This month's ringing

A week ago we had the Scottish Handbell Day, which took place at the Fryes' house in Dunblane because of the building work at Albany Quadrant (which has finished for the moment, I'm happy to say). Some new people came along, including James Holdsworth who has recently moved from Yorkshire to Edinburgh. With his help we were able to ring a couple of plain courses of Cambridge Maximus, fairly convincingly. There's room for some polishing, but it feels as if we can basically ring it, so the next step will be to try a quarter and then go for a peal. Other ringing included plain hunting and Bob Minor with some newcomers, and quarters of Kent and Yorkshire Major.

Last Friday we had a visit from Nick Jones, and rang two quarters. The first was Turramurra, so we've scored May's method of the month. (The peal we had been due to ring in April had to be cancelled). It's a nice method, very easy, and Jonathan called a composition by Rob Lee with a couple of courses of the back bells in the 8765 position. After that we rang 8-spliced (standard 8, with apologies to Project Pickled Egg), which went smoothly even though we haven't rung most of the methods for ages.

Yesterday was the SACR striking competition, which is always a good opportunity for handbell ringing because of all the waiting around. This was mostly Bob Minor with two of the beginners we had been ringing with on the handbell day, and it was satisfying to make some more progress.

The striking competition judge was Glenn Taylor, who has composed some interesting peals of Spliced Surprise Major (as well as other things). There's one of London, Bristol, Cambridge, Superlative and Glasgow, which I rang on handbells with David Brown, Roger Bailey and Mike Trimm in the late 90s. He also has one of the Horton's Four methods in a 2-part all-the-work, but with slightly more split tenors than Roddy Horton's composition. Also a 3-part all-the-work of Bristol, Cambridge, Glasgow and Superlative with just a little bit of split tenors (or not exactly split, but coursing the wrong way around), which could be fun to ring one day. So it was interesting to meet him, and his comments on the team that I rang in were so insightful that it was as if he had been in the tower with us...but that's another story.

Emma Southerington's 1000th peal as conductor

Last week, Emma Southerington reached the milestone of 1000 peals as conductor, with a peal of Lincolnshire Royal on handbells. This is a landmark that not many people have achieved - moreover, she has conducted more than 600 handbell peals, which is also an impressive total.

Turning to PealBase, let's have a look at some league tables. You will need to log in to PealBase to follow the links. Statistics are from 20th April 2019, the date of writing this article.

PealBase has a table of people who have rung 500 or more handbell peals. There are 59 of them (compared with 539 people who have rung 1000 or more peals - as we know, handbell ringing is a minority activity). Emma is 18th on the list with 1070 handbell peals. The number of people who have rung 1000 or more handbell peals is 21.

I don't think PealBase has a table for leading conductors, so I have produced one manually by looking at the records of the people on the leading handbell peal ringers list.

Rank Ringer HB Peals Conducted
1 John Mayne 1510
2 Bernard Groves 1459
3 Peter Randall 1418
4 Frank Morton 1189
5 Robert Smith 939
6 David Brown 924
7 Roger Bailey 824
8 William Croft 649
9 Emma Southerington 611
10 Jeremy Spiller 518
11 Richard Pearce 505


Methods of the Month: Kenninghall

This month's method is Kenninghall, and we rang a quarter of it on Monday - once again, the first band to put a performance of the monthly method into the list on BellBoard. It was a new venue, but it's only temporary - there's some building work going on at 1 Albany Quadrant this week.

Kenninghall is Cornwall backwork with wrong hunting on the front four. We found that it needs some concentration. It's easy to slip into right hunting on the front, and get a blow out. However, we rang a good quarter, which Tina called.

Unlike Cornwall, Kenninghall extends to all stages, and I've often thought that it would be a good thing to try on 10, as a step beyond the right-place methods while being a little easier than London. The structure of wrong hunting on the front four and, for most of the lead, treble bob hunting on the back, is similar to London, so ringing Kenninghall could be good practice for London. Indeed, ringing Kenninghall Major already seems like good practice for London Royal.

If we were going to ring it on 10, however, I would be tempted to ring it with a 2nd place lead end, which is called Brislington. That way, the bobs wouldn't jump around the course as they do in Kenninghall.

The grid diagram comes from and the line comes from


What do I look for in a handbell composition?

