
Alison Wood
Rufus Schellenberg
Stan Morris (1947-2015)
Fred Merrett
Lorna Davidchuk.

 ALGEHR History: Lorna Davidchuk
By Alison Wood
        I was delighted to hear that one way in which the Alberta Guild celebrated its 30th Anniversary at Handbell Discovery was to award Lorna Davidchuk a Life Membership. What an appropriate thing to do! There have been many occasions when I have thought about how hard Lorna worked, and how instrumental she was in putting our guild on the right foot – giving it the structure and the stability needed to accomplish so much; the knowledge and ability to be in a position to host an International Symposium within only ten years of existence; and the wherewithal not just to survive, but to thrive over its thirty years. At the time Lorna was president, not many people recognized her vision, or appreciated her efforts. Thankfully, she is a very strong woman and made us do it anyway!
        As I mentioned in my last article, our guild was the dream of John Nelson, and he had worked extremely hard to get ALGEHR to the point of registration as an Alberta Society in 1983, while at the same time organizing an International Festival with Donald Allured in 1984. At the end of that time, John and the Calgary people were exhausted, and justly demanded that someone from Edmonton take over. There were people at that meeting who were used to working in and for music societies, but probably because they too were overworked, and had an idea of what setting up a new one would involve, kept very quiet. The silence was thick, and I was absolutely stunned when out of the void came the voice of my friend, the nurse, Lorna Davidchuk, who said, “I’ll do it!” I was in shock and wondering what she would know about being a president of something like this, because I certainly knew nothing. However, I was in awe of her courage, and when she said that we would need time to figure out what we were doing before another big event, I had a better idea of her intelligence.
        I knew Lorna was a hard worker, but I had no idea how driven she was. She found that the Alberta Government offered a Board Development workshop, and she signed the Board up for a weekend. Some of us grumbled – weekends are sacred when one is new in the workplace and has to work long hours, but we went. We learned how to dream for an organization, how to analyze the dreams and break them down into goals with action plans, how to communicate with each other, how to write by-laws, how to develop a three-year rolling plan, how to structure a Board and an Executive to represent the whole province, how to budget, how to keep track of finances and membership, the necessity of evaluating all events, capitalize on the positives, and take action to correct the negatives.
        During Lorna’s presidency, a variety of programs were developed and offered annually in the North and the South of the Province. For a number of years afterward, both the North and the South could count on a yearly Ringing Workshop covering a variety of handbell topics; a Read n’ Ring Workshop to ring though repertoire, which was not an easy task since few Canadian handbell sellers in those days stocked much music; and any workshop you wanted for your own choir (called a Do-It-Yourself Workshop) that would have full guild support including clinician fees; help in finding the right clinician for your needs, resources like music and bells, basically anything anyone could think of. At the same time as the new workshops were offered, two manuals were being written – one on the governance, rules and organization of ALGEHR – the kind of thing that the government requires and in reality, the Society needs to operate; and the Program Manual that listed every Program the Guild operated and how to do every possible thing needed to make sure every person, bell, food item, piece of paper and equipment was in the right place at the right time. I still have some of the originals of those manuals and their contents. I found them in an envelope when I was trying to downsize this year, and remembered I had borrowed them when I was trying to write the manual the International Handbell Committee “requested” after our 1992 International Symposium. (Actually, it was not a request. Because that handbell symposium, – the fifth – was so successful, and was “Practically Perfect in Every Way” thanks to Peter Bortolin and his team, it was moved and passed that Alison Wood would write a manual despite my protests that I couldn’t do it.) All those original pages I found, written before we had computers, were in Lorna’s handwriting. So were the many reports on each event, compiled from reports from all the organizers and the hundreds of evaluation forms received. The actual statistics and all comments ever written on an evaluation form were also meticulously recorded by Lorna. I am sure some would say she should have delegated those little jobs. Well, I saw her try, and if no-one would volunteer, she just did them.
