Handbell Ringing (Ringing World Letters)


(Letters, The Ringing World, 10th May 1946)

Dear Sir,

Because certain expert handbell ringers have reduced change ring­ing on handbells to a fine art by a somewhat revolutionary method it would seem to constitute a threat of some sort to the Exercise, at any rate that appears to be the implication.

But is this new method revolutionary? I think not. Most of us who practise handbell ringing to any extent use this method to some degree. If we have had the "misfortune" to take up tower bell ringing first, then, I think, we shall unconsciously always apply the course method in whatever ringing we do, and we shall never really be able to ring handbells expertly until we master the place method. Surely this is what happens every time? In Bournemouth we practised Doubles and Triples and, until we had plodded through hours and hours of such practice, and, until we were unconsciously applying the place method, we were never likely to score a peal. Having mastered, more or less, the Triples or odd-bell method construction there we are, "even" bell peals only come after a similar plod.

To my way of thinking, the handbell ringers who use the "method construction" way from the beginning merely take a short cut and get on quicker if they do not know the diagram. I have seen one of our leading conductors throw a pair of handbells down in sheer disgust saying, "I’ll never master ’em".

No, sir, I think the implied fears at the end of your excellent leader are unfounded. Our Exercise is like a tree with a double trunk: each "tree" will bear a similar but different fruit, similar in ap­pearance, but different in taste; neither "tree" will harm the other; in fact, it will be quite the contrary case and the root is firmly embedded and strong enough to support both the branches.

Handbell ringing has many advantages over tower bell ringing, bad striking on handbells is rare (except in the early stages of prac­tice), and the first trip in a peal is more often than not the last. To enjoy some ringing at any time one has to merely "take ’em out of the cupboard", as one of my friends remarked once—"No asking the parson’s, verger’s or steeplekeeper’s permission and no complaints", and yet, somehow, there is not quite the satisfaction at the end as there is to a good tower bell peal.



Dear Sir, — Mr. G. F. Woodhouse has certainly explained very clearly and succinctly the best way to become proficient in handbell ringing. If aspirants will take pains to learn thoroughly the places of a method, and fit the work round the places and the path of the treble, they will soon become proficient. Further, those who have the faculty, natural or acquired, of continued concentration can with practice attain to "singing the tune" of all the bells up to Triples and Major, and in some cases Caters and Royal also. They will thus learn a lot about conducting and at the same time be delighted by the grand musical changes turning up in methods such as Double Norwich and, above all, Grandsire Caters.

May I add a further word of advice to handbell ringers? Try to ring by sound quite as much as by sight, and even more so.

In your commentary on Mr. Woodhouse’s article, Mr. Editor, you state, in referring to the system, that "it may be that a heavy price will have to be paid for it in other things". Would you please en­large on this statement, which is puzzling, to me at least?