Review of 2018

We've had an amazingly successful year for handbell peals: my total is 11, with only one loss. That's my highest total since 1998, and I'm sure there were more losses in 1998. All the peals were on 8. Tina and I have rung four of Bristol, one of London, one of the Nottingham 8, two of Cambridge, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Rutland spliced, one of Lessness and most recently (today) one of Pudsey, which was my 200th handbell peal. I also sneaked in one of Lincolnshire with a different band.

Our quarter peal total is higher than last year too. We've rung 8 at Albany Quadrant and 4 at Angela's house. They included Jenny's first of spliced surprise in hand; Susannah's first of Kent Minor in hand and first on 8 in hand; Phyllida's first on 8 in hand; and Alex's first of Surprise Major in hand. We also had two numerical landmarks: the 200th quarter at 1 Albany Quadrant, and the 100th handbell quarter with all of me, Tina, Jonathan and Angela in the band.

Finally, we've just rung a quarter on the front six of the set of ten that my dad, Phil Gay, wrote about in the Christmas issue of The Ringing World (he made the clappers and handles himself, and the bells were tuned by Tony Crabtree). They were pleasant to ring, nicely weighted and balanced, with a good tap and not too much resonance. We also tried out the back six, and rang rounds on the ten with the children's help. We hope to ring a peal on them some time next year.

Good news! More handbell ringers!

Back in 2013, I used data from BellBoard to estimate the number of handbell ringers - or at least, the number of people who had rung a published handbell peal or quarter during a certain period of time. I found 1059 people during the 5-year period up to the end of June 2013, and 1306 people during the 10-year period with the same end date. There are some inaccuracies due to inconsistent reporting of names, which I wasn't able to completely compensate for, but I concluded that 1300 was a reasonable estimate of the number of handbell ringers at quarter peal standard or above.

I'm shocked to see that it's more than 5 years since I did that analysis (time seems to pass more and more quickly), as I have a clear memory of sitting at Tina's parents' dining table and writing the little program that extracted the data from BellBoard and analysed it. But on the positive side, 5 years later seems like a good time to repeat the analysis and see whether anything has changed.

For the 5-year period up to the end of December 2018 (yes, I should wait until next Tuesday, but I don't have a lot to do today), there are 1117 people, which is slightly more than for the 5 years up to June 2013. For the 10-year period up to the end of December 2018, there are 1573 people. And if I go all the way back to January 2004 to look at a 15-year period, there are 1903 people.

My conclusion is that the statistic consisting of the number of published handbell ringers during the previous 10 years, has increased from 1306 in June 2013 to 1573 in December 2018. And there are another 300 or so people who rang a peal or quarter more than 10 years ago.

Methods of the month for 2019

Readers of The Ringing World (which should be all of you) know that Simon Linford has proposed a series of "methods of the month" for 2019, which are printed in the Ringing World Diary. There will be compositions for quarters and peals in The Ringing World each month. This is connected to Simon's Project Pickled Egg, encouraging the development of a more interesting Surprise Major repertoire than the Standard Eight.

I don't have my Ringing World Diary yet - it's a traditional Christmas present from my father, Phil Gay, so I won't get it until next weekend. However, the article in The Ringing World gives compositions for Cooktown Orchid Delight Major as January's method, and reveals that Double Dublin will be February's method.

I hope we will be able to ring some or all of the monthly methods on handbells. Cooktown Orchid is an exciting prospect as I've never rung it in the tower either, so it will be fun to have something completely new.

One of the quarter peal compositions given for Cooktown Orchid is the following cyclic 7-part.

1344 Cooktown Orchid Delight Major

  2345678
---------
- 2357486
- 2378564
  3826745
  8634257
  6485372
  4567823
---------
7 part

This is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it reminds me of a composition that we rang in the tower a few years ago while exploring cyclic compositions. It's published for Bristol, but we rang it for Norwich.

1344 Bristol Surprise Major
Roy K Williams

  2345678
---------
- 4263578
- 6452378
  5634827
  3586742  
  8375264
  7823456
---------
6th place bobs
7 part

Viewed in a certain way, both compositions are the same: two bobs then four plain leads. The differences are that the methods have opposite place bell orders (Cooktown Orchid has Plain Bob place bell order); they have opposite lead end places (Cooktown Orchid is 12); and different bobs are used (the traditional "natural" bob to match the lead end place, i.e. Bristol is rung with a 6th place bob).

In the composition of Cooktown Orchid, the two bobs are used to move 2 and 3 through the coursing order until they are between 8 and 7:

8753246 -> 8732546 -> 8327546

to give the coursing order of the cyclic lead end 14567823.

In the composition of Bristol, the two bobs are used to move 7 and 8 through the coursing order, in the opposite direction, until they are between 3 and 2:

8753246 -> 5873246 -> 5387246

to give the coursing order of the cyclic lead end 17823456.

The common idea is to take the two bells from one end of rounds and move them through the coursing order until they are between the two bells that are at the other end of rounds.

The next interesting point is that the same idea, applied to Surprise Maximus, gives a peal length.