        Lorna is a peacemaker, and is content to get a job done the way she wants it done and knows it needs to be done without taking credit. I read some of the letters on file that she received from members that were unhappy that the huge festival of the first year was not going to be repeated in the second year. I was shocked to see letters worded so strongly that one felt bullied in reading them. Lorna answered firmly but politely, but in the end she decided to try to make everyone happy, and organized a Festival in 1985 in her first year, as well as continuing her efforts to make ALGEHR a secure entity.
        You may assume that perhaps Lorna had more time than many. You would be incorrect. During her presidency she had two small boys and a part time nursing position! In Japan the following year, at the second International Handbell Symposium, there were meetings and presents for the handbell leaders present in order to set a path for future communication and international gatherings. Lorna did not put herself forward since her choir directors wished to be involved, and it was not until the Symposium was over that the other guild presidents found there had been a Canadian president in attendance. That resulted in the development of a protocol for Symposia, IHC meetings and inter-guild communication to avoid such uncertainty in the future.
        In 1990, as President, I was asked to represent Western Canada at an Area X meeting. They were planning their biennial Festival, and although by that time they probably would have hosted about fourteen previous Area X festivals and worked on the same number of National Festivals, it sounded as if they were starting from scratch. When I pulled out our black manual, now about fifteen years old, they were astounded, thought it was wonderful, and asked if they could borrow it. Lorna was ahead of her time, and those of us who followed her certainly benefitted.
The gargantuan amount of work that Lorna accomplished during her presidency is not the kind of flashy, “Exciting Happening” that tends to win awards. It was however, the nut and bolts of a firm foundation that gave the Alberta Guild the ability to fly in certain areas, and the quiet place of respect it has earned in others. We owe a great deal to Lorna Davidchuk. I strongly believe that the fact we are having a thirtieth anniversary when other guilds are struggling is largely due to her efforts. The Alberta Guild is fortunate to have so many excellent ringers and exceptional people in its ranks, and their choice to pay tribute to those of the past gives great hope for the future! Thank you to all of you for everything you do, and to you, Lorna, for everything you did. 30th Anniversaries are very important in Japan and I often have been asked over the years to write letters of Congratulations to Japanese handbell choirs and to The Handbell Ringers of Japan, their guild, on that anniversary.
Lorna Davidchuk, Dec. 2013
Photo: L. Davidchuk
        So to the Alberta Guild, which many of us remember from birth,
all of its members and founders, and particularly Lorna Davidchuk, its worthy new Life-Member,
Congratulations and Here’s to Thirty More!
Alison Wood, 2012
Photo A. Wood
        Alison Wood is a founding member and a Life Member of the Alberta Guild of English Handbell Ringers, and served it in a variety of capacities including President during the very successful fifth International Symposium in Edmonton. The concept of Handbell Guilds of Canada was launched in her living room, and Alison served as its first chairperson. She served on the International Handbell Committee for eighteen years and was Executive Director from 2004 until 2008.

By Lorna Davidchuk
        On October 26, 2013, our choir from Robertson-Wesley United Church, the ‘Robertson-Wesley Ringers’ (RWR), were invited to play at ‘Handbell Discovery’s’ Final Concert. One of our members, Betty Radford, who also plays in Jubiloso!, had won the Fred Merrett Composition Competition in two categories! We had been asked to perform one of these winners, the piece she had submitted in the 3 to 5 octave category. “Dancing with the Yao People” is an absolutely gorgeous piece, and Betty’s skillful use of the entire five octaves, ability to choose appropriate special handbell effects, and her ability to introduce a variety of moods through dynamic contrasts and elegant musical line has made this piece a personal favourite. Our choir members were honoured to have the opportunity to introduce it to the audience.
