Last Saturday, we sat down and rang a peal of Stedman Caters.
For many of our fellow handbell ringers whose attempts at ringing beyond a plain course are fraught with hesitations, disastrous memory failures, swapped pairs, and simple lack of confidence, the above is an amazing statement. Most of our peal attempts have been hard-won and the result of several attempts and practices beforehand. A great deal of our quarter peals are the same.
(Don't get me wrong, a lot of handbell bands can quite confidently sit down and rattle off a good, mistake-free peal on a regular basis, and our hats off to them. That is where we want to be, and we have some distance to travel.)
So, Saturday's attempt came about after a very sociable handbell ringing weekend down in Penrith at the end of February, which brought us together with some other people we hadn't rung with before. One thing led to another, and a very few emails later, we had a peal attempt in the calendar. (Another proof, if we needed it, of the very good role a handbell gathering can play in getting more ringing happening).
In truth, I was dead nervous ringing outwith our usual band, and knowing it had been quite a while since I had last rung on 10. And the attempt was not without excitement either - there were a couple of destabilising sixes, and the final courses had a very cautious rhythm. But the recoveries were good, and in between the ringing was a pleasure. It was fun. I remembered how much I liked ringing Stedman in hand.
It later made me think what were the factors that made this successful at the first attempt? And I came up with the following:
- An excellent conductor, who was completely on top of any difficulties.
- Everyone did some homework on their pairs
- Everyone worked not to fall into someone else's mistake
- Everyone worked at the rhythm, so that when there was a trip there was an obvious hole to fall into
- Everyone kept ringing no matter what
Now, not all bands are lucky enough to have item 1, and one could argue that items 2 - 5 indicate the relative experience of the band. However, items 2-5 are good skills to work on at the same time as one is learning methods, pairs and touches. It isn't really enough to commit a pattern to memory and rehearse it in abstract - the execution is very important. The habits of good execution (keeping to a steady rhythm, keeping the bells moving without hesitation) increase success. These habits come as confidence increases; however, developing these habits will create increased confidence. So it is never too soon to start.