July 2020

The benefits of ringing with other conductors

I've just rung another quarter in Ringing Room: Cambridge Major, on handbells of course. I tried out a pair of Ben Johnson handbells that I put together at the weekend. They performed well and they're a comfortable weight. Ben's look more like real bells, with a metallic bronze for the bell and a dark brown handle. I used the colours that I have, so the bell looks more like steel, but the handle can be considered similar to a Malmark bell.

The quarter went pretty well. We were hit by delays about a course from the end, which were quite difficult to ride out. We're all getting better at keeping going and recovering, but in this case the ringing had become fairly quick and we needed to slow down, but it was hard to coordinate our slowing down. I was trying to wait for the treble when it was near the front, but I seemed to be seeing delays on the treble itself, which meant that other bells were getting in first. We survived though, with just a rough lead, and the rest of it was good.

The band was myself, Simon Rudd, Marj Winter and Gareth Davies. Marj was using a pair of homemade handbell controllers with the original large Leonardo board, Simon had a pair of Tim Hart printed bells (they both live in East Anglia), I had my Ben Johnson bells, and it was just Gareth using the original ActionXL controllers. Marj, Gareth and I were all using Macs, with my version of Handbell Manager enabling us to use the controllers in Ringing Room. So everyone was using my technology one way or another, as the Tim Hart bells use my software. That was extremely satisfying.

Now to deal with the title of this article, which is ringing with other conductors and indeed other bands. One thing is that I've rung a couple of quarters in which I was the least experienced member of the band (that doesn't happen very often these days) - an example was on Saturday morning, when I rang one of Bristol Royal (after meeting short for Yorkshire Maximus) with Graham John, Graham and Kath Firman, and Lesley Boyle. Another is that just having someone else conducting, and knowing that there's a limit to how much putting right anyone can do during online ringing (because it's harder without the usual visual cues), is rather relaxing. Finally, it's interesting to see which compositions other conductors choose, and I have picked up a couple of callings that I didn't know.

Today was an example of that. Simon Rudd called this composition:

1280 Cambridge Surprise Major

W  B  H  23456
      -  42356
      -  34256
   -  -  34562
-        63542
   -     34625
-        23645
   -  -  23456

It's a good handbell composition. 3-4 (which I rang) start with the whole plain course and are then coursing all the way to the end. 5-6 only ring the 5-6 and coursing positions.

While ringing the coursing orders 65432, 43652 and 24365 I noticed something that I haven't spotted before. In methods with Cambridge place bell order, i.e 2 6 7 3 4 8 5, because 3 and 4 are consecutive in the place bell order, the 3 rings what the 4 rang in the previous lead. This is true whenever your pair is in the 3-4 course: one bell follows the other one through the sequence of place bells. This is all very familiar. Now, when there are two handbell pairs both in the coursing position, directly after each other, for example in the coursing order 24365, a further interesting thing happens. Here 4 and 6 are in the 3-4 position, as are 3 and 5. This means that in each lead, 3-4 ring the pair of place bells that 5-6 rang in the previous lead. It's an additional aid to keeping track of what the other pair is doing.

Finally, I think the online ringing is making me a bit calmer as a conductor. Because you usually can't tell the difference between a mistake and a network delay, I am less inclined to try to make a comment the instant I hear something wrong. I hasten to add that in most cases I can't pinpoint who might be wrong, but in live ringing I am very inclined to comment on structural features (dodge above, hunt above, backstroke point, etc) as soon as something goes wrong. Often it's better to wait and let the ringing correct itself. I am noticing that Graham John is an amazingly calm conductor - a good example for anyone to follow.

And now for something completely different

There have been some posts on Facebook recently about ringing-themed designs for fabric, ordered from www.printmepretty.co.uk. You can upload a basic square design and get it printed onto fabric, repeated in a checkerboard pattern (or a few variations).

