March 2020

Minimus has never been so popular

There's no tower bell ringing at the moment, and handbell ringing is almost entirely limited to people who have a band living in the same house (apart from some experiments with remote online ringing). The Pipes have rung a peal of Stedman Triples, and the Perrinses have rung one of spliced surprise major, but most of the performances on BellBoard these days are minimus.

What can you ring on four? There are 11 plain minimus methods whose plain course is an extent of 24 changes. Instead of showing lines, I will give links to CompLib. The methods are Plain Bob, Reverse Bob, Double Bob, Canterbury, Reverse Canterbury, Double Canterbury, St Nicholas, Reverse St Nicholas, Single Court, Reverse Court and Double Court. (I'm not absolutely sure of my ground here, but I seem to remember that 11 is the magic number).

A surprising number of minimus methods have been rung and named, but I will focus on some traditional well-known four-bell versions of standard methods.

Kent Treble Bob and Oxford Treble Bob each have a plain course of 48 changes, which contains every change twice. The methods are recognisable from their familiar structure, and Oxford turns out to be a double method.

Another old favourite is Bristol Minimus, which now seems to be called Demi-Bristol Alliance. This is based on three bobbed leads of Bristol Major, in which 2, 3 and 4 all stay in the front 4 places. The treble, after dodging 3-4 up, takes the place of 5th place bell on the front, until the half lead; after that it takes the place of 6th place bell. The plain course is 96 changes but it doesn't contain every change 4 times, because the treble doesn't ring the same number of times in each place. An unnamed method with a similar structure extended to have double symmetry is this one. The plain course is 144 changes, containing each change 6 times.

The idea of taking a method in which 2, 3 and 4 stay in the front four places, and using the treble to fill in the work of other bells, can be applied to other methods than Bristol. Norwich Alliance is based on Norwich Surprise Minor. Warkworth Alliance is based on Warkworth Surprise Minor. This unnamed one is a bit like Bourne Surprise Minor.

Some other surprise major methods can be treated in this way. Here's one based on Rutland, in which the treble takes over the work of 7th place bell. 

Coming soon: Change-Ringing on Handbells, the book

For quite a long time now, Tina and I have been working on a book about handbell ringing. I had been planning to keep quiet until it was actually published, but we received a printed proof copy today and we were so excited that Tina posted it on Facebook, so the cat's out of the bag.

I think we started in about 2013, so it really has been a long time. There have been periods of intensive writing, and periods of many months with no progress at all. But since Christmas it has felt very close to completion, and during the last week we have taken advantage of the coronavirus lockdown to give it a final push.

We're publishing it with Amazon, so it will be available to order using a print-on-demand service. We are also planning to do an e-book edition. The price will be £20 in the UK, and corresponding prices in other markets.

One thing we need to work on after checking the first printed proof copy is the cover. We're happy with the basic design, but the image needs to be sharper, and we're making the colour a little paler. But the interior looks beautiful.

The book is subtitled "Volume 1: Basic Techniques". It goes up to treble bob major, with a chapter on Double Norwich at the end in order to discuss different ways of learning more complicated methods. There will be a Volume 2, dealing with surprise methods, ringing on higher numbers, and Grandsire and Stedman (which are not in Volume 1). We hope it won't take another 7 years to finish Volume 2. Actually, the lockdown should give us an opportunity to make faster progress. We have a lot of draft text already, some of which might be recognisable to readers of the blog, and I've already done all the coding necessary to produce the diagrams.

So, look out for the announcement that the book is available from Amazon, and if the blog still has any readers, we hope that some of you will buy the book!



Experimenting with remote handbell ringing

Tower bell ringing is not possible at the moment in the UK and US because of coronavirus. People still seem to be ringing in Australia and New Zealand. Even handbell ringing depends on having a whole band living in the same house. People have been speculating about using videoconferencing systems for remote handbell ringing. Is this possible?

