Handbell Compositions: 5024 Cornwall Surprise Major by James A Smith

I noticed a peal of Cornwall on handbells last week, with a composition by James Smith which is also based on blocks of befores but is much better than the one I came up with.

5024 Cornwall Surprise Major
James A Smith

M  B  W  H  23456
-----------------
-     -  3  54632
   2     -  43265
   5     2  32465
   -  -  -  35264
   4     -  42356
   5     -  34256
   5     -  23456
-----------------
For handbells: 62% coursing for 3-4 and 80% coursing for 5-6.

Handbell Compositions: 5024 Cornwall Surprise Major

After writing the previous article about Cornwall, I spent a bit more time working on a peal composition with four blocks of five befores, to get a good amount of coursing for both 3-4 and 5-6. Here's what I came up with.

5024 Cornwall Surprise Major
Simon J Gay

B  W  H  23456
--------------
      -  42356
3  -  -  54632
-     3  43526
4  -  -  63542
2     -  34256
-  -  -  36452
-     3  65324
4  -  -  45362
-     3  56423
3     -  23456
--------------
For handbells: 64% coursing for 3-4 and 71% coursing for 5-6.

It looks complicated, but like the David Maynard composition of Bristol that I wrote about some time ago, understanding its structure makes it easy to remember.

  • Starting with a home puts 3-4 into coursing, with the coursing order 52436. This is one of the coursing orders from which we want to call five befores, but:
  • Call 3 befores from the block of 5, giving the coursing order 43652.
  • When 3-4 and 5-6 are at the beginning of the coursing order, calling wrong and home takes us to 34562, another of the coursing orders from which to call five befores, but:
  • Call one before, then 3 homes for padding, then the other 4 befores.
  • Now back in 34562, call wrong and home to return to 43652.
  • Next call the remaining 2 befores from the first block of 5, to get back to 52436.
  • Call a home to give 54326. This is another coursing order for a block of 5 befores, but:
  • Call one before to give 65432, then wrong and home to give 56342.
  • Call one before, then 3 homes for padding, then the other 4 befores.
  • Back in 56342, call wrong and home to give 65432.
  • Call one before, then 3 homes for padding, then the 3 befores that are left over from the block of 5 on 54326.
  • Finally, a home brings it round.

I might try this one next time we go for our peal.

Pickled Eggs: Cornwall

I've already written briefly about Cornwall and its inclusion in the "Core Seven", but this week we tried to ring a peal of it, so I have more to say. I've included the grid and the lines for each pair (from Martin Bright's Method Printer), for reference.

Between Christmas and New Year we rang two peals with Julia and Nick, of Lessness and Pudsey. We were also considering Cornwall, but we decided each time that first Lessness and then Pudsey would be safer options. We then arranged another peal date, with the idea of finally trying Cornwall, which is what we did on Monday.

The method is mainly treble bob hunting, but it's out of step between the front four places and the back four places. How it feels to ring depends on whether or not your bells are in the same half of the change. If they are, then you can be doing either some four-bell coursing or some four-bell opposites, which are really as good as each other. If your bells are in opposite halves of the change, then one bell hunts while the other bell dodges, then vice versa, alternately. The feel of the different positions (3-4, 5-6, 7-8) depends on how much your bells are in step and how much they are out of step.

Dodging with one bell and hunting with the other bell, for long periods, is usually a characteristic of ringing the trebles - for example it happens a lot in Cambridge. It takes concentration, and if you lose track of it, it can be difficult to fit back in. During the peal attempt, we found several times that missing a dodge (typically one of the double dodges on the front in 2nd and 4th place bells) led to desynchronisation and confusion. We found that it can fall apart very quickly - almost as much as Plain Bob Minor.

This was quite a surprise to me. We've rung Cornwall in Norman Smith's 23-spliced, but only one lead at a time, and in the Nottingham 8, but again only in small bursts. We've rung a quarter of Cornwall before, but in a shorter length it's easier to find a composition that keeps pairs coursing and makes life easier. I was expecting that ringing a whole peal would need some concentration, but I wasn't really expecting to lose it.

