October 2017

The unexpected significance of rope guides for handbell ringing

There is currently no ringing at St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh, while the rope guides are being repaired after a freak accident in which a wayward rope damaged the structure. As well as occasional visits to other practices, Ian and Barbara Bell have been running a weekly handbell practice at their house. They have introduced several people to handbell ringing for the first time, and some of them are showing good potential.

It won't be too long before tower bell ringing resumes, but it will be good if some of the Edinburgh ringers develop a taste for handbells and manage to keep it up.

London Royal: Part 3

We had another attempt for our peal, which started very well, but we didn't manage to keep it up and we stopped at half way again. After a couple of courses, the rate of making trips increased to the point of being a significant distraction, and eventually we found that although we could get ourselves right at the lead ends, the ringing immediately deteriorated again when entering the next lead. That was time to stop.

It's just a sign that we need more practice - what happens is that the effort of concentration becomes unsustainable, which means that we need to get to a point where ringing the method takes less concentration.

We'll get there, but for the moment, that's it for this year. We'll restart the project in 2018.

Apart from that, we are making good progress with quarters of Surprise Major, with Angela inside and Jonathan and Tina conducting. We rang Lincolnshire this week, so next week might be Rutland. After the quarter we rang a course of London, which was a good achievement for Angela's first attempt at it on 3-4. Maybe the London Royal is doing us some good.

London Royal: Part 2

We went for our peal of London Royal on Sunday, but didn't succeed. We had two good attempts though: the first lasted four courses and the second time we made it to half way. So that was a total of eleven courses, which must have been good practice. We feel we're nearly there, and we're going to have another attempt on Monday.

While preparing for the peal, I noticed a few things about London that I don't remember spotting before. According to PealBase, I've only called one peal of London Royal (on tower bells, of course), and that was 20 years ago. So it's not surprising that I'm not very well up on the details of how you work with other bells in relation to the coursing order.

The first point is about keeping track of the wrong hunting on the front. I have always thought of 2nds and 4ths place bells going to 4ths and back twice, and 3rds and 6ths place bells going to 4ths and back just once. However, on Sunday I suddenly realised that all four place bells lead twice each, which is a more uniform way of looking at it. I told the rest of the band about it - they have all rung plenty of London Royal before, but no-one said "Well, of course, didn't you know that?". After we had finished ringing, Julia said she had found it useful.

The next point is the order in which bells lead, during the wrong hunting on the front four. In London Major, after 7th place bell leads, the sequence is 3, 2, 4, 6, and then the 7th returns to lead. So that's a sequence of four bells in coursing order, which I sometimes manage to observe as a check on the ringing. In Royal, after the 7th leads, the sequence is 3, 2, 4, 6, 3, 2, 4, 6, and then the 10th appears. This is actually what made me spot that every bell leads twice. I haven't been able to observe this sequence yet, but the potential is there.

If both your bells are in the frontwork, they can be either coursing or in the 2-3 position. Pairs of bells that are in the coursing position (3-2, 2-4, 4-6) are coursing in the frontwork. Pairs of bells that are in the 3-4 position (3-4, 2-6) are in the 2-3 position in the frontwork. Pairs of bells that are in the 7-8 position (3-6) are also coursing in the frontwork - more about that later.

Let's think about the backwork for a moment. There's a fair bit of treble bob hunting, and after the fishtails near the beginning of the lead, the back bells stay in their natural coursing order for a while. As a result, 9ths place bell becomes rather like 3rds place bell in Cambridge, passing all the other bells in coursing order. The difference is that the pattern doesn't start until the fishtail has finished.

On the subject of passing bells in coursing order, let's look again at the frontwork. A bell in the frontwork is working with three other bells that are near it in the coursing order: for example, the 4th is working with 3, 2 and 6. So there is potential for a coursing order check while on the front, although I expect it will take more practice to be able to see it.

The place bells in the frontwork are 6, 4, 2, 3 (in the order in which they occur in the method). A coursing pair, for example 9-10, overlap in the frontwork for three leads: when they are 4th and 6th place bells, then 2nd and 4th place bells, then 3rd and 2nd place bells. The 3-4 pair overlap in the frontwork for two leads: when they are 6th and 2nd place bells, then 4th and 3rd place bells. The 7-8 pair overlap in the frontwork for only one lead, when they are 6th and 3rd place bells. Finally, the 5-6 pair are never in the frontwork together.

What this means is that 7-8 is the ideal pair for the conductor, in order to take advantage of the groups of four bells in the frontwork. For seven leads of the course, one or both of 7-8 are in the frontwork, giving maximum opportunity to check that the other bells are working correctly together on the front.

I'll write more about ringing London, and about the composition, after our next peal attempt.