Back in 2013 there was a handbell peal on a video link between Derby and Edinburgh. Tina and I were invited to ring in it, but it took place while we were away on our summer holiday, so we had to decline. That peal used a special high-performance video link between two universities, and I think it was facilitated by a research project on high-speed networking. But is it possible with the kind of standard videoconferencing that many of us are using increasingly at work, especially with the current travel restrictions?

Dorothy and I have just done a little experiment between two rooms in the house, using Zoom. The results were not good. One problem, which is really a show-stopper in itself, is that there was a significant delay over the network, making it impossible to maintain a rhythm. Each of us was ringing our bells as soon as we saw/heard the other person's bells ring, but each of us experienced a long delay (maybe up to a second) between ringing our bells and hearing the other person's bells. The other problem is that after the first strike of each bell, there was a large decrease in the volume, perhaps because the software was trying to reduce feedback. Even when we both used headsets, the same thing happened.

So, we have recorded our Plain Hunt Minimus on BellBoard for posterity, but videoconferencing isn't going to be a substitute for getting together.

Even if there were no delays over the network, another potential problem would be having bells at each end with compatible tuning. In the past, when trying to make rings of 14 or 16 by combining more than one set of bells, I have found that it's possible for two bells from different sets to be marked with the same note but be a semitone apart in their actual pitch. I expect this wouldn't be a problem with two sets from the same founder.

Handbells @ Home

Yesterday we were supposed to be ringing a quarter of Lincolnshire Royal at Angela's house. After the instruction in the afternoon to begin social distancing, we had to cancel it. Cancellation of all tower bell ringing swiftly followed. There has been some speculation about remote handbell ringing via video conferencing systems, and I would like to try it, but meanwhile, our daughter Dorothy surprised us by saying that she wouldn't mind doing some handbell ringing.

Dorothy has rung Bob Minor on 1-2 in the past, but it was a long time ago. This evening we started with plain hunt on 4, then Plain Bob Minimus. It seemed to come back to her quickly, so we continued with the hunting positions on 6, and then she rang the trebles to a course of Bob Minor with a little bit of guidance. If she's keen on doing more (and she might be, because all of the usual out-of-school activities have been cancelled), then it will be fun to see how far we can get.

Compositions of CYNR

We did well with our quarter of CYNR this week, so I would like to go for a peal of it during the handbell weekend that I'm planning in April. Here's a survey of compositions to choose from. First, some essential criteria. I'm looking at tenors-together all-the-work compositions. It's possible to get all the work in a five part composition (either an exact five part, or sometimes with a variation in one part in order to adjust the length), so I will consider five-parts to reduce the learning required. CompLib has 12 compositions satisfying these conditions (searching in CompLib actually gives 15 results, but I have combined some of them which are variations). I will classify them first according to the part ends, then by other factors. I have removed the musical analysis as I am mainly interested in how easy the compositions would be to call and ring, but it can be found on CompLib.

1. Part ends 12345678, 13526478, 15634278, 16452378, 14263578

This part end group consists of the lead ends of Plain Bob Minor with 78 added at the end. I find them easy to check because of familiarity with Bob Minor, and their coursing orders are familiar because we ring a lot of compositions with blocks of 5 befores, which produce the same coursing orders. There are 8 compositions with this part end group. I will subdivide them according to the calling.

1.1. The calling of Middleton's (2M 2W 3H)

There are 5 compositions with this calling. It potentially gives 5600 if every course is 7 leads. Some of the compositions are indeed for 5600, shortened to 5056 in the same way that Middleton's composition of Cambridge is usually shortened: by replacing 2M 2W with B in one part. One is shortened to 5024 by shortening some courses. Others use short courses and then lengthen some of them to get a length of 5024.

