February 2018

Pickled Eggs: Cambridge

Readers of the Ringing World know that Simon Linford has been writing a series of articles about developing a new Surprise Major repertoire, as an improvement on the Standard Eight. (Non-readers of the Ringing World should support it by not only reading it but taking out their own subscription).

The "pickled eggs" tag is based on an analogy between methods and the contents of the larder. Pickled eggs are items that seem to be there for mysterious reasons, but no-one really want to eat them. Probably Pudsey is a pickled egg in the Standard Eight.

Although the Nottingham Eight was proposed about 20 years ago as an alternative set of methods, it hasn't really caught on. Simon Linford's idea is to carefully justify the selection of methods, taking into account musical possibilities, the availability of compositions, and the need for a progression of difficulty and features so that working through the repertoire makes sense for instructional purposes.

Last week's article considered the pros and cons of Cambridge, and I expect that there will be similar articles in future about other candidate methods. We can also think about each method from the handbell-ringer's point of view, and we would like to try ringing the methods as they are announced.

The analysis of Cambridge came down in favour of including it. So what do we think of it for handbells?

We've rung two quarters of Cambridge Major at Albany Quadrant, one at Angela's house, and I seem to remember one or two in Tulloch. We've also rung three peals. That's not much in comparison with Yorkshire (23 quarters and 6 peals). Yorkshire is usually preferred as the first Surprise Major method on handbells, because it's easier for the tenors (especially the first and last leads of the course) and it's easier to conduct because the coursing order is preserved more below the treble, in particular at the half lead.

Among methods other than Yorkshire, we have always found Lincolnshire easier and more stable than Cambridge. This is partly because of the long dodging on the front in Lincolnshire, which is a good anchor as long as the right bells are doing it.

However, an argument for Cambridge is that it's easier than Yorkshire on higher numbers, so starting with Cambridge Major starts the pathway to Royal and Maximus. Cambridge Royal is my second leading method for handbell peals, after Yorkshire Major and equal with Plain Bob Major.

What about handbell compositions for Cambridge? An easy quarter by Steve Coleman, which is also true to several other standard methods, is 5 befores, single home, repeated. The tenors only ring the first two and last two leads of the course, and 5-6 are mostly coursing. Another quarter that I like is the one by Eric Brosius, which keeps 3-4 coursing most of the time, but it isn't true to Cambridge. Wrong home wrong is also not true to Cambridge. For a quarter in which the tenors ring the whole course, I would usually call wrong, home, three wrongs, two homes, single wrong, which is a well-known 1250. Alternatively, this one by David Beard looks straightforward.

When it comes to peals, I would call Middleton's by default, which is easy to remember but not particularly favourable for handbell pairs. I did once try to call Brian Price's classic 5090, but we didn't get it.

If the goal for a handbell composition is to keep a pair other than the tenors coursing as much as possible, then it's easier with Yorkshire (for example this one by Roger Bailey, and the ones after it on the page, get up to 18 courses of coursing for 3-4) or Superlative (for example compositions that I have written about here and here, with 5-6 coursing throughout). A very easy quarter peal composition of Superlative is 6 homes (bob bob single bob bob single), keeping 5-6 in the 5-6 position throughout and 3-4 with two thirds coursing; or by starting at the snap and calling 6 middles, 5-6 course throughout and 3-4 still have two thirds coursing.

One of Simon Linford's arguments in favour of Cambridge is that it follows on from Cambridge Minor, although he points out that  you can certainly question whether Cambridge is the best introduction to Surprise Minor. Tina commented that a good feature of Cambridge Minor for handbells is that the long pieces of work (the 3-4 places and the frontwork) start and finish at the lead ends and half leads, which means that all the bells move on from them simultaneously. That's not true in Cambridge Major, but in Superlative the 3-4 and 5-6 places last for half a lead and so the beginnings and ends are synchronised for everyone. Instead, in Cambridge Major, overlapping places appear (for example, in 4th and 8th place bells), which starts the progression towards the pattern of Royal and Maximus.

I don't know whether Yorkshire is going to make it into Simon Linford's selection as well as Cambridge. If we had to choose one or the other for handbells, then I think it would have to be Yorkshire. 

Two celebrations

Yesterday we rang my 600th peal - not one of the conventional high-profile landmarks, I know, but according to the PealBase crystal ball I'll be 77 by the time I get to 1000, so in the meantime I'll celebrate whatever I can.

At some point I came up with the idea of ringing 5600, so then the question was what to ring. It's the full length of Middleton's classic composition of Cambridge, which we could alternatively have rung to a different method such as Yorkshire or London. It's also the length of 25-Spliced Surprise Major all-the-work, for example Jonathan Porter and Roger Baldwin's extension of Norman Smith's composition, which adds Belfast and Hereford. That seemed a bit too difficult, although it could be a good project for another time, because as far as I can tell it has only been rung on handbells twice, in 1988 and 1990.

A good middle ground seemed to be this composition of spliced Cambridge, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Rutland by Robert Brown.

5,600 (5,152, 5,056) Spliced Surprise Major (4 methods)
Robert D S Brown

23456    M   W   H   Methods
43652    -           CNC.YNNN
56234    -   -       NCN.C.YCC
23564        -   -   YYYY.CYY.
52364            -   CNNNNYC.
35264            -   RRRRRRR. 
5 part.

Contains 1600 Lincolnshire (N), 1440 Cambridge, Yorkshire, 1120 Rutland, with 62 combination rollups, 89 changes of method, all the work. For 5152, omit 3H and associated leads in one part. For 5056, call Before for MMWW and omit associated leads in one part.

It's the calling of Middleton's, and would usually be shortened in the same way as Middleton's, but we rang it in full. I wouldn't be surprised if ours was the first full-length performance of the composition.

We did well - the last three parts especially were really good. Compared with our first peal of these methods, in 2011, it's satisfying to see how far we have come. Also it was satisfying to score at the first attempt, so that it didn't become a project.

After we had finished, imagine my surprise when Angela said "Don't put the bells away - we have to ring a quarter now!". It seems that she, Jonathan and Tina had discussed ringing a quarter for the birth of Matt and Jessie Hetherington's daughter, but they hadn't got around to telling me. They wanted to ring Glasgow (and we are doing the same again this evening in the tower - Matt and Jess are former members of the Glasgow band). We haven't rung Glasgow for ages, and after a short false start we decided that we would have to ring a little slower and very carefully. We did that, and rang an excellent quarter, although I don't think it was much quicker than we will ring it in the tower (and for those who don't know, Glasgow are 32cwt).

And yet another landmark: recently, Emma Southerington and Bill Croft simultaneously rang their 1000th handbell peals. According to PealBase, only 19 people have reached that total. Emma has conducted 562 handbell peals and Bill has conducted 626, which must put both of them high up the leader board for handbell conducting. That can be a topic for a future blog.