Sept 2017 The Border Mail

Abi Thompson and Tony Smith

SWEET SOUNDS: Artist  of the Murray Conservatorium ring the Federation Handbells.

Wodonga residents joined the 750,000 people who have experienced the Federation Handbells when music workshops were held there. The bells, now with the Melbourne Museum, were created to mark the 2001 Centenary of Federation and have since been played across Australia and internationally. The collection – more than 30 in total – has been brought to Wodonga to complement the Arts Space exhibition Soundscapes.

Gallery and cultural development team leader Josephine Harkin said the idea to hold a bell workshop came about when discussing the exhibition with the artist, Abi Thompson. “I had done a workshop in Melbourne with Susan Bamford Caleo, the caretaker of the bells … when taking to Abi about the program, I thought of the bells and that it would work well,” she said. Thompson, who has a cochlear implant, said the workshop fit with the exhibition, exploring sound as an important sensory element of everyday settings. “Bells have symbolism and resonance – the sound really travels through the landscape,” she said.

Murray Conservatorium music tutor Tony Smith helped teach, and while the bells have visited Wodonga before, it was the first time participants got to experience the instruments to such an extent. “We learned some techniques and the highlight is a human carillon – people form a circle and play,” he said.