Preparing for Grandsire Caters

This week we're going for a peal with a new combination of people: Mike Clay, Ian Bell and Julia Cater. Also a new method: Grandsire Caters. This plan kills several birds with one stone. We want to continue ringing with Mike and Ian; Julia is keen to come and ring in Glasgow more regularly; I have been thinking that it would be a nice change to try something other than Surprise; and we want to get back into more 10-bell ringing.

Grandsire is not often rung on handbells, at least not for peals or quarters. Odd-bell methods are less popular anyway, and within the odd-bell sphere, Stedman is dominant. Tina and I rang a few peals of Grandsire Triples and Caters in the late 1990s, before we moved to Glasgow, but we have hardly rung it since. Other factors in its absence from Albany Quadrant are that I have never been much of a Grandsire conductor, and Jonathan has an aversion to ringing it even in the tower. 

A couple of years ago we attempted a peal of Grandsire Caters at Inveraray, which I was conducting. I chose the following standard composition by Albert Tyler, partly because it is well known as a fairly straightforward one, and partly because Mike Clay gave me a set of notes by Roy LeMarechal on how to call it and follow the coursing orders.

5039 Grandsire Caters
Albert M Tyler

23456789  1  2  3  4     
32654     -  -  s  s
43256978  -        s   
24356     -  -  -      
32456     -  -  -      
52436     s              
23456        -  -  -   
42356     -  -  -      
34256     -  -  -      
63452     -  -  s        
35462        -  -  -     
43562     -  -  -     |
24365     -  -  s     |
52463     -  -  s     |
45263     -  -  -     |
24563     -  -  -     |
32465     -  -  s     |A
53264     -  -  s     |
25364     -  -  -     |
32564     -  -  -     |
43265     -  -  s     |
54362     -  -  s     |
35462879  -     -  s
54362        A
45362978  -     -  -
53462        A
45362879  -     -  s
34265        A*  
A* = A omitting last course.

So, what do we make of this composition? The main structure is the four A blocks, which alternate between the tittums position (978 at the end of the change) and the handstroke home position (879 at the end of the change, producing 789 roll-ups at handstroke). In the A blocks the 6th is always in 5th place at the course end, which makes the 6th a natural bell to conduct from in the tower, and suggests conducting from 5-6 on handbells, which is what I am planning to do.

There is also an irregular-looking block at the beginning, but it does contain some regularity with several courses called 1,2,3, and six course ends of the form 1xxx569780.

When calling Grandsire, one needs to be aware of how long each course is, because courses containing calls are shorter than the plain course. In this composition almost all the courses are 5 leads. The exceptions are the very first course, which is 4 leads; the second course (1,4s), which is 6 leads; the 5th course (1s), which is also 6 leads; and the last course, which is called 1,2,3s but produces rounds at handstroke at the 4th lead end, one lead before the course end.

The first block just has to be learnt, but it's helpful to note what happens during these 10 courses. The first course (1,2,3s,4s) is just a little bit of padding, I think. The second course (1,4s) puts the back bells into the tittums position. The transition from the coursing order 897 to 789 is achieved by putting the 7th into the hunt with a bob at 1, and leaving it there until it overtakes the 8th and the 9th in the coursing order; then the single at 4 brings it out of the hunt while the 8th dodges 6-7 down.

This produces the course end 1432569780, which is the first of what Roy calls the "out of course" tittums course ends with 5-6 home. "Out of course" means that one pair out of 2,3,4 are swapped with respect to rounds. The next two courses are each called 1,2,3 and have the effect of rotating 2,3,4 to produce the course ends 1243679780 and then 1324569780. Roy explains that the 3rd being in the hunt at the course end is the signal to stop calling 1,2,3 and do something different.

