A new venue and a new method to learn

We have reached a landmark this year - the children are old enough to be left at home alone for an evening. Yesterday we took advantage of this by ringing at Angela's house, which is only fair as she and Jonathan have been coming to our house nearly every week for the last 9 years.

To make progress with our aim of ringing different pairs and developing more conductors, we rang a quarter of Yorkshire with Angela on 3-4 and Tina conducting. I rang the trebles and Jonathan stayed on 5-6 (for now - his turn will come!). We scored at the second attempt. Ringing the trebles takes concentration, because of the potentially disastrous effect of getting the treble into the wrong place. I'm sure it's good for me. Angela had a good workout on 3-4, as Tina called "wrong home wrong", which doesn't give anyone an easy ride in terms of the positions.

Angela's parents' 50th wedding anniversary is this weekend, so she wants to ring a quarter of Golden Wedding Anniversary Surprise Major next week. We've been successful in the past with learning and ringing new methods for special occasions: Bushey Surprise Major, and Aardvark Surprise Major, described here. So what about Golden Wedding Anniversary?

A first glance at the line gives an impression of Yorkshireishness on the front and Londonishness on the back. The beginning of 5th place bell is unusual, going down to point 3rds. This is produced by the place notation 38x58 in the first section (when the treble is in 1-2). This structure for the first section is relatively uncommon, appearing in 286 Surprise Major methods in comparison with 1938 occurrences of the Cambridge-above x38x structure. As it happens, Aardvark starts in the same way, as does Uppingham, which I rang in my youth as part of Crosland's spliced series.

The backwork has a clear structure with fishtails in the same place as in London, and treble bob hunting to link them. Making 5ths next to a fishtail will be something to watch out for. Other familiar features include Cambridge frontwork and Yorkshire places in 2nd and 7ths place bells.  3rd and 5th place bells have a structure from 4th place bell Cassiobury on the front, but with a half lead dodge attached. The 3-4 places in 3rd and 5th place bells will require care. We will also have to be careful when one bell is in 1-2 and the other in 3-4, to get the right synchronisation between dodges and places. The place notation includes 3458 when the treble moves between 6th and 7th places. Multiple adjacent places like this often feel strange to ring - for example, making 3rds and 5ths simultaneously, which occurs in the 5-6 position (4th and 7th place bells).

Overall, I think it's a bit easier than Aardvark, so I hope we'll be able to ring it well. Watch this space!

Yorkshire Royal and beyond

We now have a regular band for 10-bell projects, as Julia Cater is going to come and ring with us once a month. In July we rang a peal of Yorkshire Royal. Consistently with previous discussion about the relative merits of Cambridge and Yorkshire, we found it trickier than Cambridge. Nevertheless, it was a success at the first attempt, which is always satisfying. I called the composition that we have used for our peals of Cambridge Royal, in which 3-4 and 5-6 only ring two positions each. In comparison with our previous unsuccessful peal attempt of Grandsire Caters, the calls are very infrequent, which makes life much easier.

Later this month we are going for Lincolnshire, which should be easier than Yorkshire; some people argue that it is even easier than Cambridge. Certainly the 5-pull dodges give some stability, and as Graham John explained in his comment on the "Cambridge or Yorkshire" article, there is a simple rule relating dodging and hunting above and below the treble. The same composition is also true to Lincolnshire, so I plan to stick with it.

Looking further ahead, I would like to try London after Lincolnshire. Tina and I rang a plain course last week while we were on holiday with a group of ringers, and it went well. When we were working our way through the standard Surprise Major methods, we found London much more difficult than Bristol, but for Royal I think it will be the other way around because the extra work in London Royal compared with Major consists of straightforward ingredients such as treble bob hunting at the back and Yorkshire places in 7-8. Unfortunately, the Cambridge/Yorkshire/Lincolnshire composition isn't true to London - finding a good handbell composition for London will be the subject of a future article.

Two notable peals of Bristol Maximus

Two peals of Bristol Maximus on handbells, a fortnight apart and both rung in the Reading area, have attracted attention as landmarks at opposite ends of two handbell ringing careers.

The first, on Wednesday 21st June, is remarkable for being Pip Dillistone's first handbell peal. This must surely be a record - normally, reaching the level of Bristol Maximus on handbells takes many years, and it's dependent on being able to access a suitable band to get the opportunity to ring it. Also the band deserves credit for welcoming a newcomer and being willing to go for the peal.

