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Changing times – service ringing

Ringing for services is part and parcel of being a bellringer, with the rhythm of regular ringing being a feature of life in parishes across the land, but service ringing at All Saints has become a bit of a ‘variable feast’ in recent years with the increasing number of pre-service music rehearsals making it impractical to ring for some services.

It might seem odd that voices and instruments in church can disrupt a performance on the loudest musical instrument known to mankind, but the sound level where we ring in the gallery is far less than it is in the bell chamber – if it weren’t we would have to wear ear defenders. It’s around 70-73dB, which is slightly more than a typical TV or radio but no match for a choral rehearsal in full swing (up to 79dB) or an amplified band (up to 85dB). The competing sound breaks through the ringer’s concentration, making it very hard to listen and focus on trying to ring accurately.

The solution we all want is the glass screen in the gallery arch, which will enable ringing performances and music rehearsals to co-exist. It would have been installed long ago were it not for heritage issues that have taken years to resolve. We believe we now have an ’approvable’ solution, and we are moving it forward as quickly as possible. But nothing is ‘quick’ when dealing with a complex project in a Grade II* listed church building, so even with no further obstacles it will take months not weeks.

More pre-service music rehearsals this autumn will mean more services without ringing, but when we can’t ring for the 9.30 service we hope to ring mid morning (between the 9.30 service and the 11.15 service). That might not be possible every time since some ringers aren’t available mid morning and our numbers are currently somewhat depleted.

People have told us how much they miss regular ringing. So do we, and we hope to ‘restore normal service’ as soon as we can. But we have to work within the constraints of the current rehearsal regime so ‘normal service’ won’t be possible until after the screen is installed.

Full details of when we ring and when we don’t ring (as far as we can predict) are on the tower website at: allsaintswokinghambells.org.uk/diary 

John Harrison (September 2015) 

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