New Year's Eve Little Surprise Major

Submitted by Simon on Sun, 20/12/2020 - 19:46

The Five o'Clock Handbell Club has gone into Christmas mode, with a range of seasonally-named methods on the menu for the next two weeks. I didn't sign up for any initially, but there are two attempts arranged for New Year's Eve Little Surprise Major on, you guessed it, 31st December - and one of them is a person short, so I have dropped in. Then I looked up the method, and here it is (just showing half a course).

New Year's Eve Little Surprise Major

I will say more about the method later, but first I was interested in compositions, in case I end up calling the quarter. You can see from the diagram that it's an irregular method. The place bell order starts 2 4 5 8, whereas after 2 4 we would normally expect 6 8 7 5 3. The first lead end is 13624785, whereas the regular lead end with the tenor in 7th place is 13527486. The whole place bell order is 2 4 5 8 7 6 3, i.e. 5 and 6 are swapped with respect to the place bell order of Plain Bob.

I wasn't sure how to start thinking about compositions, so I used the search facility in CompLib to try to find something suitable. There were no compositions intended for New Year's Eve, but CompLib is able to try all of its compositions on a particular method to see which ones are true. A lot of the compositions that came up were unsuitable lengths, which often happens with CompLib's search because it tries everything regardless of the place bell order or even (as in this case) the length of the lead. The one that looked the most promising was this one, by Claire Nicholson and Elf (Mark Davies' composing software), originally for Nickel Little Surprise Major.

W  M  H  23456
      -  42356
   -     32654
-  -  -  46325
-     -  32465
2 part.

However, for New Year's Eve, the tenors are split - not ideal - and moreover the part end is different, 64352. How strange. Must be something to do with the irregular lead ends. So then I looked to see where bobs can be called that don't affect the tenors. The answer, although we can't see all of it from the diagram above, is that a bob at the first lead affects 6,3,2 (writing them in the order 3rd place, 2nd place, 4th place as they would be without a bob), a bob at the 6th lead affects 2,4,5 and a bob at the 7th lead affects (of course) 3,2,4.

This means that if we think of the coursing order as 6 3 2 4 5, a bob at the first lead is like a wrong, a bob at the 6th lead is like a middle, and a bob at the 7th lead is like a home. Note, however, that at the 6th lead end, the tenor is 5th place bell not 6th place bell as we would expect at a middle.

With this in mind, I came up with the following calling for 8 courses, which I don't suppose is original. It's just the most obvious way of swapping 5 and 6 to try to get a nice two-part.

1  6  7  23456
-  -  -  54263
      -  25463
-     -  43265
      -  24365
2 part.

Well, that's good, but what about ringing and trying to conduct it? How would I get a grip on what's happening in relation to the coursing order? Here are the "expected" lead ends (i.e. what they would be in Plain Bob) and the actual lead ends.

Expected Actual
12345678 12345678
13527486 13624785
15738264 16732854
17856342 17863542
18674523 18576423
16482735 15487236
14263857 14258367

It turns out that the lead ends are predictable from the coursing order in a fairly simple way. Starting from the coursing order 63245, work out what the lead end should be, and then swap the bells in 5th and 6th place. So the approach to conducting is to start from the coursing order 63245, transpose bobs at 1, 6 and 7 in the usual way for wrong, middle and home, and in the unlikely event that I can work out which place bells anyone should be, remember to swap 5th place and 6th place. As for the work of the method, there are coursing pairs dodging together on the front and the back, but also non-coursing pairs together at the half lead in both cases.

Now, what about the method? It looks rather like Cornwall, or actually the 2nd place lead end variation of Cornwall, which is called Falmouth. The place notation is exactly the same as Cornwall up to and including the treble's dodge in 5-6, and then the half lead place notation is 56. However, because the lead is 8 changes shorter, the place bells join up in a different way - note that because the frontwork and backwork of Cornwall are both based on treble bob hunting, removing 8 changes is not enough to put all the bells through an extra cycle of work. (Incidentally, that's why Cornwall doesn't work on 10 but does work on 12).

So that's it, and I find that after studying a method enough to write a blog about it, I know it well enough to ring it. Let's see what happens on New Year's Eve.


We had a good attempt with a much better composition by Simon Humphrey: also a two-part but a simpler calling (H, sV, V, 2H) that gets all the 5678s and 6578s. In the end there were three attempts by different bands, of which one was successful.

Submitted by Simon on Fri, 01/01/2021 - 09:17