A Peal of Yorkshire

Yesterday we rang our peal of Yorkshire, in a rather echoey room in the buildings of St James' Leith. I called the Bernard Taylor composition, and it went smoothly, although at one point I did indeed become slightly confused about the positions of my bells vs. the positions of the tenors at a middle. The peal was somewhat slower than we usually ring, because of the difficult acoustics. However, we had a good standard of ringing and it was satisfying to be able to score a peal at the first attempt with a non-standard combination of people - it's four years since we rang a peal with that band.

The next SACR handbell peal will be the 100th. We have heard that a St Andrews band are going for a peal on Friday, which will be a first for Isabella Scott, so good luck to them.

Handbell Compositions: 5152 Yorkshire Surprise Major (No. 2) by Peter J Sanderson

In the previous article, about Bernard Taylor's composition of Yorkshire, I quoted his comment that Peter Sanderson had produced a similar composition. I think it must be this one, which is also in the handbell compositions section of www.ringing.info.

5152 Yorkshire S Major (No.2)
Peter J Sanderson

23456   M  W  H
35264   2  2
56423   -  2  3
25463      -
63254   2  -
52436   -  -
23645   -  2
63542   -     3
42635   2  -   
23456   2  2  3

Here are the coursing orders.

  M      W      H
53624  36524
65243  52643
       26543  25463
65324  53624
53246  32546
32465  24365
43652         46532
43265  32465
32546  25346
       53246  52436

Indeed it is very similar - also a palindrome, and with the same handbell-friendly properties (12 courses of coursing for 3-4 and 5-6. The difference is that there is only one block of 3 wrongs in each half, and it has a block of 3 homes inserted into it instead of the other separate block of 3 wrongs. I think I prefer Bernard Taylor's composition, because it's a little more regular. Let's see how it works out in practice.

Handbell Compositions: 5152 Yorkshire Surprise Major by Bernard H Taylor

I was looking for handbell-friendly compositions of Yorkshire in the collection at www.ringing.info, and I noticed this one by Bernard Taylor.

6048 (5152) Yorkshire Surprise Major
Bernard H Taylor
23456   M   W   H
56234   2   -
35264  (3)  -
25463   -   3
45362   -   3
63254   -   -
52436   -   -
34625   -   -
23645   3   -
42635   3   -
62534   -  (3)
23456   -   2   3
Omit both (3) for 5152.

Bernard's description of the composition is included:

Difficult to believe this is original, but have been unable to find it elsewhere. Peter Sanderson has published something similar, though this was arrived at independently. It is delightfully easy to call, with the position of 5-6 making it obvious what to do. All 12 courses of 5-6 coursing are the 'right way round' (6 before 5) and 3-4 have 12 coursing courses too.

At a casual glance, the composition looks like a series of wrongs and middles without a great deal of structure or pattern. But the claim that it is "delightfully easy to call" sounds attractive, and in line with previous articles about compositions in which the coursing order is a mnemonic for the calling. So let's unpack the composition and see what it's all about.

We can ignore the blocks of (3), because I don't think there's much demand for a 6048. Here is the first section, written out with the coursing orders in the positions of the bobs.

  M      W
53624  36524
65243  52643
65432  54632
65324  53624

The composition starts with 2M 2W, the classic "Middleton's block", which is equivalent to a before and produces the coursing order 65324, with 5-6 coursing. Notice that between the two middles the coursing order is 53462, with 3-4 coursing, and between the two wrongs it is 36524, with 5-6 coursing.

Next comes M 3W M 3W M. This is 3M with blocks of 3W inserted. The coursing order at the beginning is 65324, so the 3 middles are on 2,3,4. This means that at the bobs, the lead ends will be familiar changes: 1423xxxx, 1342xxxx, 1234xxxx, where the xxxx is 5867. If calling from 5-6, one has to not be confused by the fact that becoming  5th and 7th place bell at a bob might feel like calling a wrong.

In the blocks of 3 wrongs, 5-6 are affected in the same way that 3-4 are affected in a block of 3 homes from the plain course. They ring two courses of coursing and one course of the 3-4 position.

The third middle returns to the coursing order 65324, and then a wrong and a middle return to the plain course. These final bobs at wrong and then middle complete the 2 wrongs and 2 middles from the beginning of the composition. Overall this is a round block that inserts 10 courses into the plain course, including 5 courses with 3-4 coursing and 6 courses with 5-6 coursing.

The composition as a whole is palindromic. It's easiest to see this at first by ignoring the 3 homes at the end. The symmetrical point is the half lead in the middle of the plain course (reverse rounds). The second half of the calling is the mirror image of the first half. Wrongs and middles become interchanged, because a wrong is the same distance after the midpoint as a middle is before it. On the page, rotating the first half by 180 degrees produces the second half.

M   W                M   W
-----                -----
2   2                    -
-   3                -   -
-   3       ->       3   -
-   -                3   -
-                    2   2
-----                -----

Here are the coursing orders for the second half.