After our peals of Lessness and Cornwall, the next thing we're going to try with Julia and Nick is Turramurra. It isn't a Pickled Egg method, although I think it featured in the initial discussions about which methods to include; maybe it was even in the "also try" list. It's an easy alternative to Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. I will write more about the method when we have actually rung it, but here are the main features:

  • Cambridge place bell order.
  • Cambridge above the treble.
  • Five dodges in 1-2 across the half lead.
  • Three dodges in 3-4 across the half lead.
  • Far-dodge-near in 5-6 across the half lead.

Probably it can be reconstructed, or very nearly, from that information.

Having decided on a peal of Turramurra, I started having a look for compositions. This is not so straightforward. Turramurra has BDO falseness, and without investigating the technical details (I confess that I don't have the falseness groups and their consequences at my fingertips), this seems to be quite a lot of falseness and enough to significantly restrict the availability of easy and/or handbell-friendly compositions.

So, this is an opportunity to write about what kind of composition I would like to be able to choose, for a single straightforward Surprise Major method.

You might ask why I want to look for easy compositions, given that I've conducted Horton's Four and Graham John's one-part composition of the Nottingham Eight, which are good achievements even on tower bells. Well, Horton's Four took a long time and a lot of practice, and the Nottingham Eight also required a lot of thorough learning and huge concentration by all the band on the day. For a more "ordinary" peal, especially if I'm not going to ring the tenors, I want a tenors-together composition that's not too complicated to call. The less I have to concentrate on the composition, the more I can concentrate on ringing my bells accurately, which helps with the overall stability. I like compositions with one or both of the following features.

  1. A high proportion of coursing for 3-4 or 5-6 or, ideally, both.
  2. A multi-part composition with part-ends that I like.

What do I like in a multi-part composition?

  • Five-part compositions can be good because the part is fairly short, so there's less to learn. My favourite part end group is the one generated by 13526478, so that the part ends are the lead ends of Plain Bob Minor with the tenors added at the back. I like this because the part ends are easy to check, and the coursing orders are cyclic rotations of the plain course (65324, and so on) which I find easy to remember. The second choice of part end group would be cyclic rotations of rounds on the front six, i.e. 13456278, 14562378 and so on. This makes the part ends easy to check, although the corresponding coursing orders are nothing special. However, five-part compositions tend not to produce large amounts of coursing for 3-4 or 5-6. Usually I would think of five-parts for spliced, rather than for single methods.
  • Three-part compositions are good, especially if one of the handbell pairs does the same work in every part. So I would look for either 13425678 and 14235678 as the part ends, or 16342578 and 15346278. It's possible for compositions on these plans to have a reasonable amount of coursing for the fixed pair. Sometimes, three-part compositions with a different part end (12356478 is traditionally popular because it's good for generating CRUs) can be started in a different place so that either 3-4 or 5-6 are fixed - an example is the William Barton composition of Lincolnshire.
  • Two-part compositions can sometimes be favourable for handbells. If the part end is 12436578 then 3-4 and 5-6 each do the same work in both halves of the peal - which might also include a reasonable amount of coursing. If the part end is 12563478 or 12654378 then 3-4 and 5-6 swap their work between the two halves of the peal, which could be seen as introducing an element of fairness (either equal easiness or equal pain, depending on the other aspects of the composition).

Sometimes, starting at the snap is good for handbells, if this means that either 3-4 or 5-6 is coursing from the beginning. In Cambridge-above methods, the coursing order at the snap is 52346, with 3-4 coursing. In Bristol, it's 32456, with 5-6 coursing. It's possible to have multi-part compositions with a snap start and finish - for example the Roger Bailey composition of Yorkshire, mentioned in this article about compositions of Rutland.

One-part compositions can be attractive if they have other handbell-friendly features. The main examples of this are the various compositions of Bristol and Cornwall that I have written about, with blocks of five befores that keep both 3-4 and 5-6 coursing for four of the five courses.

Now, back to Turramurra. Looking for compositions in the usual places ( and didn't produce anything attractive. To make sure, I did some computer searching, and there aren't any tenors-together compositions on any of the multi-part plans that I described above. This leaves two options: accept some split tenors, or consider a one-part composition that isn't too complicated.

For the first option, I removed the tenors-together requirement from my computer search, and found some five-part compositions with two courses of split tenors per part. There are several variations, but good examples are this one with three bobs at fifths:

5120 Turramurra Surprise Major
Simon J Gay

V  M  B  H  23456
         -  42356
3     -  -  42563
   -     -  35264
5 part.

or this one with in/out/fourths:

5120 Turramurra Surprise Major
Simon J Gay

M  B  I/O/4  H  23456
             -  42356
   -         -  42563
-       x    -  35264
5 part.

