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I have written before about ringing competitions. You may remember that most Guilds, including the Oxford Diocesan Guild, hold these events regularly. They help to raise the quality of ringing by providing extra goals for Sunday service bands to aim at. Over the last few years your ringers have worked hard and won nearly all the Deanery and Diocesan competitions that they have entered. So is it news any more? Where is the challenge if we are now so good?
In fact complacency would be disastrous. Other teams can also practise hard and we have noticed that the standard of the competitions has increased in almost every case. Fortunately we have been able to build on what we have done before and raise our own standards each year.
The Guild 8 Bell competition in April was a good example. It was held at St Mary’s Reading which has a beautiful majestic ring of bells. Unfortunately they are not all beautiful to ring. Two of them are very ‘odd struck’. That’s a bit of jargon which needs explaining.
A bell swings back and forth through a full circle. It comes to rest mouth upwards at each end of the swing and sounds just before it stops. At opposite ends of the stroke the clapper hits opposite sides of the bell, giving two distinct strokes. Both strokes of a free swinging bell give an even rhythm if it is properly hung and fitted. That makes the ringers job much easier.
If the bell is badly hung (as most of our bells are) it needs ringing deliberately unevenly to make it strike in time. Ringers find this very hard because instinct and training make them want to ring evenly!
To return to the competition; more entries this year meant heats in the morning at Wargrave and Sunning. We rang at Sonning which also has odd struck bells, (but different ones). So this year’s competition was, above all, about adaptability to difficult bells. Many teams suffered from the bells, but the better ones put up extremely good performances.
All Saints won by a healthy margin, having rung better than ever before despite the bells. Those of us landed with the awkward bells took extra pleasure from knowing that the enormous effort had paid off.
Does this affect you? Laymen are notoriously tolerant of bad ringing, taking pleasure merely from hearing the bells. But if you listen critically, (remember the ‘listening’ theme?) you should have noticed a steady improvement in the ringing we offer every Sunday.
It will never be perfect. After all, we have ringers at all stages of learning in our midst, and no one can be on peak form all the time, but I hope we will never stop trying to do that little bit better.
John Harrison (May 1987)
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