I decided it would be fun to try this with the bell-cross design from the cover of Change-Ringing on Handbells. Dorothy has been getting interested in sewing, and one of her friends has been making face masks, so there are all sorts of possibilities. You can even order tea-towels.

On the right is the bell-cross pattern rotated slightly with respect to the way it appears on the book cover.

In the slightly rotated form on the book cover, it was not completely obvious whether it could be produced by repeating a basic square. It's probably a bit clearer now. While investigating, I remembered about the 17 wallpaper patterns: these are the different symmetries that a repeating pattern in the plane can have. They are classified by group theory, the branch of mathematics that also underlies the theory of permutations and therefore of change-ringing.

It turns out that the bell-cross pattern has a symmetry called p4. As well as translational symmetry in two directions, it has several rotational symmetries which are the basis for its classification within the 17 wallpaper groups. In the diagram on the right, the red points and the blue points are centres of order 4 rotational symmetry. The p4 pattern also has order 2 rotational symmetry, and it took me a little longer to see that the centres of these symmetries are the black points.

To generate the pattern by tiling a basic square, you can use either four red points or four blue points as the corners of the square. I did it with the red points to get this square:

I've ordered sample pieces of fabric with the design at two different sizes. Let's see how they come out. 

Another quarter of Lincolnshire Royal

It's Lincolnshire week! Yesterday I attempted a quarter of Lincolnshire Royal in Ringing Room, with Mike Purday, Simon Rudd, Simon Humphrey and Alban Forster. It was going really well until just before the end of the second course, when we were hit by such severe delays that we had to stop. Delays in Ringing Room are different from Handbell Stadium - when it gets really bad there can be pauses of a couple of seconds, after which all the bells pile up in a great rush. It's very difficult to keep going. In Handbell Stadium, delays seem to get spread out through the change more.

Encouraged by the attempt, we met again this afternoon, and succeeded with a nice quarter in 44 minutes - under 3 hour peal speed. We managed to build up quite a good rhythm for most of it.

Mike Purday called a composition that I don't think I've rung before.

1282 Lincolnshire Surprise Royal

W  H  23456
   2  34256
s  s  52436
s    (32456)

I rang 5-6 and it was nice: two and a half courses of 5-6 position, then a course of 3-4 position. 3-4 get the 3-4 and coursing positions, with half a course of 7-8 position towards the end.

I was briefly confused by one of Mike's conducting comments. When approaching the lead end 1089674523 a little bit of confirmation was needed, and he said "one ten lead end". For a moment I thought he was giving an instruction to plain hunt instead of dodging (i.e. ring place notation 10). To announce that particular lead end, I usually say "handstroke roll-up" or "roll round at handstroke", but everyone has their own style.

We agreed that Lincolnshire is the easiest of the three common right-place surprise royal methods - certainly it's much easier than Yorkshire. Cambridge has the advantage of familiarity, but the structure of Lincolnshire is easy to follow.

Back on track

Yesterday we rang a quarter of Lincolnshire Royal, which is what we had been planning to ring way back on 16th March just before the lockdown started. 18 weeks, feeling like a lifetime ago. We suffered a bit from ringing in a large not-quite-circle - it's definitely more difficult when the bells are not all within easy vision. But generally it held together well.

There's an earlier blog article on Lincolnshire Royal, and I don't have much new to say about it. Also referring to an earlier article, I think we would benefit from developing the ability to think a little bit further ahead, to be more sure of which dodges to do or miss. We're ringing again next week, and I think it would be worth ringing another quarter of Lincolnshire.

Yorkshire Maximus

After ringing a quarter of Cambridge Maximus in Handbell Stadium last Saturday, tomorrow we're going for Yorkshire. I've hardly ever rung it (although I do have a memory of an unsuccessful peal attempt in the mid-1990s) so I thought I'd better do a bit of practice with Mabel. I started on the tenors, without any preparation except for remembering that the tenor has to do 7-8 places because that's what it does in Cambridge. My only other preconception was the idea that Yorkshire is more difficult than Cambridge, which is what we've found for Royal because the dodges are not synchronised above and below the treble.