The second peal, on Wednesday 5th July, was Bernard Groves' 2000th handbell peal. He is the first person to reach that total. According to PealBase, it's very close to 60 years since his first handbell peal, which was Plain Bob Doubles (a more normal entry level than Pip's, although these days, Plain Bob Doubles would also be fairly unusual as a first handbell peal). So that's an average of 33 handbell peals per year, which indicates a combination of regular attempts and a high success rate.

Congratulations to both Pip and Bernard!

Grandsire Caters: a little more practice needed

We rang the opening section and the first A block quite well, but came to grief in the first turning course. On the positive side, it does seem achievable, if we can become more familiar with the handstroke home position and the transition between tittums and handstrokes.

It's on the list of unfinished projects.

No more handbell ringing for three weeks, as we are going to visit Tina's parents in the USA. The next plan for when we come back is a peal of Yorkshire Royal.


Preparing for Grandsire Caters

This week we're going for a peal with a new combination of people: Mike Clay, Ian Bell and Julia Cater. Also a new method: Grandsire Caters. This plan kills several birds with one stone. We want to continue ringing with Mike and Ian; Julia is keen to come and ring in Glasgow more regularly; I have been thinking that it would be a nice change to try something other than Surprise; and we want to get back into more 10-bell ringing.

Grandsire is not often rung on handbells, at least not for peals or quarters. Odd-bell methods are less popular anyway, and within the odd-bell sphere, Stedman is dominant. Tina and I rang a few peals of Grandsire Triples and Caters in the late 1990s, before we moved to Glasgow, but we have hardly rung it since. Other factors in its absence from Albany Quadrant are that I have never been much of a Grandsire conductor, and Jonathan has an aversion to ringing it even in the tower. 

A couple of years ago we attempted a peal of Grandsire Caters at Inveraray, which I was conducting. I chose the following standard composition by Albert Tyler, partly because it is well known as a fairly straightforward one, and partly because Mike Clay gave me a set of notes by Roy LeMarechal on how to call it and follow the coursing orders.

5039 Grandsire Caters
Albert M Tyler

23456789  1  2  3  4     
32654     -  -  s  s
43256978  -        s   
24356     -  -  -      
32456     -  -  -      
52436     s              
23456        -  -  -   
42356     -  -  -      
34256     -  -  -      
63452     -  -  s        
35462        -  -  -     
43562     -  -  -     |
24365     -  -  s     |
52463     -  -  s     |
45263     -  -  -     |
24563     -  -  -     |
32465     -  -  s     |A
53264     -  -  s     |
25364     -  -  -     |
32564     -  -  -     |
43265     -  -  s     |
54362     -  -  s     |
35462879  -     -  s
54362        A
45362978  -     -  -
53462        A
45362879  -     -  s
34265        A*  
A* = A omitting last course.

So, what do we make of this composition? The main structure is the four A blocks, which alternate between the tittums position (978 at the end of the change) and the handstroke home position (879 at the end of the change, producing 789 roll-ups at handstroke). In the A blocks the 6th is always in 5th place at the course end, which makes the 6th a natural bell to conduct from in the tower, and suggests conducting from 5-6 on handbells, which is what I am planning to do.

There is also an irregular-looking block at the beginning, but it does contain some regularity with several courses called 1,2,3, and six course ends of the form 1xxx569780.

When calling Grandsire, one needs to be aware of how long each course is, because courses containing calls are shorter than the plain course. In this composition almost all the courses are 5 leads. The exceptions are the very first course, which is 4 leads; the second course (1,4s), which is 6 leads; the 5th course (1s), which is also 6 leads; and the last course, which is called 1,2,3s but produces rounds at handstroke at the 4th lead end, one lead before the course end.

The first block just has to be learnt, but it's helpful to note what happens during these 10 courses. The first course (1,2,3s,4s) is just a little bit of padding, I think. The second course (1,4s) puts the back bells into the tittums position. The transition from the coursing order 897 to 789 is achieved by putting the 7th into the hunt with a bob at 1, and leaving it there until it overtakes the 8th and the 9th in the coursing order; then the single at 4 brings it out of the hunt while the 8th dodges 6-7 down.