        At the end of Saturday`s concert, Peter Bortolin, currently Past-president of ALGEHR, got up to announce that, in honor of the ALGEHR’s 30th Anniversary in 2013, the Board had decided to appoint another ‘Honorary Life Member’. As he was talking, I was trying to guess who the lucky recipient might be. When he announced my name, I was so taken by surprise that I had to sit for a minute to absorb the situation before going up to give Peter a huge hug and say thank you. Linda Stockl, who held the Discovery portfolio on the ALGEHR Board, asked me for a speech. I was so taken aback by the honor bestowed on me, that, for once, I was unusually and totally speechless! Although I was unable to find my voice at the Discovery, I realized that in The Peal, I could express my sincere, heartfelt thanks to the current ALGEHR Board and the members it represents, for bestowing this honor on me. I can’t believe that I am joining amazing Life Members such as John Nelson Sr., Rufus Schellenberg, Stan Morris, Peter Bortolin, Fred Merrett, Alison Wood, and my husband, Leonard Davidchuk.
        Apparently my husband and others were aware of the presentation that was planned, but they did not say a word to me. In fact, in the car going to Concordia for the Handbell Discovery’s Final Concert on Saturday, October 26, 2013, I was talking to Leonard about how unbelievable it is to accept that ALGEHR is now 30 years old, and to look back at the huge impact it has had on so much of our lives together as a couple. We began ringing Handbells in 1979, have been ringing ever since, and realize that handbells have made our lives richer in many ways. We have met many wonderful people, travelled in Canada, to Japan in 1986, and Australia in 2006 with the Robertson-Wesley Ringers for International Symposia, and played with RWR at many, many venues over the years. Life is good, and Leonard and I promised each other that we would continue to play as long as we possibly can!
        In reflecting on my experiences and contributions to the Alberta Guild of English this weekend, I realized that many of you would not remember the time or circumstances that resulted in this life membership. It may interest you to know that I was present thirty years ago, as the Guild was beginning. Indeed I was a founding member of ALGEHR, which was the first Handbell Guild in Canada, when it formed in 1983. John Nelson was the first president of this guild, and I served as the second President of ALGEHR from 1984-1986, despite my misgivings. During my Presidency, ALGEHR hosted the second `International Handbell Festival’ in Edmonton at the University of Alberta in 1985, and as president, of course, I was required to provide leadership, be actively involved in planning, and indeed in every aspect of that Festival. It was also pointed out to me that it is often difficult to take a lesser role in a community one has once led, but unlike many leaders, I continued to serve the Guild in roles that may appear to be less demanding. These included being part of the Planning Committee in Olds, Alberta for the ‘Handbell Happening in the Heart of Alberta’ festival, was Past-President of ALGEHR from 1986-1988, Member at Large from 2001-2003, and the Membership Chairperson on the ALGEHR Board in 2003-2005.
        During my Presidency, there were very few of us that were old enough, experienced enough or knowledgeable enough to know what would be required to keep the Guild running and profitable. We got some help from the Alberta Government, and the Board learned the requirements and were diligent in laying the groundwork for the next 30 years by establishing the first Bylaws, designing the Logo for ALGEHR, creating programs, and manuals, developed guidelines for clinics and events such as Handbell Discovery, Read and Ring, Ringing Link, and Handbell Festivals. We registered as a not-for-profit organization, established Clinician Guidelines and gratuities, and created Guidelines and Exhibitor Contracts for displayers at events and Festivals, while ensuring that all events and programs established budgets, and there would be regular audits of our finances.
        The first 10 years were an amazing adventure and a lot of hard work for the many devoted ALGEHR members. Over the followings two decades, our Presidents and Board Members have continued to produce great ideas and results. I am only one of many who deserve this award of Life Membership, and I feel very humbled by the ALGEHR’s decision. It also was so very special to receive it during the celebration this 30th anniversary year of ALGEHR’s existence, surrounded by my esteemed handbell colleagues.
        With many thanks and much appreciation,
        Lorna Davidchuk,
        Founding and Life Member of the Alberta Guild of English Handbell Ringers

Stan (Stanton) Morris (1947-2015)