January 2018

London calling

We rang a peal of London Major on Monday, which was a satisfying achievement. It's not at all easy, and everyone did well. Conducting from a pair other than the tenors was a challenge for me, and afterwards I realised that it completed the Standard 8 as conductor on working pairs.

The composition was one I've called before, by Henry Dains. It's wrong home wrong, padded out with a block of 5 befores in every course.

5760 (5024) London Surprise Major
Henry Dains

23456    B  W  H   
45236    5  -  -  
34256    5  -   
3 part.  
72 crus.
For 5024 omit one block of 5.

In the first block of 5 befores, the coursing orders are 53246, 65324, 46532, 24653, 46532. So 5-6 are coursing for 4 of these 5 courses. This is the case in the first block of each part: 5-6 course for 4 courses. In the second and third parts, the coursing orders are rotations of 54326 and 52436, so 3-4 are also coursing for 4 of the 5 courses in each case.

In the second block of the part, the coursing orders are rotations of 35426, 45236 and 25346. In these blocks, 5-6 are never coursing, but in the third part, 3-4 are coursing for 4 of the 5 courses in the block.

To maximise the amount of coursing for 3-4 and 5-6, it's best to omit the second block of befores in either the first or the second part. However, this time I omitted the very first block of befores. This was because it's only when the befores are omitted that the tenors ring 2nd and 4th place bells, and I decided to get that out of the way in the first course.

With these blocks of 5 befores, there is a complete contrast between the two possibilities: coursing for 4 out of 5 courses, and not coursing at all. The former is easy except for the one course in the 5-6 position. The latter is a long stretch of ringing without any rest periods in the coursing position.

When conducting from a working pair, there's a question of how to work out where to call the bobs. Options include:

  • Keeping track of which place bells the tenors are, in each lead.
  • Spotting when the tenor is ringing the place bell before the next bob.
  • Working out what my bells will do at the next bob, and waiting for the appropriate lead.

I find it's best to use a combination of techniques, to reduce the risk of failing to spot something crucial. For example, working out what I will do at each bob relies on remembering and transposing the coursing orders, and there's always the possibility of losing track of the coursing order.

My main technique was based on the coursing order and the work of my bells, but I also tried to check the position of the tenors at the lead end before a bob was due. Most of the bobs in this composition are befores, which come at the end of leads when the tenor is 4th place bell. After a while I realised that at the beginning of this lead, the tenors do a fishtail together at the back, which is easy to spot because I am always aware of when the fishtails are taking place (when the treble is in 3-4). I also found it easy to spot the tenor making 2nds at the end of the lead.

The bobs that aren't befores all follow the pattern of wrong home wrong: in each part, the 5th makes the bob and runs out twice. That was helpful for calling those bobs.

Finally, I was pleased to be able to check the coursing order by seeing the sequence of four bells leading in coursing order between the two times that 7th place bell leads.

Looking back and looking ahead

We're a little way into the New Year now, so we can review progress over the last year and see what's coming up.

The highlight, of course, was our peal of Horton's Four. We also rang peals of Cambridge, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Royal with Julia, and Pudsey with Mike and Ian. Continuing the Surprise Royal project, we had three unsuccessful attempts at a peal of London Royal, which we have now decided to shelve for now.

We rang 6 quarters at Albany Quadrant and 4 at Angela's house. That's the lowest total since 2009. This is partly explained by only having one handbell day, and not scoring any quarters on the handbell day that we did have. However, we have made good progress working our way through the standard Surprise Major methods with Angela inside. We are getting close to 200 quarters at Albany Quadrant, so there will be a retrospective blog when we get there.

We have plans for the next two Mondays: a quarter of London Major with Angela inside, and then a peal of London Major with Julia; after that she wants to ring Bristol away from the tenors. Last Monday we had a productive eight and ten bell practice with Jenny and Marcus, while Tina was away. That gives us a potential twelve bell band if we can get everyone together again in the future.

Last autumn we also had a Surprise Minor practice with Robin; we have talked about launching another 41 Surprise Minor project, but as always it's a question of finding enough evenings to ring with all these different combinations of people. 

Now for another sense of looking ahead.

When we were practising last Monday, we rang Cambridge Royal several times. Everyone can ring the method, but often the rhythm is choppy and I get a sense that there is too much deciding at the last moment which place to ring in. Going back to Nick's principle of letting the handstrokes ring themselves, I have been analysing my thought processes and I believe that at each backstroke, at the latest, I have a clear idea of where I will be at the next backstroke. On tower bells we know that we have to think ahead in order to get the right amount of pull, especially on heavier bells, but I am now realising that this is also essential for handbell ringing. To get nice smooth rhythmical ringing, we have to have a plan that looks at least a whole pull ahead. Like previous comments on handbell ringing style, it's another example of handbell ringing and tower bell ringing being more similar than we might assume.

For another sense of looking back, this time as something we shouldn't do: I often remind the band not to dwell on mistakes after they have happened; what's gone is gone, and it's important to maintain focus on the ringing ahead. I find that this takes a conscious effort, but it's important.