Practice · 2012Jul29Su

Seven ringers:  Anne, Barbara, Jody, Judy, Ken, Rob, Thomas.  Anne, Judy, and Thomas arrived at 6:00 for an abbreviated Early Practice and raised all eight bells.

  • One Stroke then Stand, starting from hand and then from back.
  • Full Pull then Stand, many times.
  • Three Strokes then Stand, several times.
  • One Stroke then Stand again, several times, much better now.
  • Rounds on Seven, on the heavy seven and the light seven, with various permutations of ringers on bells.
  • Rounds on Six, with the most experienced ringer standing behind each of the other ringers in turn to offer advice.
  • Plain Hunt on Four with three covers.
  • Rang down in peal.

Plain Bob class at Pittsburgh

Miami ringer Thomas attended the Plain Bob class at Pittsburgh’s Southminster Presbyterian Church‘s eight-bell tower Jul27Fr-29Su, led by Don Morrison and assisted by senior ringers from Kalamazoo, Marietta, and elsewhere.  Eight students from all over North America attended, generously hosted by local ringers.  The class focused on moving each student as far as possible towards Plain Bob competence on up to Major (seven working bells), using approaches including:

  • One student on the 3 surrounded by five steady ringers, with a senior ringer standing behind and coaching:  ringing Plain Hunt on Five with tenor behind, repeated plain courses of Plain Bob Doubles (five working bells plus tenor behind), and touches with cannily chosen sequences of calls to work the student through his/her weak points.
  • One student on the 4 surrounded by seven steady ringers, with a senior ringer standing behind:  ringing Plain Hunt on Seven, repeated plain courses of Plain Bob Triples (seven working bells), and touches.  Not all students appeared to reach the level of touches on seven.
  • Tenoring behind on six or eight, either in a band ringing advanced methods for fun or, once the student was steady enough, with a group including another student on a working bell.
  • Trebling on six or eight, again either in an advanced band or, once the student was steady enough, with a group including another student.  By the end of the weekend there was often a steady student trebling and another tenoring while a third student worked on ringing inside.
  • Bands with two students on working bells, usually the 3 and 4 out of eight.
  • Focused practice on placing blows properly when Plain Hunting, initially on six bells and then, once the blows were close enough on six, on eight, for which the placement is both harder to hear (because there are so many bells, striking so quickly in succession) and more stringently constrained (ditto).
  • Focused practice on dodging, with the band ringing a variant on Plain Hunt in which the student and three other ringers dodged every lead in the same place.  Each student was repeatedly worked through whichever dodges were giving him/her trouble, up or down.
  • Focused practice on whatever was not up to standard, for example placement of particular blows.  I worked extensively on placing the backstroke lead correctly instead of a hair too soon, for example, and on correctly placing the blow in fifths when hunting in, rather than slightly late.  Why only the blow in fifths?  That was the only one that was routinely off, mysteriously.  But th focused practice fixed it.

Don Morrison hosted a buffet for all the ringers aprés-ringing on Friday evening;  the band set out a buffet in one of the church buildings for Saturday lunch;  many of the ringers dined in and admired the splendid space of the Church Brew Works for Saturday dinner;  and the band set out a table of cold cuts for ringers to lunch on when they weren’t ringing on Sunday.

Though the four heavy bells were cast in 1814 for another tower, the Southminster tower will be celebrating its tenth anniversary later this year.  Its 3 and 4 were cast in 1934, and the light two in 2000 for this tower.  All eight were cast by the Whitechapel foundry, as were the Miami bells.  They range in weight from 494 to 917 pounds, but are hung with the center of gravity fairly far below the axis of rotation so that they ring only a little faster than the Miami bells.  It is said that there had been plans to use the space in the tower for a handball court, but the church’s director of music at the time blocked it, so that when a donor came forward it was possible to acquire and set up the bells and start a band.

