Handbell Compositions: Superlative Major

Next month's peal with the Edinburgh crossover band is going to be Superlative. It has interesting possibilities for handbell-friendly compositions, because the 24 courses with 3-4, 5-6 and 7-8 all coursing are mutually true. These are the coursing orders of the form xxyy2, xx2yy, 2xxyy where xx can be 34 or 56 and yy is the other pair, 56 or 34, and the order within each pair can be swapped independently.

To combine these courses into the ultimate handbell composition, the first step is to start and finish at the treble's backstroke snap, so that the coursing order is 65234. The difficulty is swapping 3-4 and 5-6 into each other's places. For example, how can we go from 65432 to 43652 without separating 5-6?

One possibility is to use a non-standard call. A 123456 single reverses the coursing order in one step, so 65432 becomes 23456 and 3-4 are now to the left of 5-6. Using this idea gives the following composition.

5376 (5152) Superlative Surprise Major
Simon J Gay

M  W  H  (25364)
-         35462
s  s      65423
   -* #   26453
8 part, calling s for -* in parts 2, 4, 6, 8,
and calling 123456 at # in parts 4 and 8.
Snap start and finish.
For handbells: 3-4 and 5-6 course throughout.
For 5152, omit one of the ss resulting from a call substitution. 

If you prefer to stick to standard calls, Don Morrison has a neat composition that uses half-lead bobs.

5376 (5152) Superlative Surprise Major
Donald F Morrison (no. 1694)

(25364)  M  3½  W
 64532   -  [-  -]      
 23546   s      2*     
 24536   ss     2*
Repeat three times, omitting bracketed bobs from alternate parts.
Snap start and finish.
2* = s -. 
For 5152 omit one ss.
For handbells: both 3-4 and 5-6 course throughout, except for one half-lead each.

What happens at the first half-lead bob (which is a 58 place notation) is that the coursing order is 65342 and the bob produces 63452; a bob at 3½ has the same effect as a home. Then the bob wrong, at the next lead end, produces 34652. At the half-lead bob, the 4th makes 5ths as the 3rd does 3-4 down, which puts 3-4 into the 5-6 position at the point where they do 3-4 places and 5-6 places in the second half of the lead. At the lead-end bob, the 3rd makes 4ths and the 4th does 5-6 down, putting them back into coursing. The second time a half-lead call is used, 3-4 and 5-6 are in each other's positions, so it's 5-6 that go into the 5-6 position for half a lead.

In practice, with our band, I don't think we really need to keep both 3-4 and 5-6 coursing. However, the Don Morrison composition has such a neat structure that I'm tempted to call it anyway.

Another composition by Don Morrison uses the same combination of a half-lead bob and a standard call at the next lead end, as a way of moving between coursing orders 8765xxx and 6587xxx. This produces lots of good combinations of 5678, with a very small amount of split tenors (as 7-8 do the work described for 3-4 in the previous composition).  

5184 Superlative Surprise Major
Donald F Morrison (no. 1930)

(25364)  M   W       H
 24536  [-]      a
 36452       ss  b
 26453       s   a   s
Repeat five times, omitting [-] from alternate parts.
Snap start and finish.
a = 4½,s5; b = 5½,6. 
Contains all 24 each 56s, 65s, 5678s off the front, 6578s off the front, 8765s off the front and 8756s off the front, 18 each 8765s and 8756s, and all 7 near misses.

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