Two quarter peal compositions of cyclic spliced

We've been doing some practice towards a Spliced Surprise Major project, and at the moment this involves trying to ring a quarter of Preston, Ipswich and Dunster. I agree that this is a strange combination of methods, but all will be revealed eventually. Preston is familiar as one of the difficult methods from Norman Smith's 23-spliced - familiar, that is, in the sense of knowing about it, rather than being experts at ringing it. Ipswich is also a Norman Smith's method. Dunster is better known in its variation with plain hunting at the lead end, which is Deva; this has become fairly popular and is associated with Simon Linford's Project Pickled Egg. It's Bristol above the treble, and Superlative below with plain hunting at the half lead.

We decided to ring a cyclic 7-part, and my computer came up with a number of compositions, including the following two which are intriguingly similar.

1344 Spliced Surprise Major (3m)              1344 Spliced Surprise Major (3m)
S.J.Gay                                       S.J.Gay
         2345678                                       2345678
----------------                              ----------------
Dunster  8674523                              Preston  5738264
Dunster- 2357486                              Preston- 7864523
Ipswich  6485723                              Ipswich  3526478
Ipswich- 2378564                              Ipswich- 7842635
Preston  8634257                              Dunster  5634278
Preston  4567823                              Dunster- 7823456
----------------                              ----------------
7 part                                        7 part

We've tried both compositions a couple of times, but we've settled on the second one, because having a bob attached to every change of method seems to reduce the risk of miscalls (!).

I've been ringing the tenors, and I've found myself doing a lot of coursing - more than I expected, considering that my general expectation is that a cyclic composition would have wild and difficult coursing orders with the tenors all over the place. One thing about cyclic compositions is that all the handbell pairs ring the same work as each other - for example, a part-end of 17823456 means that in the second part, 5-6 ring what 7-8 rang in the first part, and 3-4 ring what 5-6 rang in the first part. So if it's true that there is a significant amount of coursing for 7-8, then the other pairs get it as well, and this is a helpful feature for everyone.

Here's a table of the lead ends, methods, and which pairs are coursing, throughout the composition. Actually it's not all of the lead ends - we can consider the leads in pairs between bobs.

Part Lead end Methods 3-4 coursing 5-6 coursing 7-8 coursing
1 12345678 P P -     Y
  17864523 I I -   Y Y
  17842635 D D -   Y Y
2 17823456 P P -   Y Y
  15642378 I I - Y Y Y
  15627483 D D - Y Y Y
3 15678234 P P - Y Y  
  13427856 I I - Y Y  
  13475268 D D - Y Y  
4 13456782 P P - Y    
  18275634 I I - Y   Y
  18253746 D D - Y    
5 18234567 P P -      
  16753482 I I -   Y  
  16738524 D D -     Y
6 16782345 P P -      
  14538267 I I - Y    
  14586372 D D -   Y  
7 14567823 P P -      
  12386745 I I -     Y
  12364857 D D - Y   Y

This table immediately explains why we break down in the 5th part! It's the first time that no-one is coursing.

In total each pair rings 20 leads of coursing, which is almost half of the quarter. For 3-4 and 5-6, 16 of these leads are in a continuous block. (The 16 continuous leads of coursing for 7-8 wrap around the beginning and end of the quarter, so they are not experienced in the same way). And for the last 4 leads of the 2nd part, all the pairs are coursing.

Preston is the most difficult method, and it's the only one with leads in which none of the pairs are coursing: at the beginning of the 5th, 6th and 7th parts. This suggests that we should focus our learning on the leads of Preston that we ring in these parts.

These observations raise the question of how much coursing it's possible to get in a cyclic composition. I might return to it in a future article.

The first lost peal this year

It sounds almost unbelievable, but on Thursday we had the first lost handbell peal of the year. And it's not as if we've just been ringing easy things: my total of nine peals includes four of Bristol, one of London, and one of the Nottingham Eight.

We had arranged for Julia to come for a peal this week, but we only decided at the last minute what to ring: spliced London, Bristol, Cambridge and Yorkshire. I found this composition by Don Morrison:

5,184 Spliced Surprise Major (4 methods)
Donald F Morrison (no. 7435)

23456  M  B  W  H
56234  2     -     L.B.C.L
63542     -        CY.CY
46532  3     -     L.CYYLC.LLC.Y.B
52364  -     -  2  L.C.BB.B.
43265  -       [-] L.CL.
Six part, omitting [-] from alternate parts.

Contains 1,728 London, 1,536 Cambridge and 960 each Bristol and Yorkshire, 
with 132 changes of method.

It's not particularly designed as a handbell composition, but 5-6 do the same work in each part, which helps (and I was calling it from 5-6). In this style of composition, I like to call the bobs Home in parts 2, 4 and 6, so they come when 5-6 are the right way around, which feels familiar.

So what went wrong? The ringing was generally good, but I found myself repeatedly making mistakes in the Cambridge and Yorkshire in the third course, which should have been a nice easy section. In the fifth part I got very lost, and then the composition went completely out of my head and I miscalled it. Never mind, we'll go for it again when we can.


Cambridge Maximus: the 5-6 position

For completeness, here are the leads of the 5-6 position, although I'm starting to doubt whether there is much insight to be gained from going through this exercise for anything other than coursing and 3-4. First, here are the leads that involve an exceptional place bell.

Four of the remaining leads have a pattern with overlapping Cambridge places, but further apart than the overlapping Cambridge places in the 3-4 position. A feature of this pattern is that both bells make internal places simultaneously, which is unusual and can feel a little odd to ring. Also, below the treble there is some work in the 5-6 hunting position, which gives some "opposites" work on the front six.

Finally, the symmetrical lead has some work in the 3-4 position below the treble.

Cambridge Maximus: the 7-8 position

The leads of the 7-8 position can be classified similarly to those of the 9-10 position. First, the six leads that combine an exceptional place bell with a normal place bell.


The symmetrical lead has two sets of 9-10 places, finishing and starting at the half lead.

Two other leads have 9-10 places and 3-4 places starting or finishing simultaneously.

Finally, two leads have some coursing below the treble.

Cambridge Maximus: the 9-10 position

In a previous article, quite a long time ago now, I classified the place bells of Cambridge Maximus as "normal" (containing a set of places) and "exceptional" (2nd, 3rd and 5th place bells). The idea is that if both of your bells are ringing normal place bells, then there is a pattern that depends on which position you are in (coursing, 3-4 etc) but is somewhat independent of which lead you are ringing within that position. If one of your bells is ringing an exceptional place bell, then you don't have the benefit of a standard pattern, but it doesn't matter too much because the exceptional place bells are well known and have simple regular work of their own. Ringing two exceptional place bells, which happens in the 3-4 and coursing positions, is also relatively straightforward.

We had a handbell day yesterday (more about that later) and before it we had a Friday evening Cambridge Maximus practice. That's prompted me to finish discussing the positions, as I only looked at coursing and 3-4 previously.

The 9-10 position can't ring two exceptional place bells simultaneously, so there are 6 leads that combine an exceptional place bell with a normal place bell. Here they are.

The remaining leads fall into a further two groups. Three of them have some coursing below the treble.

Finally, the first and last leads of the course are less regular.


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