December 2019

Diversification in Scottish handbell ringing

As well as losing a peal in Glasgow yesterday, Nick and James scored one in Edinburgh today.

Scottish Association
, Midlothian
27 House o' Hill Crescent
Sunday, 1 December 2019 in 2h 29 (11)
5056 Yorkshire Surprise Major
Composed by J W Holdsworth (no. 7)
1-2 Barbara J Bell
3-4 James W Holdsworth (C)
5-6 Nicholas W Jones
7-8 Susannah M Ewens
First peal (at the first attempt): 7-8.
First Surprise in hand: 1-2.

Congratulations to Susannah on her first peal, and to Barbara on her first of Surprise in hand (and first handbell peal since 2003, according to PealBase).

I find this peal noteworthy for another reason. Apart from one peal of Cambridge Minor in 1989, there have been 42 handbell peals of Surprise for the Scottish Association since regular handbell peal ringing restarted in 2007. Of these 42 peals, 39 were conducted by me, one by Roger Bailey while visiting Glasgow, one by David Pipe on our annual ringers' holiday, and today's by James Holdsworth. Also, I rang in all of them except today's. So it's a welcome broadening of the pool of ringers, and especially of the pool of conductors.

Handbell ringing in the Scottish Association, measured by peals, has been patchy during the lifetime of the association. There were peals in 1932, 1936, 1946, and then none until 1978. There were a reasonable number from 1980 to 1990, then a sporadic peal in 1999, and then peals got going again in 2007, largely due to Mike Clay. Since 2009 there have been peals every year, with the high points being 11 peals in each of 2015 and 2017.

Since 2007, a total of 26 people have rung handbell peals, of whom 21 were resident members. That is about 10% of the current resident membership, which I'm sure is not bad in comparison with many other associations. Resident conductors have been Mike Clay, Robin Churchill, Dan Smith (no longer resident), Peter Kirton, James Holdsworth and myself. We should work on getting Tina and Jonathan to conduct peals, as they have both called several quarters. Also Peter will be joining our band in Glasgow after Christmas, so we should include him in the conducting rota.

So there's now an Edinburgh peal band (OK, Nick was a visitor, but there's Ian Bell who wasn't in today's peal) which might well start producing regular performances. James has great plans, which he was telling us about yesterday. We'll look forward to seeing what they come up with, as well as continuing to do crossover ringing like yesterday.  

A busy day of handbell ringing

Yesterday we had one of our mad days of trying to combine too many things. The trigger was Nick being available for another Bristol Royal session, so we took advantage of that to also get James to come and call a peal of Pitman's 4 (London, Bristol, Cambridge, Superlative). At some point we realised that it was the weekend after Thanksgiving, so we decided to invite everyone for dinner with roast turkey and all the trimmings.

After a frantic morning of cooking, we started for the peal of spliced after lunch. It was going very well, but blew up about a third of the way through. Afterwards, James said he thought we had been ringing a bit too fast. I was ringing the tenors, and I must confess that I was enjoying ringing quickly with a good rhythm - but of course the peal is more difficult for the other pairs, so we have to take that into account.

There wasn't time to restart the peal, but we rang a good quarter of 8-spliced. James couldn't stay for dinner, so we summoned Jonathan and Angela to get the next band ready. Dinner went well, after recovering from a pie disaster and a gravy disaster, and then we went for a quarter of Bristol Royal. The first attempt collapsed after almost three courses, but mostly we were doing well, so we started again and succeeded.

At its best, the ringing was very good, but we had a few rough patches. I think we all find the wrong dodging difficult. I persistently missed the wrong 3-4 dodge in 4th place bell, and no doubt everyone had their own bugbear. Never mind, we'll improve with practice.

I called sW sH sW sH, which keeps 3-4 in the 3-4 position and only has the 3-4 and 5-6 positions for 5-6. Another time we'll have to try putting people into different positions. A popular composition is four wrongs (bob, single, bob, single), starting at the snap after the wrong (so the initial coursing order is 32456, with 5-6 coursing). This means that 5-6 are coursing throughout, and 3-4 ring the 3-4 and coursing positions. I noticed that our friends in Oxford rang it recently, with the calling sW W sW W. The advantage of starting with a single is that 3-4 ring the first two courses in the 3-4 position (coursing orders 32456 and 42356) and then two courses in the coursing position (coursing orders 23456 and 43256), so there is more time to settle into each position.