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Everyone associates bells with Christmas – drawn on cards, hung from the trees or sounding from the tower. Christmas also sees more people come to church, and we try to ensure that whichever service they attend will be accompanied by the sound of ringing.
In a busy parish like All Saints that means a lot of ringing. This year we rang for seven services within 25 hours, including family communion on the morning of Christmas Eve. The last time Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday was in 2006, but then we only had one crib service, which means this year was an all time record.
The following week we rang on the morning of New Year’s Day to welcome 2018 – a more melodious sound than the fireworks of the previous night. Appropriately we rang a ‘date touch’, which is a special performance whose length matches the year in which it is rung – taking somewhat over an hour.
In 2016 I explained that composing a date touch could be difficult because most ringing methods come in fixed length blocks (the hymns come in verses with a fixed number of lines). 2016 was ideal for us because 2016 is a multiple of 32, which is the block size of lots of interesting 8 bell methods. 2018 obviously isn’t a multiple of 32, but there’s a compositional trick that can be used to add two extra rows at the end.
Many of our ringers were away, but thanks to the strong links within the local ringing community we were able to draw on ringers from other towers, so the band that rang included ringers from Reading, Wargrave, Eversley & Newbury as well as our own.
Christmas ends for us when we take down the Christmas tree that we put up in December. We had favourable comments about the large paper snowflakes on the tree this year, so maybe they will return next year.
John Harrison (January 2018)
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