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.
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!