The next course has only one call, a single at 1 which puts the 5th into the hunt. It's a six lead course, but it's best to just ring until the course end, rather than count the leads. The course after that is called 2,3,4, which produces the first of what Roy calls the "in course" tittums course ends with 5-6 home: 1234569780. The next two courses are each called 1,2,3 and produce the course ends 1423569780 and 1342569780. The 3rd is now in the hunt at a course end, which again is a signal to stop calling 1,2,3 and do something different: in this case, call 1,2,3s instead. Finally, the 10th course of the initial block is another 2,3,4 course, which puts the 6th into 5th place at the course end; this is where it will be for the rest of the peal.

The main part of Roy LeMarechal's notes deals with how the calling of the A block works. At the beginning of the block, the course end is 1354629780. What's of interest is the coursing order of 2,3,4,5, which at this point is 3542. The key point about Grandsire is that bobs don't change the coursing order, but plain leads do because the hunt bell moves relative to the other bells. After the bobs at 1, 2 and 3, the 4th is in the hunt (note that this is the third bell in the 4-bell coursing order 3542). Each plain lead moves it one position earlier in the coursing order, so we get first 3452 and then 4352.

Now Roy explains a rule that can be used to call the whole A block without having to remember whether each course is 1,2,3 or 1,2,3s. If the 5th is in one of the last two positions in the coursing order, then call 1,2,3s. The single at 3 swaps the last two bells, producing 4325. Then the two plain leads change the coursing order to 4235 and then 2435. As the 5th is now in the last position in the coursing order, the next course is again 1,2,3s, and this is what will produce the pattern in the A block of the two types of calling alternating in pairs. The single at 3 produces 2453 and then the two plain leads result in 5243. Continuing in this way, eventually we reach the coursing order 5432, in which the 2nd is in the final position. This indicates that the A block has finished and it's time to turn the back bells.

The course 1,3,4s has two effects. It changes the back bells from tittums to handstrokes, and it rotates 3, 4, 5 so that the coursing order is again 3542. The next A block is called in exactly the same way as the first one, and then there is another turning course, which this time is 1,3,4 to put the back bells back into tittums. This time, however, the 3rd and the 4th are the other way around, and the coursing order at the beginning of the A block is 4532. This doesn't affect the rules for calling the A block according to the positions of the 2nd and the 5th in the coursing order. After this block, the back bells are put into handstrokes again. The final A block starts with the coursing order 4532.

A point of interest for handbell ringing is that 3-4 ring each A block in the same way, except that the 3rd and 4th blocks have them the other way round than the 1st and 2nd blocks. This might give the ringer of 3-4 the benefit of a certain familiarity with the sequence of work. Similarly, 1-2 and 5-6 will each experience the same work in every block.

What about the work of 7-8? They spend most of the time in either the tittums position, in which they are coursing, or the handstroke home position, in which they are coursing one apart. I hope the turning courses won't come as too much of a shock.

A couple of weeks ago, Tina, Mike and I were all in Tulloch for an SACR weekend focusing on Lincolnshire Maximus. We took the opportunity to recruit a couple of assistants to ring the first few courses of the Tyler composition of handbells. It went well once we got into it. One pitfall we noticed is that in the tittums position, it's quite tempting to dodge too soon at the lead end before the course end. Here is how the roll-ups occur.

312456978  backstroke roll-up before the lead end
one lead
142356978  backstroke roll-up at the course end
421356978  backstroke roll-up

The temptation is to dodge on the roll-up, the first time it occurs. We didn't practise any of the handstroke home position, but I think there might be less temptation in that position. Here is how the lead ends and roll-ups occur.

312456879  backstroke roll-up before the lead end
134265789  handstroke roll-up
413265789  handstroke roll-up
142356879  backstroke roll-up at the course end
421356879  backstroke roll-up
243165789  handstroke roll-up

The handstroke roll-up is the more distinctive change, so it might feel more natural to dodge on it at the 4th lead end and not at the course end. Time will tell.

The key to success will be accurate hunting, staying in the right positions, and dodging at the right time. I will report back next week.