1.1.1. Compositions reduced from 5600 to 5056 by replacing 2M 2W with B

5056 by Robert D S Brown

M  W  H             23456
-        NNN.NYNY   43652
-  -     CCC.N.YCY  56234
   -  -  YYYY.NYN.  23564
      -  CNCCCYC.   52364
      -  RRRRRRR.   35264
5 part.
In one part, replace 2M 2W by B and omit the associated leads.
1344 Y, 1312 C, 1280 N, 1120 R
80 changes of method; all the work.

The next one has rather more Lincolnshire. We rang the full length of 5600 for my 600th peal.

5056 by Robert D S Brown

M  W  H             23456
-        CNC.YNNN   43652
-  -     NCN.C.YCC  56234
   -  -  YYYY.CYY.  23564
      -  CNNNNYC.   52364
      -  RRRRRRR.   35264
5 part.
In one part, replace 2M 2W with B and omit the associated leads.
1440 N, 1248 C, 1248 Y, 1120 R
79 changes of method; all the work.

1.1.2. Compositions reduced from 5600 to 5024 by shortening courses

This is the first composition, shortened in a different way which results in much more Rutland.

5056 by Robert D S Brown

M  W  H               23456
-        NNN.N[YNY]   43652
-  -     CCC.N.[YCY]  56234
   -  -  YYYY.[NYN].  23564
      -  CNCCCYC.     52364
      -  RRRRRRR.     35264
5 part.
In parts 3, 4 and 5, replace the bracketed methods with R.
1408 R, 1344 C, 1152 N, 1120 Y
74 changes of method; all the work.

1.1.3. Compositions extended from 4860 to 5024

The first of these two compositions is rung quite frequently on handbells. Peter Randall seems to like it. It has the fewest changes of method of any of these compositions, which can help with stability. Also it looks easy to learn. It can be made into a palindrome by either changing the fourth course to NNNCCCC or changing the fifth course to CCCNNNN.

5024 by Robert W Lee

M  W  H               23456
-        YYY.YR       43652
-  -     R.RRRRR.[R]  56234
   -  -  RY.YYY.      23564
      -  NNNNCCC.     52364
      -  CCCCNNN.     35264
5 part.
In part 2, replace [R] with NNN.
1408 R, 1280 Y, 1216 N, 1120 C
31 changes of method; all the work.

The next one has more changes of method, but a similar method balance.

5024 by Emma J Southerington

M  W  H             23456
-        [R].CCNY   43652
-  -     CCC.YR.    56234
   -  -  RRRRRR.R.  23564
      -  NNNNNYC.   52364
      -  YYYYYCN.   35264
5 part.
In part 1, replace [R] with NYN.
1408 R, 1312 Y, 1184 N, 1120 C
66 changes of method; all the work.

1.2. The calling B, extended with blocks of 3M and 3H

This is an attractive idea because of the simplicity of a B as a 5-part transposition, and then the composition is extended with two simple blocks of three bobs. If you think 5120 is too long, it's easy to shorten it by two leads. We rang the full length for the first peal of spliced by the Albany Quadrant band, in 2011, and again with Julia in 2012.

5120 (5056) by John S Warboys

M  B  H               23456
-        R.Y[NNN]     43652
-        YYY.CCCC     63254
-  -  -  NNC.RR.RRR.  23564
      -  CYNNYYY.     52364
      -  CCRNN.       35264
5 part.
1440 N, 1280 C, 1280 Y, 1120 R
74 changes of method; all the work.
For 5056 replace [NNN] with R in part 3.
1344 N, 1280 C, 1280 Y, 1152 R

1.3. The calling W B 2H, extended with blocks of 3H and/or 3M

These compositions again use B to give the 5-part structure. The W and 2H are a block of three bobs on the same three bells, but the calling positions are different because the B shifts all the bells. The first composition uses one more block of three to increase the length. CompLib also has a trivial variation in which the third lead of one part is replaced by Y. Similarly to the previous composition, this one can be shortened by substituting a lead of R in one part.

