Cambridge and Yorkshire

After ringing our quarter of Cambridge Royal with 3-4 unaffected, our next step was to ring a quarter of Cambridge Major, definitely not choosing a handbell-friendly composition. The idea was to give Peter a workout including as many positions as possible. If I remember correctly, Jonathan called this one:

1280 Cambridge Surprise Major

M B W H  23456
  3      64523
-     -  35426
    - 3  23456

Peter rang 3-4 and had most of the leads of all three positions. I rang 5-6 and found it reasonably friendly - a fair bit of coursing and then the final two courses in the home position.

The next week we lost a quarter of Cambridge Royal, this time with the calling sW sW 3H so that 3-4 would ring two courses in the 3-4 position followed by two courses in the coursing position. An unfortunate 3-way swap quite close to the end meant that it didn't come round, but we tried again yesterday and succeeded. After that we had a go at Yorkshire Royal, and managed half a course.

Meanwhile the Edinburgh band rang its first peal of surprise major without outside help: 

Scottish Association
, Midlothian
27 House o' Hill Crescent
Saturday, 22 February 2020 in 2h 29 (11)
5088 Yorkshire Surprise Major
Composed by J S Warboys
1-2 Barbara J Bell
3-4 James W Holdsworth (C)
5-6 Susannah M Ewens
7-8 Ian P Bell
The first peal of Surprise on handbells by a resident Edinburgh band.

First quarter with our new local 10-bell band

Yesterday we managed to get all five of us together for the first time, and we rang a nice quarter of Cambridge Royal. Tina called it, which was a first for her, and it was Peter's first of surprise royal. The composition was one we have often used: sM, sW, sM, repeated, which keeps 3-4 unaffected throughout. It's four full courses, i.e. 1440, but it's very tempting to bring it round by plain hunting at the Wrong lead end after the last sM. Somehow it feels undesirable though, even though with the current Central Council decisions, it could be classified as pure Cambridge with a 10ths place bob (it is no longer necessary for a bob to change the coursing order).

Anyway, it was satisfying to ring a nice quarter at the first attempt, especially as we haven't done much 10-bell ringing for a while. We'll probably ring a couple more of Cambridge, switching the pairs around, and then move on to Lincolnshire.

Plans for 2020

We've got a whole new year stretching ahead of us, ready to be filled with handbell projects. Here are some that come to mind.

  • The most significant development is that we have an extra ringer for our regular band in Glasgow: Peter Kirton, who has just finished a couple of years of working in Vienna and has taken a job at Strathclyde University. I hope we will be able to get all five of us together often enough to develop our 10-bell ringing, but having an extra person will also mean that we can still do 8-bell ringing if one of us is unavailable. What I would really like to to do is get to be able to ring Bristol Royal with our local band - so my goal for the year is to ring a peal. We will have to work through some right-place surprise royal methods with Peter first, as well as extending his 8-bell repertoire (we're going for a quarter of Bristol Major tomorrow). If we can get a good regular surprise royal band, we will have a much better chance at surprise maximus when we can bring in Nick, James or Julia.
  • It would be good for Tina and Jonathan to conduct some peals; also Peter has conducted a few, but not surprise major yet. So diversifying the conducting will be a goal for this year.
  • My sister is getting married in July, so we would like to ring a peal for the occasion. She lives in Sheffield, so my idea is to ring a peal of Sheffield Surprise Major, which is Preston (familiar from Norman Smith's 23-spliced) with a 18 lead end. We've been ringing Preston recently as part of a spliced project, so we should be able to ring Sheffield. It's Glasgow above the treble, but a bit easier than Glasgow because it's right-place below the treble, and it has Plain Bob half leads, which means that all the bells are (briefly) hunting in coursing order around the half lead. As far as I can see from the standard reference sources, there hasn't been a peal of Sheffield on handbells, so we have an opportunity for a first.
  • In April, Tina is organising a ladies' weekend in Inveraray, so that people can experiment with ringing the back bells. To occupy some of the partners (what's the male equivalent of a WAG?) we're going to have a boys' handbell weekend. We should have a good band, so I hope we can ring a couple of peals - perhaps including Littleport Little Surprise Maximus as a foray into 12-bell ringing.
  • We could do with an 8-bell project to give us some focus when we're not ringing on 10. I would quite like to call Pitman's Four (London, Bristol, Cambridge and Superlative). Another possibility is that Graham John has a composition of 14-spliced surprise major, tenors together and all the work, consisting of the standard 8, the Nottingham 8, Belfast and Ashtead. We've rung all the methods before, so we might be able to manage it, although the composition will take some learning.

