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Ringing in striking competitions is an aspect of bell ringing that most non-ringers never come across. Don’t be misled by the title – it’s nothing to do with withdrawing our labour. ‘Striking’ is the technical term used to describe the rhythmic quality of the ringing. The more even the rhythm, the higher the quality. It’s hard to achieve a perfect rhythm, but when you get close to it, the result can sound magical.
In a striking competition, teams from different churches perform a test piece, with the award going to the team that produces the highest quality ringing. In most competitions the test piece lasts about ten minutes. Sonning Deanery holds two competitions each year, one for 6-bell ringing and one for 8-bell ringing. All Saints currently holds the trophy for both. But the real prize of the 6-bell competition is to represent the Deanery in the Oxford Diocesan Guild competition, where the standard is much higher. This year’s competition was held at Longcot, in the Vale of the White Horse on 3rd October. As luck would have it, we rang there on our tower outing in the summer.
Practice makes perfect, so the team stayed behind after the main ringing practice the previous Monday, and they also arranged another practice on bells of similar weight on the way to the competition on the Saturday. The bells at the practice tower turned out to be none too good – not just poor tone, but most of the bells were ‘odd struck’ (ie they don’t strike quite when they should). It was hard work trying to compensate for the idiosyncratic bells, and the result was less than ideal, but it was useful practice.
The bells at Longcot were much better (only one slightly odd struck bell) and after a couple of minutes try-out, we settled into the practice piece and achieved some good, rhythmic ringing. Teams are allowed to choose the method they ring, and the judges complemented us for being more adventurous than most. We rang ‘Minor’ (all six bells changing) whereas all the others played safe with ‘Doubles’ (five bells changing and the lowest note always ringing last).
We didn’t win, but we came a very respectable third, not too far behind the first two (with almost identical scores) and comfortably ahead of the nearest of the other five teams. Having not got as far as the Guild competition for some years, it was a pleasing result.
John Harrison (October 2009)
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