Recovering from mistakes was made more difficult by the unfamiliar place bell order. In the methods we've rung a lot of, which have Cambridge or London place bell orders, I have a feel for the progression through the course, but I didn't have the same confidence with Cornwall. We were ringing 4th place bobs, which can change the length of the course, so that was an extra factor to catch me out.

Looking at the diagrams for each pair, we can see that 7-8 have some in-step work in 5 leads of the course, 3-4 have it in 3 leads, and 5-6 in only 1 lead. This gives a clear measure of their relative difficulty. The trebles are in-step half the time and have some in each lead of the course.

We had a false start of a couple of courses, started again, then broke down after about 5 courses. Then we managed to ring a quarter, with a different band placing so that Tina could try it inside. We have another peal date for that band in March, so we'll try again for Cornwall.

What about compositions? Cornwall has no in-course tenors-together falseness, so it should be possible to get a significant amount of coursing for 3-4 or 5-6 (or both). I decided to ring 4th place bobs, because that's what we always ring in spliced. I liked the idea of a composition based on blocks of 5 befores, along the lines of the compositions of Bristol by David Maynard and Roger Bailey that I have written about before. The idea is to construct a peal from 4 blocks of 5 befores, based on coursing orders in which both 3-4 and 5-6 are coursing. In each block of befores, 3-4 and 5-6 are each coursing for 4 courses and in the 5-6 position for the 5th course. If the blocks can be joined together, the result is a peal with at least 16 courses of coursing for both 3-4 and 5-6.

I played around with this idea for a while, but so far I haven't managed to link up 4 blocks in a good peal length. However, I discovered that a different composition of Bristol by David Maynard works directly for Cornwall, with a length of 5056 (for Bristol it's 5184). Here it is.

5056 Cornwall Surprise Major
David G Maynard

M B W H  23456
--------------
  5 - -  45236
  -      53462
- 5   -  24365
--------------
2 part

It does have 4 blocks of 5 befores, but in the first block of each part, only 5-6 are coursing. In the second block of each part, 5-6 and 3-4 are both coursing. The part end is the handbell-friendly 12436578, so 3-4 and 5-6 do exactly the same work in each part, but opposite ways around.

The way the composition is set out above is fine for Bristol, but for Cornwall it disguises the fact that the last line of the part has a course end between the middle and the first before. It's clearer to write it like this.

5056 Cornwall Surprise Major
David G Maynard

M B W H  23456
--------------
  5 - -  45236
  -      53462
-        43265
  5   -  24365
--------------
2 part

The course with a wrong and a home is 8 leads: the wrong prevents the tenor from becoming 8th place bell, and then the home is at the next lead. The course with just a middle is 4 leads, and doesn't include the before position. The final course, with a before and a home, is 4 leads.

We finally came unstuck at the first before of the second block in the first part. There had been some confusion towards the end of the course with the middle, with the result that I didn't spot the course end. When I noticed the tenor becoming 4th place bell, instead of interpreting it as a prompt to call a before at the next lead, it just made me think that we were still a long way from the course end. So I missed the bob, although probably we weren't in the right coursing order anyway. Julia then asked me whether there is a bob at every before position, and I realised that there is. That would have been worth noting explicitly from the beginning, but I missed it when studying the composition.

In these compositions with blocks of befores, it's lovely to be coursing for a few courses, but being thrown into the 5-6 position afterwards can be a shock. This time, Nick, who was ringing 3-4, found the opposite. In the first block of befores, he was ringing the 3-4 and 5-6 positions, and indeed this continued all the way to the middle. He then found it a shock to start coursing. So he rang the tenors for the quarter, to get some practice.

 

A good start to this year's campaign

Last time we rang with Jonathan and Angela, we booked yesterday for a possible handbell peal attempt, but agreed that if the weather was suitable, we would go out for a walk instead. It was a nice dry day (although not as clear as the previous day), so we climbed Ben A'an, a small but lovely hill in the Trossachs. Afterwards we rang a quarter of Cooktown Orchid, thereby ticking off the first of the methods of the month.