5280 Adventurers' Fen Surprise Maximus
Simon J Gay

1 2 3 4    234567890ET
----------------------
- - - -    4567890ET23
----------------------
11 part

There are four consecutive bobs at the beginning of the part, followed by six plain leads, giving ten leads per part. A description of the calling, that works for both the quarter of Major and the peal of Maximus, is "call 4th place bobs until bell n-1 makes the bob, then ring plain leads until the part end". 

In case anyone thinks I am deviating from the handbell theme of the blog, remember that Adventurers' Fen is part of the alphabet of "Fen" methods rung on handbells by a Cambridge-based band in the 1990s.

To adapt the Bristol composition into a peal, we need an M-type method.

5280 Avon Delight Maximus
Simon J Gay

1 2 3 4    234567890ET
----------------------
- - - -    ET234567890
----------------------
10th place bobs
11 part

Again, after the four consecutive bobs, there are six plain leads. And again, there is a description of the calling that works for both the quarter of Major and the peal of Maximus: "call far bobs (i.e. 6th place for Major, 10th place for Maximus) until the 3rd makes the bob, then ring plain leads until the part end". 

For easier handbell methods, these compositions are also true to Westminster instead of Adventurers' Fen, and to Norwich or Kent instead of Avon.

The idea of these compositions is to use 4th place bobs to move 2 and 3 through the coursing order, or to use far bobs to move the tenors through the coursing order. The technique can be reversed. If we use 6th place bobs (in Major) to move 2 and 3, the sequence of coursing orders is

3246875 -> 4326875 -> 4632875 -> 4683275

which produces the coursing order of the cyclic lead end 14567823. This gives a quarter of Bristol:

1344 Bristol Surprise Major
Simon J Gay

  2345678
---------
  4263857
  6482735
  8674523
- 7856423
- 5748623
- 4567823
---------
6th place bobs
7 part

and a peal of Avon:

5280 Avon Delight Maximus
Simon J Gay

6 7 8 9 10   234567890ET
------------------------
- - - - -    4567890ET23
------------------------
10th place bobs
11 part

Both compositions are described by "call far bobs with 2 and 3 at the back, until the part end".

Similarly, we can use 4th place bobs to move the tenors through the coursing order. For Major, the sequence of coursing orders is

5324687 -> 5324876 -> 5328746 -> 5387246

which produces the coursing order of the cyclic lead end 17823456. This gives a quarter of Cooktown Orchid:

1344 Cooktown Orchid Delight Major
Simon J Gay

  2345678
---------
  3527486
  5738264
  7856342
- 7864523
- 7842635
- 7823456
---------
7 part

and a peal of Adventurers' Fen:

5280 Adventurers' Fen Surprise Maximus
Simon J Gay

6 7 8 9 10   234567890ET
------------------------
- - - - -    ET234567890
------------------------
11 part

Both compositions are described by "call befores until the part end".

The Ringing World also gives a nice cyclic composition for a quarter of spliced Cooktown Orchid, Superlative and Bristol, which I would like to ring.

1344 Spliced Treble Dodging Major
Leigh D G Simpson

       2345678
--------------
CO     3527486
S      7856342
CO -4  7864523
B  -6  6758423
S  -6  7862345
B  -4  6782345
--------------
7 part

This composition uses 4th and 6th place bobs. The notation -4 means a 4th place bob, and -6 means a 6th place bob. After the 6th place bob in Bristol, producing the lead end 16758423, the coursing order is 8765432, the so-called "mega-tittums" coursing order. This is a good coursing order to ring for Superlative, because it generates 4-bell runs at the back and front. Producing the mega-tittums coursing order in a cyclic composition means that all 7 leads of Superlative in that position in the calling, i.e. the leads between the 6th place bobs, come from the mega-tittums course.

The composition is also true if Bristol is replaced by Double Dublin throughout, so it gives a nice link to February's method.

The structure with a sequence of bobs in increasing positions, leading to the mega-tittums coursing order, then reversing the sequence of bobs to get to a cyclic part end, has been used in peals of Maximus. I think there are some by David Pipe, for example. To see how this works, we can modify the quarter peal. Instead of Bristol we can use Norwich, and we need bobs in 4th, 6th, 8th and 10th places. This adds two leads, and another two leads while the sequence of bobs is reversed. The part needs to be ten leads long, so again we need three leads before the first 4th place bob. Ringing three leads of Superlative gets to the desired lead end, where the tenor runs out at the bob. 

5280 Spliced Surprise Maximus (2m)
Simon J Gay

       1234567890ET
-------------------
S      157392E4T608
S      19E7T5038264
S  –4  1ET089674523
N  -6  10E9T8674523
N  -8  1908E7T64523
N  -0  189706E5T423
S  -0  1908E7T62345
N  -8  189706ET2345
N  -6  178690ET2345
N  –4  167890ET2345
-------------------
11 part
3168 Norwich; 2112 Superlative; 43 com; atw.
9 56s (0f,9b), 1 65s (1f,0b), 605 4-bell runs (136f,469b), 14 TEs at back.

