How not to lose a peal

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:

  1. An excellent conductor, who was completely on top of any difficulties.
  2. Everyone did some homework on their pairs
  3. Everyone worked not to fall into someone else's mistake
  4. Everyone worked at the rhythm, so that when there was a trip there was an obvious hole to fall into
  5. 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.







#4 is especially important in hand, as opposed to tower, as there is no "natural rhythm" imposed by the bell. #5, I think, is difficult to learn without going wrong with other real people going wrong around you at the same time... Abel or similar can help the method learning, but wont help you learn how to wave your bell up and down at the same sort of time as everyone else in the hope that someone will shout at you and put you right again! Iain

Submitted by Iain (not verified) on Tue, 24/04/2012 - 11:04

Very true. I still fight the urge to curl up in a ball when it all goes to pieces. It takes practice to keep ringing when you have NO IDEA where you are - a sort of calm panic! Tina

Submitted by Tina on Mon, 30/04/2012 - 12:04

In reply to by Iain (not verified)

I find it almost impossible to have one bell right and the other one lost. If I believe I know what both bells are doing, but one of them is actually wrong, that's not so bad, because at least I am trying to follow a line for each bell. But if one of them becomes lost, i.e. if I don't even have an idea (right or wrong) of what I am doing with it, then the other bell almost certainly becomes lost too. I am then reduced to trying to work out which place bells I should be (that doesn't work so well in Stedman), asking where the treble is, trying to keep ringing each bell once per change until the next lead end, and so on.

Submitted by simon on Mon, 30/04/2012 - 17:41

a few other points; 6) knowing the half leads properly (in surprise) since you are never many changes away from the lead end or half lead and so long as the treble keeps going and you know where you are at that point you should be able to pick yourself up again. Then a shout of 'lead end' or 'half lead' from the treble or conductor is a major help if you are struggling. 7) blind faith in the conductor generally works for me, so when it appears to be collapsing believe in the conductor and keep going, their intervention may save what looks like a lost cause. 8) don't be afraid to admit you are lost or have fallen off the line, better to say something immediately before you start putting everyone else off and give the conductor or other ringers a change to give you assistance....

Submitted by Chris Cole (not verified) on Mon, 16/07/2012 - 15:10