So, off I went, and it was really easy! It just seemed to unfold naturally without any surprises. Here are the lines for the first half of  the course (diagram from Composition Library), and then I will comment on each lead.

  • Lead 1: 11th and 12th place bells. Tumbling places in both halves of the lead, just like Major, and coursing in between them. It's enough to remember that 12th place bell starts with 7-8 places, and has to do 3-4 places up in order to become 9th place bell.
  • Lead 2: 7th and 9th place bells. Again two sets of tumbling places, and it's enough to remember that 9th place bell does 9-10 places down and then 7th place bell does 3-4 places up to become 3rd place bell.
  • Lead 3: 3rd and 5th place bells. The first half lead is easy, but the second half lead is one of the most difficult parts of the course because the bells are on opposite sides of the treble and therefore ring out-of-step treble bob hunting. The same thing happens in Major but it's less noticeable because the out-of-step part is much shorter.
  • Lead 4: 2nd and 4th place bells. Out-of-step treble bob hunting even though both bells are below the treble. 4th place bell is forced to stop in 7-8 places up because 2nd place bell does a triple dodge in 9-10. The work in this lead is the same as in Major, with some additional treble bob hunting for both bells.
  • Lead 5: 6th and 8th place bells. For the first 16 changes, the bells are ringing in exactly the same places that they would in Major, but of course in Maximus it isn't the symmetrical lead. I knew that 6th place bell should do 9-10 places up, but I didn't have a clear idea of which places 8th place bell would do. However, stopping in 5-6 places felt right, and in fact the 5-6 and 9-10 places have the same relationship as the 5-6 and 1-2 places (better known as frontwork) in the first half of the lead.
  • Lead 6: 10th and 12th place bells. This is the symmetrical lead. I still remembered that 12th place bell does 7-8 places, and I also remembered that 10th place bell does 3-4 places, the same as in Royal. These sets of places are in the same relative positions as both pairs of places in the previous lead.

So there we are - not too bad, although I expect the other pairs are less easy. Let's see what happens in the morning.

Real handbell ringing at last!

Now we are allowed to meet with three households indoors, we got our handbell band together in person this evening. We set out a large triangle with Jonathan and Angela at one vertex, Peter at another, and Tina and me at the third. With a suitable assignment of pairs (Angela 1-2 and Jonathan 9-10, Tina 7-8 and me 5-6, Peter 3-4) we had our ten-bell band.

We started with a course of Cambridge, and then another which was better. I don't ring it on 5-6 very often and found it a bit different. There are overlapping places, in 3-4 and 7-8, but in a different way than the overlapping places in the 3-4 course. Making 4th and 7th place simultaneously felt a little odd.

Inspired by our success with Cambridge, we went back to the Lincolnshire project, and got through a plain course. Later we tried Yorkshire, but it didn't go. Never mind. We are back in business. Bristol by the end of the year!

Another week in cyberspace

Three online quarter peal attempts again this week, but only two scored. On Wednesday we tried Yorkshire Royal in Ringing Room, but there were a lot of delays and it didn't go. Thursday was London Major, again in Ringing Room, which we rang very well. Actually that was my first quarter in Ringing Room. I used my Tim Hart 3D-printed dummy handbells and my Mac version of Handbell Manager, and they worked well. Finally, this morning we rang a quarter of Cambridge Maximus in Handbell Stadium, with the same band as last week's Kent Maximus. We didn't manage to ring quite as quickly as the Kent, but we squeezed in just under the one-hour mark. Much of the ringing was pretty good, but there were patches with significant delays which we had to fight our way through.

Also I joined the Handbell Stadium practice on Friday evening, and rang Double Oxford Minor, Plain Bob Minor and Oxford Major. I haven't rung Oxford on more than six for a long time. It's harder to keep track of than Kent because the 3-4 places at the beginning of the lead swap a pair of bells over, until they swap back at the end of the lead. And that's on top of the treble replacing the slow bell, which happens in the same way as in Kent.

