A small and successful handbell day

On Saturday we had the Scottish Handbell Day, unusually on a bank holiday weekend because of a diary mix-up. Perhaps because of the holiday, we had fewer people than usual: just two or three groups in each session.

In the morning, we included two of our tower-bell learners from Glasgow, who hadn't tried handbells before. They both made progress with the plain hunting positions, and we got Dorothy involved too.

The rest of the day was devoted to Plain Bob and Kent. I had been worried that we didn't have enough experienced ringers, and when planning the programme I was more conservative than usual. As things turned out, the new participants - Susannah and Phyllida, who have been ringing regularly with Ian and Barbara Bell in Edinburgh - were confident with Plain Bob Minor and were able to progress to Plain Bob Major and Kent Minor. We rang four quarters altogether: one of Kent Minor and three of Plain Bob Major.

After dinner we had the obligatory attempt at Plain Hunting on 16, taking advantage of the fact that Adam's bells are still in our living room. Plain Hunting on 16 was too difficult, of course, but we had more success with a method that Jonathan suggested. The trebles course up in the same way as in Plain Hunting, and every other pair waits until the treble passes them and then starts to course after all the smaller bells. The result is that everyone is coursing, which makes it much easier to keep to a rhythm and count the places.

Finally, we rang some Plain Hunting on 10 with Susannah, Phyllida and Al, and then rang a course of Plain Bob Royal with each of then in turn.

So, in the end, everyone rang a quarter, and all of the less experienced people were able to try something new. Success all round. 

200 quarters at 1 Albany Quadrant

Angela is away this week, but Jenny came over instead and we rang a quarter of spliced Cambridge, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, which was her first of spliced surprise on handbells. It went smoothly with good steady ringing throughout. It was the 200th quarter in the house, which has taken a bit longer than we might have expected - we only rang 6 quarters last year, and only 2 so far this year. Here are some statistics.

  • Timespan: 11 years
  • Number of people involved: 48
  • Number of conductors: 14
  • Number of different titles (Yorkshire, 3-spliced, 4-spliced etc): 47
  • Number of methods rung (including in spliced): 80
  • Leading methods: Plain Bob Major (24), Yorkshire Major (23)
  • Number of "firsts" of any kind: 50
  • Numbers of bells: 40 Minor, 137 Major, 20 Royal, 3 Maximus
  • Number of quarters with all of Simon, Tina, Angela and Jonathan in the band: 91

An unprecedented run of success

We've just come back from a short visit to Penrith, where we rang a peal of Cambridge, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Rutland with Julia Cater and Nick Tithecott. That makes six peals from six attempts for me, and five out of five for Tina - surely the longest winning streak in my entire handbell-ringing career. It was the first peal in Julia's new house. We rang on her mother's bells, which are a lovely Whitechapel set with three different rings of eight to choose from. We settled on a size 12 ring, the same as Jonathan's light eight that we often ring. It's a nice comfortable size for an eight-bell peal, and we rang a little more quickly than usual: 2h22 for the peal.

Just like our peal of the Nottingham Eight last Saturday, the ringing was extremely good except for a rough lead or two near the end. One day we'll eliminate those rough spots. I called this composition by Rob Lee, which is a popular choice for handbell bands.

5024 Spliced Surprise Major (4 methods)
Robert W Lee

23456  M  W  H  Methods    
---------------------------
43652  -        YYY.YR
56234  -  -     R.RRRRR.(R)
23564     -  -  RY.YYY.
52364        -  NNNNCCC.
35264        -  CCCCNNN.   
---------------------------
5 part, substituting NNN for (R) in one part.

Contains 1408 Rutland, 1280 Yorkshire, 1216 Lincolnshire (N), 1120 Cambridge, with 31 changes of method and all the work of each method for every bell.

It's the calling of Middleton's, with the methods arranged in blocks with very few changes of method. This style of spliced requires thinking in a slightly different way from a composition with a change of method every one or two leads. Positioning the bobs within the whole course of Rutland, and getting the changes between Cambridge and Lincolnshire, is much more like calling a single-method composition. I did it by a combination of following the position of the tenors and working out which place bells I would be at the next bob or at the change of method.

For the first time in a while, we don't have any more peals booked, but we have some ideas. We want to ring a peal of Yorkshire with Angela on an inside pair. After all their practice at calling quarters, we want to ring peals with Tina and Jonathan conducting. Julia wants to ring a peal of 8-spliced. After our success yesterday, we would like to ring with Julia and Nick again. Finally, there's a special project that I will write about in due course.

The Nottingham Eight Again

Yesterday we rang a peal of the Nottingham Eight: London, Bristol, Cambridge, Superlative, Glasgow, Cornwall, Lessness and Cassiobury. I called Graham John's one-part all-the-work composition, and it felt like a real achievement to succeed at the first attempt without it turning into a big project. Most of the ringing was excellent - we had a couple of rough leads near the end, but in general it was confident and trouble-free.

