May 2017

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.