That should keep us going for most of the year! Watch this space for progress reports.

Diversification in Scottish handbell ringing

As well as losing a peal in Glasgow yesterday, Nick and James scored one in Edinburgh today.

Scottish Association
, Midlothian
27 House o' Hill Crescent
Sunday, 1 December 2019 in 2h 29 (11)
5056 Yorkshire Surprise Major
Composed by J W Holdsworth (no. 7)
1-2 Barbara J Bell
3-4 James W Holdsworth (C)
5-6 Nicholas W Jones
7-8 Susannah M Ewens
First peal (at the first attempt): 7-8.
First Surprise in hand: 1-2.

Congratulations to Susannah on her first peal, and to Barbara on her first of Surprise in hand (and first handbell peal since 2003, according to PealBase).

I find this peal noteworthy for another reason. Apart from one peal of Cambridge Minor in 1989, there have been 42 handbell peals of Surprise for the Scottish Association since regular handbell peal ringing restarted in 2007. Of these 42 peals, 39 were conducted by me, one by Roger Bailey while visiting Glasgow, one by David Pipe on our annual ringers' holiday, and today's by James Holdsworth. Also, I rang in all of them except today's. So it's a welcome broadening of the pool of ringers, and especially of the pool of conductors.

Handbell ringing in the Scottish Association, measured by peals, has been patchy during the lifetime of the association. There were peals in 1932, 1936, 1946, and then none until 1978. There were a reasonable number from 1980 to 1990, then a sporadic peal in 1999, and then peals got going again in 2007, largely due to Mike Clay. Since 2009 there have been peals every year, with the high points being 11 peals in each of 2015 and 2017.

Since 2007, a total of 26 people have rung handbell peals, of whom 21 were resident members. That is about 10% of the current resident membership, which I'm sure is not bad in comparison with many other associations. Resident conductors have been Mike Clay, Robin Churchill, Dan Smith (no longer resident), Peter Kirton, James Holdsworth and myself. We should work on getting Tina and Jonathan to conduct peals, as they have both called several quarters. Also Peter will be joining our band in Glasgow after Christmas, so we should include him in the conducting rota.

So there's now an Edinburgh peal band (OK, Nick was a visitor, but there's Ian Bell who wasn't in today's peal) which might well start producing regular performances. James has great plans, which he was telling us about yesterday. We'll look forward to seeing what they come up with, as well as continuing to do crossover ringing like yesterday.  

A busy day of handbell ringing

Yesterday we had one of our mad days of trying to combine too many things. The trigger was Nick being available for another Bristol Royal session, so we took advantage of that to also get James to come and call a peal of Pitman's 4 (London, Bristol, Cambridge, Superlative). At some point we realised that it was the weekend after Thanksgiving, so we decided to invite everyone for dinner with roast turkey and all the trimmings.

After a frantic morning of cooking, we started for the peal of spliced after lunch. It was going very well, but blew up about a third of the way through. Afterwards, James said he thought we had been ringing a bit too fast. I was ringing the tenors, and I must confess that I was enjoying ringing quickly with a good rhythm - but of course the peal is more difficult for the other pairs, so we have to take that into account.

There wasn't time to restart the peal, but we rang a good quarter of 8-spliced. James couldn't stay for dinner, so we summoned Jonathan and Angela to get the next band ready. Dinner went well, after recovering from a pie disaster and a gravy disaster, and then we went for a quarter of Bristol Royal. The first attempt collapsed after almost three courses, but mostly we were doing well, so we started again and succeeded.

At its best, the ringing was very good, but we had a few rough patches. I think we all find the wrong dodging difficult. I persistently missed the wrong 3-4 dodge in 4th place bell, and no doubt everyone had their own bugbear. Never mind, we'll improve with practice.

I called sW sH sW sH, which keeps 3-4 in the 3-4 position and only has the 3-4 and 5-6 positions for 5-6. Another time we'll have to try putting people into different positions. A popular composition is four wrongs (bob, single, bob, single), starting at the snap after the wrong (so the initial coursing order is 32456, with 5-6 coursing). This means that 5-6 are coursing throughout, and 3-4 ring the 3-4 and coursing positions. I noticed that our friends in Oxford rang it recently, with the calling sW W sW W. The advantage of starting with a single is that 3-4 ring the first two courses in the 3-4 position (coursing orders 32456 and 42356) and then two courses in the coursing position (coursing orders 23456 and 43256), so there is more time to settle into each position.


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