In my previous article about the Nottingham Eight on handbells, I didn't definitively answer the question of how many handbell peals there have been. I have now checked the records, and there have been five:

  • 13/6/2001, Caversham (38 Priory Avenue)
    1-2 Bernard F L Groves, 3-4 Graham A C John, 5-6 David C Brown (C), 7-8 Alex F Byrne
  • 11/11/2008, Staines (44 Sidney Road)
    1-2 Muffie King, 3-4 David C Brown, 5-6 Richard A Pearce (C), 7-8 Peter R King
  • 17/10/2013, Islington (9G Highbury Crescent)
    1-2 Peter J Blight, 3-4 Ruth Blackwell, 5-6 Richard A Pearce (C), 7-8 David G Maynard
  • 28/4/2017, Northallerton (19 The Green)
    1-2 Jonathan J F Stokoe, 3-4 Jennifer A Town, 5-6 James W Holdsworth (C), 7-8 Peter J Sanderson
  • 7/4/2018, Glasgow (1 Albany Quadrant)
    1-2 Angela H Deakin, 3-4 Tina R Stoecklin, 5-6 Jonathan S Frye, 7-8 Simon J Gay (C)

They were all the Graham John composition, except the one in Northallerton which was a Don Morrison composition.

There's a long way to go before the Nottingham Eight catches up with the Standard Eight on handbells. This is probably because Glasgow is quite difficult on handbells.

We've been discussing the Pickled Egg methods - Cornwall and Lessness are in Simon Linford's selection, but Glasgow and Cassiobury aren't. We found Cornwall a little slippery. It's possible to get out of step with the dodging at the front / hunting at the back and vice versa, and then it's useful to have the treble confirming which is which; as usual, Angela helped us out a few times. Lessness and Cassiobury have some points of similarity, in that the double dodges in 3-4 are in the same place in both methods, which means that they are also in the same position relative to the four-pull dodges at the back.

Tina and I (and the children) are going to visit Penrith later this week, and part of the plan is to ring a peal with Julia Cater and Nick Tithecott. We're going to go for Cambridge, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Rutland spliced, which is well within our capabilities so we're hoping for a good peal.

Pickled Eggs: the dustbin

Last week's Project Pickled Egg article discussed the methods from the Standard 8 that are not being included in Simon Linford's proposed new surprise major repertoire. These are Lincolnshire, Rutland and Pudsey. What do we think about this decision, from the handbell perspective?

We have always found Lincolnshire to be a good next step after Yorkshire, and it always seems easier than Cambridge when it comes to quarters and peals. On Wednesday I went to Edinburgh to ring a peal of Lincolnshire with Nick, Jenny and Peter. We did well, especially considering that it was a new combination of people. A point in Lincolnshire's favour is that Lincolnshire Royal is arguably easier than Cambridge, and certainly easier than Yorkshire. Maybe we should try Lincolnshire Maximus instead of Cambridge, next time we manage to organise everyone for a 12-bell project.

Simon Linford suggests Turramurra as a method worth trying. It has some similarities to Lincolnshire but is considered more musical. We'll give it a go some time and report back.

My only comment on Pudsey is that it's somewhat inverse to Yorkshire in terms of which lead is easy for the tenors. Yorkshire Major has the characteristic "tumbling places" in the first and last leads of the course, where the tenors run through each other's places twice. In Pudsey this happens in the middle lead of the course, when the tenors are 6th and 8th place bells. In Royal it's the other way around: Pudsey has tumbling places in the first and last leads, and Yorkshire has them in the middle lead.

We rang a peal of Pudsey with Mike and Ian, and I must confess that we rang it purely because it's in the Standard 8. We also rang a peal of Rutland for the same reason. I don't particularly have anything against Rutland, but I can see the argument that it doesn't add anything in terms of techniques or structures to learn.

Our current project with the Albany Quadrant band is a peal of the Nottingham 8 (London, Bristol, Cambridge, Superlative, Cornwall, Lessness, Cassiobury and Glasgow), which we are going to attempt next Saturday. For practice, on Monday this week we tried a quarter of spliced Cornwall, Lessness, Cassiobury and Superlative. It showed us that we're a bit rusty on Cornwall and Cassiobury, and of course Lessness is new; for added distraction, we were ringing on the heavy back 8 (size 19) of Adam's bells. Lessness has featured in Project Pickled Egg discussions, so I'll write about that another time if it's included.

The PPE discussion has included the question of how to get people to stop ringing the Standard 8 so much and instead try the new set of methods. Don Morrison has commented that in the North American Guild there has already been progress towards different methods, with Cornwall starting to replace Cambridge as a first surprise major method. I think the Scottish Association has some similarities with the North American Guild: we have relatively few towers, with quite a geographical spread (although on a far smaller scale), and a relatively small but committed and enthusiastic membership. The proportion of our members who come out for association events is very high in comparison with a typical large association in England. Anyway, what all this means is that fewer people need to be convinced to try a different set of methods. I'm the SACR ringing master, so if I don't want to ring Rutland at association meetings, that's in my power! We have already had Cornwall as a special method at a couple of meetings, and last month I ran a 10-bell method-learning workshop based on extensions of Cornwall.

At practice night in Glasgow, when we can manage it, we tend to ring a touch of 8-spliced (standard 8) as a treat for the more experienced ringers. There always has to be some brushing up on Pudsey, so it wouldn't take much to change the set of methods. We've got as far as putting the lines for Cornwall, Lessness and Turramurra on the whiteboard in the ringing chamber. Let's see what we can do with a combined assault on both handbells and tower bells. 

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