Handbell Compositions: 5152 Yorkshire Surprise Major by Bernard H Taylor

I was looking for handbell-friendly compositions of Yorkshire in the collection at www.ringing.info, and I noticed this one by Bernard Taylor.

6048 (5152) Yorkshire Surprise Major
Bernard H Taylor
23456   M   W   H
56234   2   -
35264  (3)  -
25463   -   3
45362   -   3
63254   -   -
52436   -   -
34625   -   -
23645   3   -
42635   3   -
62534   -  (3)
23456   -   2   3
Omit both (3) for 5152.

Bernard's description of the composition is included:

Difficult to believe this is original, but have been unable to find it elsewhere. Peter Sanderson has published something similar, though this was arrived at independently. It is delightfully easy to call, with the position of 5-6 making it obvious what to do. All 12 courses of 5-6 coursing are the 'right way round' (6 before 5) and 3-4 have 12 coursing courses too.

At a casual glance, the composition looks like a series of wrongs and middles without a great deal of structure or pattern. But the claim that it is "delightfully easy to call" sounds attractive, and in line with previous articles about compositions in which the coursing order is a mnemonic for the calling. So let's unpack the composition and see what it's all about.

We can ignore the blocks of (3), because I don't think there's much demand for a 6048. Here is the first section, written out with the coursing orders in the positions of the bobs.

  M      W
53624  36524
65243  52643
65432  54632
65324  53624

The composition starts with 2M 2W, the classic "Middleton's block", which is equivalent to a before and produces the coursing order 65324, with 5-6 coursing. Notice that between the two middles the coursing order is 53462, with 3-4 coursing, and between the two wrongs it is 36524, with 5-6 coursing.

Next comes M 3W M 3W M. This is 3M with blocks of 3W inserted. The coursing order at the beginning is 65324, so the 3 middles are on 2,3,4. This means that at the bobs, the lead ends will be familiar changes: 1423xxxx, 1342xxxx, 1234xxxx, where the xxxx is 5867. If calling from 5-6, one has to not be confused by the fact that becoming  5th and 7th place bell at a bob might feel like calling a wrong.

In the blocks of 3 wrongs, 5-6 are affected in the same way that 3-4 are affected in a block of 3 homes from the plain course. They ring two courses of coursing and one course of the 3-4 position.

The third middle returns to the coursing order 65324, and then a wrong and a middle return to the plain course. These final bobs at wrong and then middle complete the 2 wrongs and 2 middles from the beginning of the composition. Overall this is a round block that inserts 10 courses into the plain course, including 5 courses with 3-4 coursing and 6 courses with 5-6 coursing.

The composition as a whole is palindromic. It's easiest to see this at first by ignoring the 3 homes at the end. The symmetrical point is the half lead in the middle of the plain course (reverse rounds). The second half of the calling is the mirror image of the first half. Wrongs and middles become interchanged, because a wrong is the same distance after the midpoint as a middle is before it. On the page, rotating the first half by 180 degrees produces the second half.

M   W                M   W
-----                -----
2   2                    -
-   3                -   -
-   3       ->       3   -
-   -                3   -
-                    2   2
-----                -----

Here are the coursing orders for the second half.

  M      W
32465  24365
24365  43265
43265  32465
32546  25346

It's the same idea with middle and wrong exchanged: calls at wrong affecting 2,3,4, and blocks of 3 middles in which 5-6 are affected. This section also has 5 courses with 3-4 coursing and 6 courses with 5-6 coursing. Finally, the block of 3 homes adds another 2 courses with 3-4 coursing.

I wondered whether there would be any benefit in starting with one or two homes, instead of having all three at the end, in order to get more of the 5-6 position for 5-6 out of the way early on. It turns out that doing this reduces the amount of coursing for 3-4 from 12 courses to 10, because the two middles at the beginning and the two wrongs at the end no longer contain courses with 3-4 coursing.

We can see how the coursing order is a mnemonic for the calling by looking at the first half, and then the same reasoning applies in reverse for the second half. Each block of 3 wrongs finishes when the coursing order is 65xxx, and the enclosing block of 3 middles finishes when the coursing order is 65324 (a rotation of the plain course).

So it should be straightforward to call, and in particular the three consecutive courses all called M W no longer look like a section that has to be counted through (it's always best to avoid counting if possible). The main pitfall I can see is forgetting that middle and wrong are consecutive leads.

We have a peal attempt of Yorkshire booked for the week after next, so I will give this composition a try.  

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