We rang the cyclic 7-part composition from the Christmas Ringing World:

1344 Cooktown Orchid Delight Major

  2345678
---------
- 2357486
- 2378564
  3826745
  8634257
  6485372
  4567823
---------
7 part

It went smoothly with only a few small trips. We had all learnt the method only the day before, so it was a good achievement to ring it without difficulty. The composition is quite musical: 69 runs of 4 or more bells at the front or back, which is not bad for a quarter. The method is straightforward, with some similarities to Lessness, for example the beginning of 3rd place bell. There's a 1256 in the place notation when the treble dodges in 3-4, which I don't think we have encountered in any of the other methods we've rung on handbells. Making 2nd and 6th places simultaneously was a new experience.

We've had success before with learning a new method and ringing it on handbells: Bushey, Aardvark and Golden Wedding Anniversary. In fact Aardvark and Golden Wedding Anniversary are more difficult than Cooktown Orchid. But in the past we have used handbell-friendly composition, certainly with the tenors together and sometimes with another pair coursing throughout. This is the first time we have rung a cyclic composition to an unfamiliar method. I found that I had to concentrate hard on the method, and it was difficult to think about coursing orders. However, when thinking about the calling and the coursing orders beforehand, I found that this particular cyclic part end (14567823) provides a fairly straightforward way of working with the coursing orders for each part.

Start by thinking of the coursing order of the plain course as 2468753.

The effect of the two bobs at the beginning of the part is that the bells that started in 2nd and 3rd places (this is 2 and 3 for the first part) stay together but move two positions in the coursing order, so that they go between the bells that started in 7th and 8th place (7 and 8 for the first part). The new coursing order is 4683275.

In the next part, the two bells from opposite ends of the coursing order (the way I have written it - they are adjacent in the cyclic sense, and therefore coursing) move so that they go in between the bells that were in 7th and 8th places at the part end (this is now 2 and 3). The new coursing order is 6835427.

What's happening is that the coursing order is progressively turned inside out - we can see 3542 as a developing sequence of odds then evens, but they are each in the reverse order.

The next coursing order is 8357642, which extends the odds then evens pattern by another step.

Next we get 3572864, which corresponds to the part end 13456782, with 2 between 7 and 8 in the coursing order. This is the maximum amount of inside-out-ness; it's almost the complete reverse of the plain course coursing order except that 2 is in the wrong place.

Next comes 5724386, and the sequence 243 is the beginning of something more familiar from tenors-together coursing orders such as 52436.

Next is 7246538, with the tenors together again; more usually we would think of this coursing order as 8724653 or just 24653.

Finally, 7 and 8 move to go between 6 and 5, giving 2468753, which is back to the plain course.

Writing out the corresponding sequence of coursing orders on 12 makes the progressive turning inside-out even more obvious:

24680TE9753
4680T32E975
680T3542E97
80T357642E9
0T35798642E
T3579E08642
3579E2T0864
579E243T086
79E24653T08
9E2468753T0
E246809753T
24680TE9753

I don't think we'll be ringing cyclic maximus any time soon, but I would like to master the coursing orders for cyclic major. Of course an alternative is to develop the ability to transpose and remember tenors-parted coursing orders in general, which will take more practice.

Review of 2018

We've had an amazingly successful year for handbell peals: my total is 11, with only one loss. That's my highest total since 1998, and I'm sure there were more losses in 1998. All the peals were on 8. Tina and I have rung four of Bristol, one of London, one of the Nottingham 8, two of Cambridge, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Rutland spliced, one of Lessness and most recently (today) one of Pudsey, which was my 200th handbell peal. I also sneaked in one of Lincolnshire with a different band.

Our quarter peal total is higher than last year too. We've rung 8 at Albany Quadrant and 4 at Angela's house. They included Jenny's first of spliced surprise in hand; Susannah's first of Kent Minor in hand and first on 8 in hand; Phyllida's first on 8 in hand; and Alex's first of Surprise Major in hand. We also had two numerical landmarks: the 200th quarter at 1 Albany Quadrant, and the 100th handbell quarter with all of me, Tina, Jonathan and Angela in the band.

Finally, we've just rung a quarter on the front six of the set of ten that my dad, Phil Gay, wrote about in the Christmas issue of The Ringing World (he made the clappers and handles himself, and the bells were tuned by Tony Crabtree). They were pleasant to ring, nicely weighted and balanced, with a good tap and not too much resonance. We also tried out the back six, and rang rounds on the ten with the children's help. We hope to ring a peal on them some time next year.

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