5120 (5056) by Philip G K Davies

B  W  H              23456
   -  -  CCCY.CCC.   45236
      -  YCYCNNN.    24536
      -  YYNN[YYY].  52436
-     -  NN.NY.      52364
      -  RRRRRRR.    35264
5 part.
1344 Y, 1280 C, 1280 N, 1152 R
69 changes of method; all the work.
For 5056 replace [YYY] with R in part 1. 
1344 N, 1280 C, 1280 Y, 1152 R

The next composition uses more short courses and therefore needs an extra 3M to get the length. It has the most changes of method of any of these compositions.

5120 by Donald F Morrison

M  B  W  H                     23456
      -  -  CYYN.CYC.          45236
         -  YRR.               24536
         -  NCRNN.             52436
   -     -  CN.YN.             52364
3        -  R.CYCRC.YNRYN.RY.  35264
5 part.
1440 Y, 1280 C, 1280 N, 1120 R
144 changes of method; all the work.

2. Part ends 12345678, 13456278, 14562378, 15623478, 16234578

This part end group consists of cycles on 23456 with 8 added at the end. The part ends should be easy to check, but I am not familiar with the coursing orders.

5024 by Robert D S Brown

M  W  H                 23456
   2     RY.YNRCY.[R]   35426
   -  -  RC.R.          42356
   -     CR.NCY         54326
2     -  NYN.NNRNY.RN.  56423
      -  YCRNC.         45623
5 part.
Replace [R] with CYC in part 3.
1440 N, 1408 R, 1152 Y, 1024 C
137 changes of method; all the work.

3. Part ends 12345678, 14653278, 15236478, 13462578, 16524378

I don't see anything special about this part end group, either as changes or as coursing orders, and I don't find it appealing. Maybe I am missing something.

5056 by Robert D S Brown

M  W  H             23456
-     -  NCN.NNNC.  64352
   -  -  RY.YYY.    35642
      -  [RRRRRRR].   63542
   -  -  CYCN.CCN.  54632
      -  YNYYR.     65432
      -  RCR.       46532
5 part.
Replace bracketed leads with RCR in parts 3, 4 and 5.
1280 N, 1280 R, 1280 Y, 1216 C
100 changes of method; all the work.

The final two compositions have a simpler calling and are similar to each other, with significantly different numbers of changes of method.

5056 by Robert D S Brown

M  W  H             23456
   -  -  CCCN.YNY.  45236
      -  NYNCNYN.   24536
      -  YNYCR.     52436
-  -  -  R.Y.R.     63425
      -  RYCCC.     46325
      -  [RNR].     34625
5 part.
Replace bracketed leads with RRRRRRR in parts 4 and 5.
1280 C, 1280 R, 1280 Y, 1216 N
115 changes of method; all the work.
5056 by Robert D S Brown

M  W  H             23456
   -  -  CCCC.NNN.  45236
      -  YYYNYYY.   24536
      -  NNNNR.     52436
-  -  -  R.Y.R.     63425
      -  RCCCC.     46325
      -  [RYR].     34625
5 part.
Replace bracketed leads with RRRRRRR in parts 4 and 5.
1280 C, 1280 N, 1280 R, 1216 Y
60 changes of method; all the work.


I like the Robert Lee composition for its simplicity, and I think I will call it next time we ring these methods. I'm not sure why I didn't choose it for our first peal of spliced. Maybe I didn't like the idea of the method substitutions in one part. When searching for quarter peal compositions, two callings come up that aren't used as the basis for any of these peals: M H W and W M. It could be interesting to explore them.

A good quarter at a new address

Yesterday we christened Peter's flat with a nice quarter of Cambridge, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Rutland. It was Peter's first of spliced surprise on handbells, and Jonathan's first of spliced as conductor on handbells. They both did well. Jonathan called this composition:

1280 Spliced Surprise Major (4m)

M W H          23456
-   -  R.CR.   64352
  -    NYNC.R  56342
5 part.

