November 2018

Working on Cambridge Maximus

Yesterday we had a Cambridge Maximus practice session, with our usual band plus Nick and Jenny. This was not too long after our previous session, in October, so we were optimistic that we might be able to make some good progress. In the past we have found the second half of the course more difficult than the first half, so this time we decided to start by practising the second half a couple of times. We did this by starting with a lead of Bastow, then changing to Cambridge, which was at the beginning of the symmetrical lead.

After succeeding with the second half, we tried a whole course. It took several attempts, but we managed it in the end. In comparison with some of our previous experiences with 12-bell ringing, we are making progress in several ways:

  • We are ringing fairly slowly, but in general we are managing to keep a consistent rhythm without grinding to a halt.
  • We now have very few instances of bells lagging at the back of the change, or bells leading too quickly and crashing onto the previous change.
  • We are all ringing the same pairs each time, to develop familiarity with the patterns.
  • I hope Angela won't mind me saying that she seems to have made a big advance, and is now becoming the kind of reliable trebles ringer that we always depend on when ringing on 8 - this is a huge help.
  • I'm ringing the tenors, because that way I make very few mistakes and this helps with the rhythm.

In my usual optimistic way, I had thought that we might try a quarter yesterday, but we're not quite there yet. I had assumed that I would call three homes for a quarter, which makes 3-4 ring two courses of coursing as well as the plain course in the 3-4 position. However, I am now thinking that it might be better to call two singles middle and then two singles wrong. That keeps 3-4 fixed, and gives 5-6 two courses of the 3-4 position as well as the plain course in the 5-6 position. The advantage of that would be that we think the 3-4 position is one of the easiest, perhaps even easier than coursing, and certainly easier than 5-6.

It would be possible to ring a quarter with everyone in their home positions, by using singles at home to swap 3-4 and half-lead singles to swap 9-10 or 7-8, or perhaps using a 1256 single to swap 5-6. But I think that would feel a little bit like cheating.

If we can get together again not too far into the new year, then I hope we can make another step forward.

Two quarter peal compositions of cyclic spliced

We've been doing some practice towards a Spliced Surprise Major project, and at the moment this involves trying to ring a quarter of Preston, Ipswich and Dunster. I agree that this is a strange combination of methods, but all will be revealed eventually. Preston is familiar as one of the difficult methods from Norman Smith's 23-spliced - familiar, that is, in the sense of knowing about it, rather than being experts at ringing it. Ipswich is also a Norman Smith's method. Dunster is better known in its variation with plain hunting at the lead end, which is Deva; this has become fairly popular and is associated with Simon Linford's Project Pickled Egg. It's Bristol above the treble, and Superlative below with plain hunting at the half lead.

We decided to ring a cyclic 7-part, and my computer came up with a number of compositions, including the following two which are intriguingly similar.

1344 Spliced Surprise Major (3m)              1344 Spliced Surprise Major (3m)
S.J.Gay                                       S.J.Gay
         2345678                                       2345678
----------------                              ----------------
Dunster  8674523                              Preston  5738264
Dunster- 2357486                              Preston- 7864523
Ipswich  6485723                              Ipswich  3526478
Ipswich- 2378564                              Ipswich- 7842635
Preston  8634257                              Dunster  5634278
Preston  4567823                              Dunster- 7823456
----------------                              ----------------
7 part                                        7 part

We've tried both compositions a couple of times, but we've settled on the second one, because having a bob attached to every change of method seems to reduce the risk of miscalls (!).

I've been ringing the tenors, and I've found myself doing a lot of coursing - more than I expected, considering that my general expectation is that a cyclic composition would have wild and difficult coursing orders with the tenors all over the place. One thing about cyclic compositions is that all the handbell pairs ring the same work as each other - for example, a part-end of 17823456 means that in the second part, 5-6 ring what 7-8 rang in the first part, and 3-4 ring what 5-6 rang in the first part. So if it's true that there is a significant amount of coursing for 7-8, then the other pairs get it as well, and this is a helpful feature for everyone.

Here's a table of the lead ends, methods, and which pairs are coursing, throughout the composition. Actually it's not all of the lead ends - we can consider the leads in pairs between bobs.

Part Lead end Methods 3-4 coursing 5-6 coursing 7-8 coursing
1 12345678 P P -     Y
  17864523 I I -   Y Y
  17842635 D D -   Y Y
2 17823456 P P -   Y Y
  15642378 I I - Y Y Y
  15627483 D D - Y Y Y
3 15678234 P P - Y Y  
  13427856 I I - Y Y  
  13475268 D D - Y Y  
4 13456782 P P - Y    
  18275634 I I - Y   Y
  18253746 D D - Y    
5 18234567 P P -      
  16753482 I I -   Y  
  16738524 D D -     Y
6 16782345 P P -      
  14538267 I I - Y    
  14586372 D D -   Y  
7 14567823 P P -      
  12386745 I I -     Y
  12364857 D D - Y   Y

This table immediately explains why we break down in the 5th part! It's the first time that no-one is coursing.

In total each pair rings 20 leads of coursing, which is almost half of the quarter. For 3-4 and 5-6, 16 of these leads are in a continuous block. (The 16 continuous leads of coursing for 7-8 wrap around the beginning and end of the quarter, so they are not experienced in the same way). And for the last 4 leads of the 2nd part, all the pairs are coursing.

Preston is the most difficult method, and it's the only one with leads in which none of the pairs are coursing: at the beginning of the 5th, 6th and 7th parts. This suggests that we should focus our learning on the leads of Preston that we ring in these parts.

These observations raise the question of how much coursing it's possible to get in a cyclic composition. I might return to it in a future article.

Update: we managed to ring the quarter the next time we tried it.

The first lost peal this year

It sounds almost unbelievable, but on Thursday we had the first lost handbell peal of the year. And it's not as if we've just been ringing easy things: my total of nine peals includes four of Bristol, one of London, and one of the Nottingham Eight.

We had arranged for Julia to come for a peal this week, but we only decided at the last minute what to ring: spliced London, Bristol, Cambridge and Yorkshire. I found this composition by Don Morrison:

5,184 Spliced Surprise Major (4 methods)
Donald F Morrison (no. 7435)

23456  M  B  W  H
----------------------------------
56234  2     -     L.B.C.L
63542     -        CY.CY
46532  3     -     L.CYYLC.LLC.Y.B
52364  -     -  2  L.C.BB.B.
43265  -       [-] L.CL.
----------------------------------
Six part, omitting [-] from alternate parts.

Contains 1,728 London, 1,536 Cambridge and 960 each Bristol and Yorkshire, 
with 132 changes of method.

It's not particularly designed as a handbell composition, but 5-6 do the same work in each part, which helps (and I was calling it from 5-6). In this style of composition, I like to call the bobs Home in parts 2, 4 and 6, so they come when 5-6 are the right way around, which feels familiar.

So what went wrong? The ringing was generally good, but I found myself repeatedly making mistakes in the Cambridge and Yorkshire in the third course, which should have been a nice easy section. In the fifth part I got very lost, and then the composition went completely out of my head and I miscalled it. Never mind, we'll go for it again when we can.