This produces the course end 1432569780, which is the first of what Roy calls the "out of course" tittums course ends with 5-6 home. "Out of course" means that one pair out of 2,3,4 are swapped with respect to rounds. The next two courses are each called 1,2,3 and have the effect of rotating 2,3,4 to produce the course ends 1243679780 and then 1324569780. Roy explains that the 3rd being in the hunt at the course end is the signal to stop calling 1,2,3 and do something different.

The next course has only one call, a single at 1 which puts the 5th into the hunt. It's a six lead course, but it's best to just ring until the course end, rather than count the leads. The course after that is called 2,3,4, which produces the first of what Roy calls the "in course" tittums course ends with 5-6 home: 1234569780. The next two courses are each called 1,2,3 and produce the course ends 1423569780 and 1342569780. The 3rd is now in the hunt at a course end, which again is a signal to stop calling 1,2,3 and do something different: in this case, call 1,2,3s instead. Finally, the 10th course of the initial block is another 2,3,4 course, which puts the 6th into 5th place at the course end; this is where it will be for the rest of the peal.

The main part of Roy LeMarechal's notes deals with how the calling of the A block works. At the beginning of the block, the course end is 1354629780. What's of interest is the coursing order of 2,3,4,5, which at this point is 3542. The key point about Grandsire is that bobs don't change the coursing order, but plain leads do because the hunt bell moves relative to the other bells. After the bobs at 1, 2 and 3, the 4th is in the hunt (note that this is the third bell in the 4-bell coursing order 3542). Each plain lead moves it one position earlier in the coursing order, so we get first 3452 and then 4352.

Now Roy explains a rule that can be used to call the whole A block without having to remember whether each course is 1,2,3 or 1,2,3s. If the 5th is in one of the last two positions in the coursing order, then call 1,2,3s. The single at 3 swaps the last two bells, producing 4325. Then the two plain leads change the coursing order to 4235 and then 2435. As the 5th is now in the last position in the coursing order, the next course is again 1,2,3s, and this is what will produce the pattern in the A block of the two types of calling alternating in pairs. The single at 3 produces 2453 and then the two plain leads result in 5243. Continuing in this way, eventually we reach the coursing order 5432, in which the 2nd is in the final position. This indicates that the A block has finished and it's time to turn the back bells.

The course 1,3,4s has two effects. It changes the back bells from tittums to handstrokes, and it rotates 3, 4, 5 so that the coursing order is again 3542. The next A block is called in exactly the same way as the first one, and then there is another turning course, which this time is 1,3,4 to put the back bells back into tittums. This time, however, the 3rd and the 4th are the other way around, and the coursing order at the beginning of the A block is 4532. This doesn't affect the rules for calling the A block according to the positions of the 2nd and the 5th in the coursing order. After this block, the back bells are put into handstrokes again. The final A block starts with the coursing order 4532.

A point of interest for handbell ringing is that 3-4 ring each A block in the same way, except that the 3rd and 4th blocks have them the other way round than the 1st and 2nd blocks. This might give the ringer of 3-4 the benefit of a certain familiarity with the sequence of work. Similarly, 1-2 and 5-6 will each experience the same work in every block.

What about the work of 7-8? They spend most of the time in either the tittums position, in which they are coursing, or the handstroke home position, in which they are coursing one apart. I hope the turning courses won't come as too much of a shock.

A couple of weeks ago, Tina, Mike and I were all in Tulloch for an SACR weekend focusing on Lincolnshire Maximus. We took the opportunity to recruit a couple of assistants to ring the first few courses of the Tyler composition of handbells. It went well once we got into it. One pitfall we noticed is that in the tittums position, it's quite tempting to dodge too soon at the lead end before the course end. Here is how the roll-ups occur.

312456978  backstroke roll-up before the lead end
one lead
142356978  backstroke roll-up at the course end
421356978  backstroke roll-up

The temptation is to dodge on the roll-up, the first time it occurs. We didn't practise any of the handstroke home position, but I think there might be less temptation in that position. Here is how the lead ends and roll-ups occur.

312456879  backstroke roll-up before the lead end
134265789  handstroke roll-up
413265789  handstroke roll-up
142356879  backstroke roll-up at the course end
421356879  backstroke roll-up
243165789  handstroke roll-up

The handstroke roll-up is the more distinctive change, so it might feel more natural to dodge on it at the 4th lead end and not at the course end. Time will tell.

The key to success will be accurate hunting, staying in the right positions, and dodging at the right time. I will report back next week.


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