Handbell Compositions: 5040 London No.3 Surprise Royal by Donald F Morrison

We've arranged another attempt for our peal of London Royal for the Saturday after Christmas. I've decided to try a different composition, which is this one.

5040 London No.3 Surprise Royal
Donald F Morrison (no. 1705)

23456  M  W  H
46352  -     s
32654  s     -
34256  2     -
53246     -
46325  -  s  s
24365     -   

When I first looked at it, I thought it looked a little complicated; it didn't have the memorable pattern on the page that I saw in Richard Pearce's composition. Also it has singles, which Richard's composition doesn't. But I've studied it more, and it's another example of a handbell-friendly composition in which knowing that a certain pair (3-4 in this case) stays coursing is a big help in remembering the calling.

According to Graham John's CompLib, 3-4 have 95% coursing, and the rest in the 3-4 position. What that means is 6 leads of the 3-4 position, i.e. 3 leads in each half of the peal. Closer examination shows that 3-4 ring the first lead of the 3-4 course, i.e. 3rd and 4th place bells; the last lead of the 3-4 course, i.e. 2nd and 6th place bells (these occur in the first and last leads of the part, which can't be avoided); and 2nd and 6th place bells again, somewhere within the part. This is about as good as it could be, because these pairs of place bells are the reverses of each other, and contain some coursing within them even though they are not from the coursing position.

Let's work through the coursing orders to see how 3-4 are affected. Start in the plain course, 53246.

Call Coursing Order Comment
M 53462 The quickest way to get 3-4 coursing, which in London only takes 1 lead.
sH 56432 Keep 3-4 coursing. A Wrong would also do it, so we need to remember that it's sH.
sM 56234 Move 3-4 to the end of the coursing order, still coursing.
H 52364 This is where 3-4 ring 2nd and 6th place bells.
M 52643 3-4 back into coursing.
M 52436 A memorable coursing order. 3-4 run in and out.
H 54326 A nice 567890 course end. 3-4 run in and out again.
W 43526 3-4 run in and out again.
M 43265

Remember to affect 5-6 before moving 3-4 again.

sW 23465

The only way to keep 3-4 coursing.

sH 26435

Continue the theme of moving 3-4 towards the end of the coursing order.

W 64235

Into the coursing order for the part end. 3-4 ring 2nd and 6th place bells for the last lead of the course.

I found that after I had worked through the coursing orders in this way, noticing how the bells are affected, I just about knew the composition. I find it important to work through the coursing orders for the second half of the peal too, to get used to how it looks with 3-4 and 5-6 reversed.

When thinking about who should ring which pair, I find myself worrying that whoever I ask to ring the easy pair will be insulted by the insinuation that it's all they can manage. Alternatively, I suppose, whoever is ringing the difficult pair could be annoyed that they have a harder job.

I have developed the philosophy that if someone has an easier pair, then it's easier for that person to ring better, which makes all the ringing better, and that makes it easier for everyone to ring better. From that point of view, it doesn't matter who gets the easier pair. I think we have all accepted that. So I hope that this composition will work better than the Richard Pearce composition in which 3-4 and 5-6 ring exactly the same work as each other, when the whole peal is considered.

Let's see what happens next Saturday!

Practices, Quarters and Peals

Following up on Tina's article about losing quarters on the handbell day, I am thinking about the way we use practice sessions, quarter peals, and peals.

We have always rung a lot of quarters with our regular band, as well as on the handbell days. I like measurable achievements, and quarters have benefits that are more difficult to get in shorter touches. For example: ringing in a range of different positions; concentrating for longer periods; practising the determination to continue through mistakes; for the conductor, working with a range of callings and coursing orders.

However, going for quarters prematurely can lead to too many losses, which becomes demoralising; also, even if a quarter is scored, if there is too much intervention from the conductor, it can be unsatisfying for the band.

With our regular band, we have been working our way through the standard methods with Angela inside and Tina and Jonathan conducting. We also have an established pattern of ringing a quarter one week and then practising the next method, but we broke the pattern this time by ringing a quarter of Lincolnshire, practising London, then ringing a quarter of Rutland after a gap of six weeks and with no specific practice.