There are many compositions on this kind of plan - my computer search came up with more than 1000, assuming that the part ends are the lead ends of Plain Bob Minor with 78 added at the back. Some of them have the calling Wrong Middle instead of Middle Home Wrong. The tenors ring the same work in each part, so it's a gentle introduction to spliced. In this particular composition there is a bit less variation for the tenors, as both leads of Cambridge are when the tenor is 6th place bell, and there are two leads of Rutland with the tenor as 7th place bell.

Writing out the coursing orders, we can see that there is quite a lot of coursing (20 leads out of 40) for 5-6, which is a good pair (other than the tenors) to conduct from.

M      W      H
53462         54632
46325         43265
32654         36524
65243         62453
24536         25346

There are also some coursing orders with good musical potential. The transition 62453 -> 24653 -> 24536 -> 25346 can give little-bell runs in each course, although the composition doesn't necessarily ring the right leads to produce them.

Next week we're going to try Lincolnshire Royal, if everyone is available.

Handbell ringing at the SACR training day

Yesterday was the annual SACR training day, at Tulloch. It's primarily a tower bell event, but we also offered some handbell ringing. In most cases this was plain hunting on six, including some with absolute beginners, as well as some Bob Minor. Good progress was made.

We also rang some Bristol Major with me, Jonathan, Angela and Nick, and half a course of Cambridge Royal with the addition of Jenny. The Cambridge wasn't perfect, but we rang with a good rhythm and recovered quickly from mistakes. We've really come a long way with our 10-bell ringing.

Inevitably there was a lot of tower bell ringing in which the rhythm was far from perfect, and the contrast with the handbell ringing reminded me of how much easier it is to get an excellent rhythm on handbells. We still find 12-bell ringing difficult, but we've improved enormously on 10, and on 8 we can ring very well indeed, even if there are a few trips.

Tomorrow we're ringing on 8, as Angela isn't free. This is another good thing about having 5 people now - there should be fewer weeks when we can't ring at all. The plan for tomorrow is a quarter of Cambridge, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Rutland, which will be an advance for Peter. The first suggestion was Cambridge, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, but this is an interesting situation in which adding a method makes it easier to find a simple composition. Jonathan's going to call it, and I don't know which composition he will choose, but with CYNR it's possible to get a simple 5-part composition with the calling M H W or W M, using a 3-lead course (2 leads of Rutland and 1 lead of another method) and a 5-lead course (1 lead of Rutland and 4 leads of other methods).

Cambridge and Yorkshire

After ringing our quarter of Cambridge Royal with 3-4 unaffected, our next step was to ring a quarter of Cambridge Major, definitely not choosing a handbell-friendly composition. The idea was to give Peter a workout including as many positions as possible. If I remember correctly, Jonathan called this one:

1280 Cambridge Surprise Major

M B W H  23456
  3      64523
-     -  35426
    - 3  23456

Peter rang 3-4 and had most of the leads of all three positions. I rang 5-6 and found it reasonably friendly - a fair bit of coursing and then the final two courses in the home position.

The next week we lost a quarter of Cambridge Royal, this time with the calling sW sW 3H so that 3-4 would ring two courses in the 3-4 position followed by two courses in the coursing position. An unfortunate 3-way swap quite close to the end meant that it didn't come round, but we tried again yesterday and succeeded. After that we had a go at Yorkshire Royal, and managed half a course.

Meanwhile the Edinburgh band rang its first peal of surprise major without outside help: 

Scottish Association
, Midlothian
27 House o' Hill Crescent
Saturday, 22 February 2020 in 2h 29 (11)
5088 Yorkshire Surprise Major
Composed by J S Warboys
1-2 Barbara J Bell
3-4 James W Holdsworth (C)
5-6 Susannah M Ewens
7-8 Ian P Bell
The first peal of Surprise on handbells by a resident Edinburgh band.