I'm not claiming that this is a great composition - it's just another illustration of the correspondence between some quarters of Major and peals of Maximus. It's also true with Cambridge instead of Superlative, which would be more handbell-friendly.

Place bell order (2)

Now for another meaning of "place bell order", which came up when we were practising Cambridge Maximus in November. Nick said that when thinking about a pair of place bells, he always uses a consistent order, which is right hand and then left hand. This helps to keep track of which way around his pair is. So, for example, when ringing the symmetrical lead of Yorkshire Major on the tenors, he thinks of his place bells as "8 and 6".

This sounds like a good system, although it's not what I do all the time. If I'm ringing the tenors, I think of the place bells with the one nearest the front first. So when I ring the symmetrical lead of Yorkshire, I think "6 and 8" (which is left hand first), but in the next lead I think "5 and 7" (which is right hand first). If I'm ringing a different pair, then I try to follow Nick's system.

If I'm telling another member of the band which place bells to be, I try to say them with the one nearest the front first. This is so that the ringer rings in the order that he or she hears the place bells. I don't worry about whether not they get the pair the right way around, because that's easy to correct a little later. However, sometime I might say the place bells in an order corresponding to the coursing order I am working from. For example, if the coursing order is 65324 and we're coming to the Home position, I might say "Jonathan 5 and 3" (if he is ringing 5-6, as usual), because the first two positions in the coursing order correspond to 5th and 3rd place bells at the Home lead. 

Place bell order (1)

We know that it's useful, even essential, to keep track of which place bells we are while ringing. During normal ringing, meaning ringing without mistakes, we work our way along the lines (or however we think about the method), and our awareness of the place bells might fade into the background. The place bell order just appears from the fact that we progress smoothly to the next lead end and become the next place bells according to the line.

If we make a mistake, however, assuming that we don't recover (with or without help) very quickly, the best chance of getting right is to know which place bells we should become at the next lead end, and rely on the conductor or the ringer of the trebles to announce when the lead end comes up.

If we stick to 8-bell methods for the moment, and assuming we are ringing methods with Plain Bob lead ends, there are 6 possible place bell orders. If we write the place bell order starting from 2, then the possible orders are 2468753, 2673485, 2836547, 2745638, 2584376, 2357864. For a further level of classification we can consider whether the method has a 2nd place lead end or an 8th place lead end - this gives 12 possible lead end types, as they are known.

Each lead end type has a conventional letter, which is used when quoting the lead end type of a method. For example, Cambridge is a B type method, which means the place bell order 2673485 with a 2nd place lead end. An alternative way of thinking about the place bell order is as a number, corresponding to how far one lead of the method takes us round the circle of numbers shown on the right. Plain Bob is +1, where + means moving anticlockwise. So that's the place bell order 2468753, stepping one place round the circle each time. Cambridge is +2. London is -1, or equivalently +6, but it's easier to keep the number as small as possible.

The table shows the lead end type, the place bell order, the number, and a (more or less) common method of that lead end type.

Lead end type Lead end place Place bell order Number Method
A 2nd 2468753 +1 Cooktown Orchid
B 2nd 2673485 +2 Cambridge
C 2nd 2836547 +3 Cassiobury
D 2nd 2745638 -3 Ipswich
E 2nd 2584376 -2 Chesterfield
F 2nd 2357864 -1 London
G 8th 2468753 +1 Glasgow
H 8th 2673485 +2 Essex
J 8th 2836547 +3 Deva
K 8th 2745683 -3 Buckfastleigh
L 8th 2584376 -2 Cornwall
M 8th 2357864 -1 Bristol

I find some place bell orders easier to work with than others. The most difficult ones are +3 and -3, because of lack of familiarity. It's also much easier to work out my next place bells if I'm coursing, because that feels the same as just working out the next place bell of the tenor - and then the 7th must be in the coursing relationship with the tenor.

An idea for working out the next place bells in +3 and -3 methods is to break the progression down into two steps. For example, +3 consists of +1 (Plain Bob - easy) followed by +2 (Cambridge - easy). I often use this technique for difficult place bell orders on tower bells. The main example is Zanussi, which is +5. I think of it as two leads of Cambridge followed by a lead of Plain Bob.

Another idea is to be aware of which relative position the bells are in: coursing, 3-4 or 5-6. Then, if we can track the place bell of one of them, and if we know the combinations of place bells that occur in each relative position, the task becomes easier. I have already mentioned this idea when ringing a coursing pair, especially the tenors. The place bell of the 7th is always the place bell of the tenor, +1 (where +1 means counting round the place bell diagram, as before). In the 3-4 position the relationship is +2, and in the 5-6 position the relationship is +3. If we know that the pairs of place bells in the 3-4 position are 2&6, 4&8, 6&7, 8&5, 7&3, 5&2, 3&4, then it's possible to know that if the first bell is, say, 6th place bell, then the other one must be 7th place bell. Of course the information in these pairs of place bells is the same as the information in the place bell order 2673485, but it's a different way of looking at it, which might be helpful.

This is all very well in theory, but like everything, it takes practice. Also, like conducting, the time when we really need to apply it is when everything is going wrong, which makes it so much more difficult to concentrate.

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