So what happens in Oxford is that the slow bell is replaced by the treble in the coursing order during each lead, and the bells on either side of the slow bell in the coursing order are swapped over. Here are the coursing orders in each lead.

Lead number Lead head Slow bell Coursing order
1 12345678 2 8754136
2 14263857 4 8753612
3 16482735 6 7532814
4 18674523 8 5324716
5 17856342 7 5183246
6 15738264 5 8317246
7 13527486 3 8721546

This means that if you want to follow what's going on and be able to get the bells to lead in the right order, you have to do a coursing order transposition at the beginning of every lead. So the concentration level is higher. Also, of course, the pairs change position more than they do in Kent, so overall there are several factors counteracting the absence of wrong places in 3-4.

A week of online ringing

I've had a busy week of online ringing. Last Saturday we tried a quarter of Cambridge Maximus, in Handbell Stadium, with the band that rang the peal of Cambridge Royal, plus Graham Firman. We didn't find it very easy, and eventually had to stop because someone's laptop was running out of battery. We agreed to try again on Thursday, ringing Kent so that we could focus more on pace and rhythm (the idea had been to get below a 3h30 peal speed).

During the week I signed up for a couple of quarters with Gareth Davies' Five o'Clock Handbell Club. On Tuesday I called a quarter of Lincolnshire, again in Handbell Stadium, which went smoothly although I found it needed a lot of concentration. About half way through, an alert popped up on my screen, from Skype wanting to install an update. I had no way of getting rid of it, so it just stayed there, obscuring my view of the trebles.

Tuesday evening was the Glasgow online tower bell practice, in Ringing Room. I used my new Handbell Manager for Mac program so that I could ring with a motion controller instead of pressing the keyboard. At one point during the practice I rang 3-4 for a course of Grandsire Triples, with Tina ringing 1-2 and everyone else ringing one bell each.

Wednesday was the Five o'Clock Club again, and we rang a quarter of Bristol in Handbell Stadium. Mike Purday called a composition with a snap start and 6th place bobs, to keep 5-6 coursing - the calling was just 6 ins (s - - s - - ) for the tenor. It went very well. Alan Winter was ringing with a pair of controllers that he has made to my design, which was satisfying.

Thursday was the second attempt at the Kent Maximus. It didn't go, because my network connection was playing up. I was experiencing a lot of delays which made it sound as if the rest of the bells were ringing late and piling on top of each other. The rest of the band didn't get the same effect, but it was extremely difficult for me to keep to a rhythm. Eventually one of my bells got stuck, which was quite a mercy.

Friday was the regular Handbell Stadium practice that Graham John organises. During the week, as I described in another article, I received a pair of 3D-printed dummy handbells from Tim Hart and installed my Arduino sensors in them. So on Friday I tried them out. They worked well, and the weight is about the same as my original wooden dummy handbells. They have longer cables, which makes them a bit easier to ring when sitting at my desk. There are some sharp edges and corners though, which is evidence for high-quality printing, but it might be a good idea to smooth out the design a little. Unusually for a Friday practice, I didn't find myself ringing any Double Norwich, but I rang some Double Oxford Minor and some Plain Bob Royal.

Round to Saturday again (today), and we had another attempt at the quarter of Kent Maximus - successful this time. We were down to 3h25 speed for a while, which is much more promising for ringing a peal than the 0ver-4h speed of the previous Handbell Stadium quarter of maximus, and similar to some of the quarters on Ringing Room. My network was behaving better - there were still a few delays, but I'm finding it easier to have the confidence to stick to my internal rhythm and ring through them. Overall it was a good quarter.

The final exciting news is that I've ordered a 3D printer of my own, which is supposed to arrive today. So I hope to be able to print more dummy handbells from Tim Hart's design (but maybe with smoother edges), and I also want to look into printing clappers for the mini-bell conversions.