Handbell Compositions: 5184 Stedman Caters by Matthew Durham

We recently attempted (unsuccessfully, alas) a peal of Stedman Caters, because Matt, Jess and Julia were all in Glasgow for a tower bell peal. The composition we have usually rung is this 5067 by Matt, but this time he called something different.

5184 Stedman Caters
Matthew J L Durham

1  6  8  15  (324165879)
   s  s  -    231465
-* s     -    342165987
   s     -    413265
   s     -    124365
   s  s  -    213465
   s     -    142365
   s     -    431265
   s     -    324165
6 part, calling s for -* in parts 3 and 6.
Start at backstroke with rounds as the 5th row of a slow six.

It's a simple calling, a six-part or even a twelve-part if you think of the calls at 1 coming in alternate parts. 5-6 are completely unaffected, ringing plain courses throughout. 7-8 are affected only occasionally, working through all six combinations with 9. That just leaves 1-2 and 3-4 significantly affected. There are no turning courses to disturb the regularity, so overall it should be nice and stable for handbell ringing. 

Notice, however, the instruction at the bottom: start at backstroke with rounds as the 5th row of a slow six. This takes a bit of working out. The main reason for the backstroke start is to be able to finish in the handstroke home position without needing a turning course to swap 5-6. Why finish at handstroke? Well, that position is usually considered musically desirable.

Starting at the 5th row of a slow six means that the first place notation is 3, and then you're at a six end, so then you start a quick six. The easiest way to check the starts for all the bells is to find the composition in Composition Library and then look at the blue line view.

Matt explained the reason for starting with rounds as the 5th row of a slow six. It's a slow six because that's the normal way to ring a handstroke home course end. And choosing the 5th row of the six means that the little bells leave the front in the order 4321. Actually, I think that's another reason for the backstroke start. After that, the calling s6 s8 15 reverses the order to 1234 and each course called s6 15 causes a rotation of the order of those four bells. The coursing orders of the front four are as follows.

Course 14321
Course 21234
Course 32341
Course 43412
Course 54123
Course 63214
Course 72143
Course 81432

Then it's back to 4321, and so on. This 8-course block is rung 6 times in all, each time with the back bells in a different position. So it should be fairly easy to keep track of - if you're a conductor who is able to keep track of anything at all in Stedman, which I'm not but Matt certainly is. We still managed to fire it up though, but I hope we can try again another time.

All this reminded me of an article in the Ringing World a long time ago, by Andrew Hudson, about the idea of starting Stedman Caters at backstroke and ringing a multi-part composition. I found this composition in CompLib, which I think is probably the one (or one of several) from the article.

5184 Stedman Caters
Andrew S Hudson

1  5  13  15  16  (134265879)
   -      -   -    421365
      s            241365
   -      -   -    132465
      s            312465
   -      -   -    243165
      s            423165
   -      -   -    314265
      s            134265
6 part, calling s for -* in parts 3 and 6.
Start at backstroke with rounds as the 3rd row of a slow six.

The structure is similar, although the two-course block is different, the start is at a different row and the calls at 1 are in a different place. I've set it out in a slightly odd (but compact) way above - the second part starts with a bob at 5, then 15, then 16, and so on. At the end there is a single at 1 and it comes round three rows later.