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New Year ringing

The church may have been closed on New Year’s Day but the church’s voice was far from silent as the bells rang out to welcome the New Year.

I have written before about the custom of ringing a ‘date touch’ at New Year rather than the more usual ’quarter peal’ that we most often ring for special occasions. A quarter peal (1250+ changes) lasts about 50 minutes, only a bit lot longer than normal service ringing, which is why we often ring one for a service. (A full peal takes a whole morning.)

A date touch has as many changes as the year in which it is rung – a bit like candles on a birthday cake. The 2016 changes we rang this year took an hour and eight minutes to ring. The first date touch I rang, in 1964, had 52 fewer changes, so at normal ringing speed would be nearly two minutes shorter. (In fact my 1964 performance only took an hour, because we rang slightly faster on bells that were lighter than ours at All Saints.)

When I wrote about date touches two years ago I explained the difficulty of composing them because ringing methods come in fixed length blocks. Getting the exact number of changes is a bit like trying to sing exactly 13 lines of a hymn that has 4 lines per verse. Most years require a bit of cunning and/or a mix of methods with different length blocks, but that wasn’t necessary this year. 2016 is an exact multiple of 32, which fits the methods we normally ring on eight bells. So we rang one of our favourite methods, Yorkshire Surprise Major – the same as we rang for the peal at All Saint Tide. The last time the year was divisible by 32 was 1984, when we also rang Yorkshire for New Year.

In fact 2016 is the golden year for date touches because it is divisible by all the right numbers for 6, 7, 8 and 9 bells. There won’t be another year as good until 4032!

This year’s performance included ringers from Eversley, Hurst, Reading, Shiplake, and Tilehurst, as well as our own.

There is a published record of the performance at: http://bb.ringingworld.co.uk/view.php?id-986806 

John Harrison (January 2015) 

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