These are the same composition, just with the two split tenors courses inserted in a different way. I prefer the first one because the tenor is unaffected. We might ring it if I can either ring the tenors myself or persuade whoever does ring them that the split sections are not too bad. As a point of interest, moving the first home to the end of the part changes the part end to 13456278.

As an alternative, I used CompLib to search for compositions published for other methods that are true to Turramurra. The most interesting result was this composition by Albert Pitman. It's listed with a couple of different starting points, but here I'll show the simplest form.

5056 Turramurra Surprise Major
Albert J Pitman

M  B  W  H  23456
      -     52436 |
   -        23564 | A
-        2  34562 |

    3A      62345

    A*      42356

   2     -  25634 | B

    3B      64523

    B*      23456
A* = A omitting 2H
B* = B omitting H

This is two five-part compositions joined together. Ringing the A block five times returns to rounds (and has the cyclic part ends mentioned earlier), and ringing the B block five times (starting from rounds) also returns to rounds (with unremarkable part ends).

Joining the two blocks together is achieved by omitting the two homes at the end of the last A block, so that the final coursing order is 52436. This means that the second section of five B blocks would return to 52436, but omitting the final home stops it in the plain course, to come round.

This structure means that the composition can be called without counting the parts - reducing the need to count is always a good strategy. Simply call A blocks until reaching the coursing order 52436, and then call B blocks until returning to the plain course.

I think it's better to ring the A section first, for two reasons. First, because the B section has a before in every course, so the tenors are skipping three leads every time, and I wouldn't want to ring ten (short) courses of an unfamiliar method and then suddenly give the tenors a new pair of place bells. Second, because ringing the A section first gives it the nice part ends of 13456278 and so on.

So I've got a choice of two reasonable compositions, and we can negotiate nearer the time about which one to go for.

Success with Cornwall

On Monday we had another go at Cornwall with Julia and Nick, and succeeded with a good peal. I decided that ringing the tenors would give us a better chance, so we changed the band around a little. I found that it still takes some concentration to keep the treble bob hunting on the front and the back out of step in the right way. At one point I found myself double dodging on the front when it should have been a single, which threatened to desynchronise us, but I managed to recover at the half lead. Another time I forced the bells at the back into an incorrect dodge, then realised that the bells at the front had dodged at the same time - not right! Again, we were able to recover around the half lead, with the help of the trebles.

I called the composition by James Smith, which I like even more now. Here it is again, with some commentary.

5024 Cornwall Surprise Major
James A Smith

M  B  W  H  23456
-     -  3  54632
   2     -  43265
   5     2  32465
   -  -  -  35264
   4     -  42356
   5     -  34256
   5     -  23456
For handbells: 62% coursing for 3-4 and 80% coursing for 5-6.
  • Starting with middle and wrong leads to the coursing order 34562 - a memorable one with 3-4 and 5-6 coursing.
  • The three homes are just padding, and throw 3-4 and 5-6 around a bit.
  • Two befores keep 3-4 coursing and produce the coursing order 62345, which introduces the motif of 65 course ends. There are three homes in this position, and calling the first one gives 63425.
  • We are still in a coursing order where five befores will keep 3-4 and 5-6 coursing for four of the five courses, and indeed we call the whole block of five.
  • Back at 63425, call the remaining two homes to get the other 65 course ends and return to 62345.
  • One before gives 56234. Now comes what I think is a clever manoeuvre. The idea of calling wrong and home, used in the David Maynard composition of Bristol, swaps each of the first two pairs in the coursing order, giving 65324. In David's composition, this is used to move between two coursing orders that have 3-4 and 5-6 coursing. Here, however, it takes us to a coursing order that's in a block of five befores from the plain course.
  • From this point on it's easy. Call fours befores to return to the plain course, then finish with three homes, padding them out with blocks of five befores. In these last two blocks of befores, the base coursing orders are 52436 and 54326, so we get 3-4 and 5-6 coursing in four out of the five courses each time.

Incidentally, I met James Smith in a handbell peal in which David Maynard called his 5154 of Bristol. The fourth ringer was Peter Blight, who I rang with many times in the Imperial College days.


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