The Rutland started fairly shakily, but improved as we went on. I did quite a lot of conducting (although Tina was calling) and for me it was worthwhile practice at working with the coursing order and checking or correcting the ringing. However, it seems that I rather took over, and probably the band would have preferred to ring a better quarter another time, even if it meant giving up on this one.

Peals are another question, and here we have different systems with different bands. We worked our way through the right-place standard eight with Mike and Ian, always going for a peal. We had several losses, but all the lost peals were good practice, of course. Getting people to come all the way from Edinburgh for a practice or a quarter seems too much.

This applies even more to getting Julia to come from Penrith. We have had two unsuccessful attempts for a peal of London Royal, and in both cases we rang half way so presumably could have scored a quarter. But going for peals seems worthwhile as a challenging but realistic goal.

Talking of London Royal, we've arranged another attempt for the Saturday after Christmas. More about that later.

Using failure to progress

For the first time ever, we failed to complete a single quarter peal at a Scottish Handbell Day.  And yet, it was a very successful event.  How are both of those statements true? 

We have been spreading the conducting load around a little lately, in an effort to develop our local Albany Quadrant band into more rounded handbell ringers.  But I am still an unconfident conductor, and can just about put the calls in and keep myself straight.  And that with a confidant band.  When I have been  putting the bobs in with a less than confident band, really it has been a disaster from the first call, and has just been an unhappy stressful experience for everyone.  On those occasions I have handed over the calling to someone else just to get something round.

So, my first session involved calling a quarter of Plain Bob Minor, and it started as you might expect.  And it went on in the same way as ever - which was me miscalling it over and over again, or getting tied in knots trying to put someone back on track.  Each time, we stopped, we discussed what happened and started to work out strategies for getting past that particular sticking point. 

Much of our supportive discussion centred on resilience, and encouraging each other to just stick to the lines, and not to worry too much about what the other people were doing.  And I tried not to get too wound up about the extent to which I couldn't put anyone right. 

Then we did the time-honoured tactic of throwing ourselves at the project over and over again, and a nervous learner saved us once by saying where she thought she was instead of assuming she was the one that was wrong (she wasn't).  And I missed a bob again, but kept going anyway and put it back on track with a bit of improvisation.  And it still never came round.  But the ringing, for a time, was much more confident. 

Our nervous learner confessed that she felt she had a much better understanding of what was happening in the method and in the calls than the previous times when she had been successfully talked through a quarter.  And it did feel like real progress was being made, once we threw out the feeling that we HAD to score.  After a cup of tea, we probably would have scored a quarter, but time was moving on our little band was scattered into the next session.  Where very similar things happened.  And so on.


The unexpected significance of rope guides for handbell ringing

There is currently no ringing at St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh, while the rope guides are being repaired after a freak accident in which a wayward rope damaged the structure. As well as occasional visits to other practices, Ian and Barbara Bell have been running a weekly handbell practice at their house. They have introduced several people to handbell ringing for the first time, and some of them are showing good potential.

It won't be too long before tower bell ringing resumes, but it will be good if some of the Edinburgh ringers develop a taste for handbells and manage to keep it up.

London Royal: Part 3

We had another attempt for our peal, which started very well, but we didn't manage to keep it up and we stopped at half way again. After a couple of courses, the rate of making trips increased to the point of being a significant distraction, and eventually we found that although we could get ourselves right at the lead ends, the ringing immediately deteriorated again when entering the next lead. That was time to stop.

It's just a sign that we need more practice - what happens is that the effort of concentration becomes unsustainable, which means that we need to get to a point where ringing the method takes less concentration.

We'll get there, but for the moment, that's it for this year. We'll restart the project in 2018.

Apart from that, we are making good progress with quarters of Surprise Major, with Angela inside and Jonathan and Tina conducting. We rang Lincolnshire this week, so next week might be Rutland. After the quarter we rang a course of London, which was a good achievement for Angela's first attempt at it on 3-4. Maybe the London Royal is doing us some good.


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