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Al fresco ringing

As well as ringing tower bells, some of our ringers regularly ring handbells with other local ringers. That doesn’t mean tune ringing, we ring changes just like we do with tower bells.

Of course controlling a bell in your hand that weighs a pound or so is much easier than controlling one that weighs a fraction of a ton on the end of fifty feet of rope. But it’s not that easy since we ring two bells each instead of one. So although the physical challenge is less, the mental challenge is doubled (bearing in mind that everything is from memory with no ‘music’).

Change ringing in hand is rarely heard in public, though there have been some performances in church – the Celebrating Community fund raising concert, the ‘Two Churches Music Festival’ and the opening of the Flower & Vestment Festival. We also rang in the churchyard for some weddings while the bells were out for restoration.

Normally we ring indoors, but in the current situation we can’t do that, but since the restrictions were eased to allow limited outdoor gatherings we have been meeting on our lawn and we have rung a couple of quarter peals. Ringing with the chairs twice as far apart as normal feels very odd, and in the open air the sound tends to get lost, so your own bells sound quite loud but the more distant bells sound much quieter.

There are also distractions – a steady flow of cars and the occasional noisy motorbike. On one occasion it unexpectedly started raining when we still had half an hour to go, but fortunately it only lasted a couple of minutes.

Meeting and ringing together again has lifted our spirits. And when people passing the gate paused to watch us maybe the sound lifted their spirits too. Sadly the same will not be possible in the tower, where there is no ventilation and we all breath the same air. It’s also more strenuous than sitting ringing handbells, which means heavy breathing and more exhaled aerosols being shared. And that’s before we think about trying to disinfect the ropes.

Ringing handbells on the lawn

John Harrison (June 2020) 

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