What is the simplest peal composition of Yorkshire?

This question came up at home this week because Tina is organising a peal of Yorkshire, which will be her first handbell peal as conductor. What she's looking for is a straightforward composition to call, perhaps with handbell-friendly features.

A straightforward and well-known composition is Pitstow's:

5088 Yorkshire Surprise Major
Nathan J. Pitstow

W  B  H  23456
-     3  52436
-     3  35426
   -  2  23564
3 part.

It's easy to remember but usually when thinking of a three-part for handbells we try to have 5-6 fixed at the part ends. Sometimes this can be achieved by starting the composition from a different point, but not in this case. A better three-part for handbells is this one by Simon Humphrey, based on the calling W M B in which the 5 makes the bob three times:

5088 Yorkshire Surprise Major
Simon C. Humphrey

M  W  B  H  23456
ss -     3  52436
-        3  42635
      -  -  42356
3 part.

On the theme of multi-part compositions, another possibility is a six-part. There's a fairly standard composition by Christopher Starbuck, based on this idea which isn't long enough:

4032 Yorkshire Surprise Major
Christopher P. Starbuck

M  W  H  23456 
   -     52436
s  2  -  42365
6 part.

After the W, the coursing order is 32546, so sM swaps 5-6 and then 2W returns to the plain course with 5-6 swapped; adding H rotates 2-3-4 to give the six-part structure. To get a peal length, Starbuck inserts a not very memorable block into the beginning of the second part. Chris Adams has a different way of using Starbuck's basic block, by adding M H M at the beginning; as well as lengthening the part this also rotates 2-3-4 so there is no need for the H at the end:

5376 (5058) Yorkshire Surprise Major
Chris Adams

M  W  H  23456 
-     -  64352
-  -     53246
s  2     34265
6 part.
For 5058, replace 2W by sW in the last part.

I've called Chris Adams' composition once or twice, although it's not particularly easy for handbells because 5-6 are never coursing. After discussing all these possibilities, I wondered about Middleton's, which is an easy five-part:

5600 Yorkshire Surprise Major
Charles Middleton

M  W  H  23456
2  2  3  35264
5 part.
For 5152, omit 3H in one part.

Middleton's is normally thought of as a composition of Cambridge (although it was composed originally for London) and it's rung a lot because it's the only simple calling that's true to Cambridge. I thought "Well, surely no-one ever calls it for Yorkshire, but there would be nothing wrong with it, so why not give it a try?"

Actually it's not true that no-one calls it for Yorkshire. BellBoard lists 18 performances on handbells, and 18 on tower bells over the same period (plus some older ones). It's not as popular as Pitstow's (57 performances) or Humprey's (36 performances) - all these statistics going back to 1991 - but certainly not unheard-of. On the metric of four-bell runs, it's more musical with 128 in comparison with 115 for Humphrey's, 104 for Pitstow's and 87 for Adams'. Because of the five-part structure, both 3-4 and 5-6 ring different work in each part, but maybe that doesn't matter.

An alternative way of shortening Middleton's is to replace 2M 2W by B in one part, and keep all the blocks of 3H. Starting with 2H and then applying the shortening immediately afterwards gives Johnson's Variation:

5056 Yorkshire Surprise Major
Charles Middleton, arranged by Henry Johnson

M  B  W  H  23456
         2  34256
   -     3  45362
2     2  3  56423
2     2  3  62534
2     2  3  23645
2     2  -  23456

In Middleton's, the effect of each block is to rotate the coursing order in the same way as a Before: 53246 -> 65324 -> 46532 -> ... so that cyclic rotations of the plain course coursing order come up, and this can help to remember when each block of 3H ends. In Johnson's Variation, the cycles start from 54326, so you have 54326 -> 65432 -> 26543 -> 32654 -> 43265 -> 54326 which might possibly be easier to remember. I have a vague memory of hearing that Johnson's Variation has another mnemonic quality, possibly something to do with little bells being in 5th or 6th place at course ends, but I can't recall the details. However, it reduces the number of four-bell runs to 103, just below the total for Pitstow's. While thinking about using compositions of Cambridge for Yorkshire, I remembered this one by Noel Diserens:

5120 Cambridge Surprise Major
Noel J Diserens

B  H  23456
2  s  53642
5  -  65342
4  -  23654
2  -  35462
4  -  24356
2  -  45632
-     53426
2 part.

I've rung it on tower bells but not handbells. It would give the tenors a very easy ride. For Yorkshire the effect would be even greater because the first two and last two leads of the course are significantly easier than the others, but it's false.

Back to the original question. I think Middleton's has a lot to recommend it, and maybe I will try it next time I call a peal of Yorkshire. If you think it's useful to have a three-part with 5-6 fixed then Humphrey's is the one to use.