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I wrote in May about ringing competitions, and in particular the fact that our tower had just been successful in winning the Diocesan Guild 8-bell competition. You may remember that the aim of ringing competitions is to strike the bells with rhythmic accuracy. This is far from a simple task with the best part a a ton of metal on the end of a rope. The Oxford Guild runs two competitions, the other one is for 6-bell ringing and is held in the Autumn. This is in many ways a different competition. It is a much older institution and unlike the 8-bell one which is an all comers event, the 6-be1! competition is between the winners of all the branch competitions. This leads to a far higher standard as it is the final of a process involving possibly a hundred teams.
Most tower bands have more ringers than they have bells. If they did not, then any absence would mean they could not ring all bells. (Regrettably in many country areas this is hard to sustain, but we are among the fortunate towers who have ample resources.) When selecting a competition team, it is from within these ringers that the tower captain must choose. Obviously he has to pick those who are willing to set aside the day of the competition. Also he will naturally select those whom he considers most able to perform well. This in itself can be hard as ringers do not conveniently divide into good strikers and bad; there is a wide spread of ability, as with most human skills.
The only way to polish a performance to competition standard is to practise. This requires commitment to put in the extra time, not only from the chosen few, but also from some who were not chosen, to stand in as substitutes if one of the team is prevented from attending a particular practice. This probably calls for a greater sense of dedication than from those ringing in the team.
Ringing, especially to a high standard, requires an extremely well developed sense of rhythm. But more important is the ability of the whole team to work together to build a shared rhythm. There is little glory in claiming to be the only one in step! Also, you can’t fit in accurately with someone else’s rhythm if it is unsteady. It is hard to describe how to achieve this synergy; it is impossible to teach it; it has to be experienced.
During our practising we could feel that we were ringing more effectively as a team, and so we went into the competition not hoping for luck, certainly net cocky, (one slip could see us off), but knowing that if could all maintain the concentration, we could ring better than ever before. This w did through the semi final and the final and won by a good margin.
We were naturally elated to have succeeded after so much hard work; we were better than all the rest, but we were not perfect. Another team could have beaten us if they had been even better. Perhaps another team will be better next year, spurred on by competing with us. We cannot rest on our laurels, new we have a track record to defend.
Unlike sportsmen though, we do nut just compete against the other players. That is merely a means to an end. We akin to artists, we strive for perfection. The competition only lasts for ten minutes. All the rest of the year there are no other teams, there are no scores, but we are heard, and we will be judged.
John Harrison (Nov 1986)
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