  M      W
32465  24365
24365  43265
43265  32465
32546  25346

It's the same idea with middle and wrong exchanged: calls at wrong affecting 2,3,4, and blocks of 3 middles in which 5-6 are affected. This section also has 5 courses with 3-4 coursing and 6 courses with 5-6 coursing. Finally, the block of 3 homes adds another 2 courses with 3-4 coursing.

I wondered whether there would be any benefit in starting with one or two homes, instead of having all three at the end, in order to get more of the 5-6 position for 5-6 out of the way early on. It turns out that doing this reduces the amount of coursing for 3-4 from 12 courses to 10, because the two middles at the beginning and the two wrongs at the end no longer contain courses with 3-4 coursing.

We can see how the coursing order is a mnemonic for the calling by looking at the first half, and then the same reasoning applies in reverse for the second half. Each block of 3 wrongs finishes when the coursing order is 65xxx, and the enclosing block of 3 middles finishes when the coursing order is 65324 (a rotation of the plain course).

So it should be straightforward to call, and in particular the three consecutive courses all called M W no longer look like a section that has to be counted through (it's always best to avoid counting if possible). The main pitfall I can see is forgetting that middle and wrong are consecutive leads.

We have a peal attempt of Yorkshire booked for the week after next, so I will give this composition a try.  

Performing at the Central Council Weekend

This weekend is the Central Council meeting in Edinburgh, so we've spent some time attending events and helping out. We were asked to ring handbells during the Choral Evensong at St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh, this afternoon, at the end of the service instead of the usual organ voluntary.

We couldn't ring with our usual four, because Angela had to stay in Glasgow to run the evening ringing there. Instead, we engaged Graham John, who is a Central Council member, to join me, Tina and Jonathan for the occasion. The added bonus was that none of us had rung with Graham before (although we have communicated via blog comments), so it was a nice opportunity to meet him.

We decided to ring three leads of Bristol, and everything went smoothly. The handbell ringing was listed in the service sheet, and the congregation sat quietly and listened while we rang, erupting into thunderous applause when we finished. Performing handbell-ringing in public is always a little nerve-racking, and it takes concentration to maintain focus. It's different from ringing tower bells for a special occasion, which is also a performance, because of being visible to the audience. Also there is more danger on handbells that if something does go wrong, it will lead to an embarrassing total collapse. But everyone did well and it was a satisfying achievement.

A few tips for handbell ringing performances:

  • Choose a set of bells that are not too small, and nice and loud.
  • Always practice beforehand, even if you are ringing something that's well within your capabilities (and you should ring something that's well within your capabilities).
  • Start and finish with a few rounds, instead of ringing "up, down and off" and stopping as soon as the touch comes round.
  • Don't ring too quickly - the audience will appreciate it more if it's a little slower.

The Fourth Peal of Horton's Four on Handbells

Scottish Association

1 Albany Quadrant

Saturday, 13 May 2017 in 2h43 (15C)

5024 Spliced Surprise Major (4m) 
1344 Glasgow; 1248 London; 1216 Bristol, Belfast; 113 c.o.m.; a.t.w.

Composed by Roderick R Horton

1-2 Angela H Deakin
3-4 Tina R Stoecklin
5-6 Jonathan S Frye
7-8 Simon J Gay (C)

We finally did it - Horton's Four on handbells. The composition was published almost 30 years ago, but is hardly ever rung on handbells: only three times previously.

  • Thursday 11th July 1991: 113 Beechwood Avenue, St Albans: 1-2 David J Sheppard, 3-4 Peter J Townsend, 5-6 John N Hughes-D'Aeth (C),  7-8 Paul N Mounsey. (Ancient Society of College Youths)
  • Wednesday 22nd February 1995: Huxley Building, Imperial College, Knightsbridge: 1-2 Simon J Gay, 3-4 David C Brown (C), 5-6 Roger Bailey, 7-8 Michael J Trimm. (Middlesex County Association and London Diocesan Guild)
  • Thursday 11th November 2004: 9 Falstaff Gardens, St Albans: 1-2 Jennifer A Town, 3-4 John N Hughes-D'Aeth, 5-6 David C Brown (C), 7-8 Paul N Mounsey. (St James's Guild)

One of the difficult aspects of the composition as originally published is that the tenors are split for almost the last third of the peal. It is possible to rotate the composition so that the split tenors section is rung first, while the band is still fresh, but we decided to ring it in the original form. Practising the split tenors section as a (long) quarter peal, which we did several times, is helpful.

It was a much longer project for us than for any of the previous bands - about two and half years, on and off, with the main "off" being a detour into ringing 23-spliced. Along the way we've rung 11 quarters and two date touches, as well as several quarters of the individual methods, numerous lost quarters and two or three lost peals. We hope it's improved our ringing in general - we'll see, whenever we next try something different. Overall it was a great team achievement, and extremely satisfying.

It's a good challenge, and obviously there are other bands and conductors who would be able to do it. Give it a try and we'll look forward to seeing more peal reports.  


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