The bells are hung in a square frame (rather than radially like Miami’s).  Anyone familiar with Miami’s bells will notice a number of differences in the parts of the mechanism and the way the bells are mounted in the frame.  It appears they were installed by local engineers unfamiliar with ringing, because the bel chamber was constructed with a concrete floor supported by steel beams into the tower walls and the bell frame was bolted directly to the concrete.   Consequently, when the bells rang the entire tower moved.  The motion was said to be perceptible six floors down in the basement of the church. The ringers cut the bolts, jacked up the frame, and set it back down atop wooden 2x8s laid flat, so that now when the bells ring the frame shifts back and forth a bit on the wooden supports but doesn’t move the tower.

The local engineers also decided that an intermediate chamber was unnecessary, so when the bells are ringing it is deafeningly loud, literally, in the ringing chamber.  A local ringer had a sound pressure meter in the ringing chamber on Saturday, and it was registering 87 decibels throughout the chamber while the bells were going.  Any sound 85 decibels or higher can cause permanent hearing loss;  a rule of thumb is that one hour is the maximum safe time at 85 dB, and the louder the sound the faster it causes permanent loss.  If you visit the Pittsburgh tower, please be sure to ask for a pair of earplugs from the large box of them the band keeps on the shelves in the far right corner of the room.  Preserve your hearing—you won’t be getting any more of it!

Service ringing · 2012Jul29Su

Seven ringers:  Anne, Barbara, Jody, Judy, Marguerite, Nancy, Rob.  They raised the front seven (1234567).

  • Rounds and Call Changes on Seven.
  • Plain Hunt on Three with three covers.

A couple with two young daughters came to observe as guests of one of the ringers, and each took a pull at a rope before the bells were raised.  We hope some or all of them will decide they want to learn to ring!

Christ Church Dublin photos

Here are a selection of photos from Miami ringer Eoin Ardila’s session at the tower of Christ Church Dublin.  Note the two different colors of bell rope sallies; perhaps the red sallies distinguish the ropes for the three bells whose notes are in a different key.

Left:  Eoin is the ringer on the left. His non-ringing sister Carmen is at lower right.  Right:  Another view of the ringing chamber.

The bell tower and the church from outside.

Practice · 2012Jul24Tu


Four ringers:  Anne, Judy, Marguerite, Thomas.  Marguerite arrived a few minutes early and raised the 5 so we were able to ring Rounds and Call Changes on Five briefly until Nancy had to leave at the end of Early Practice.

  • Rounds and Call Changes (called up).
  • Plain Hunt on Three with tenor behind.
  • We called the first three into most of the six possible permutations, and began Plain Hunt on Three with tenor behind from those initial rows.
  • Kaleidoscope exercises:  Long Places, Places, and Dodges.
  • Rang down more or less in peal.

Early Practice · 2012Jul24Tu

Four ringers:  Anne, Judy, Nancy, Thomas.

The ringers met at the parish hall where there is a wireless internet connection, and went through how to learn Call Changes using the online practice program.  It was very helpful for everyone to see how everyone else approaches both using a web program and learning and thinking about Call Changes.  For example, many of us don’t feel comfortable with Call Changes unless we understand it in a big-picture sense;  all the considerations below were raised and discussed:

  • How does a call relate to a diagram of the bells such as ringers use for methods?
    The online practice program shows a diagram for all the calls so far, so ringers can explore this by using the program.
  • What are all the bells doing, not just mine?  Does each ringer need to keep the entire sequence of bells in his/her head?
    Our conclusion:  that’s great as a long-term goal, but far too ambitious for ringers just starting to do Call Changes.
  • What does “to” means in a call such as “2 to 3”?
    Our conclusion:  it might be considered a contraction for “2 move to follow 3”, if that’s a helpful way to think of it.
  • Which numbers are bells (like “the 3”) and which are places (like “3rds place”)?
    Our conclusion:  all the numbers in calls are bell numbers, not place numbers.  But a ringer should try to keep his/her place number in mind meanwhile.
  • Why are Call Changes called the way they are, rather than in some other way that might make more sense?
    Our conclusion:  who knows?  That’s the convention everywhere and has been for a long time, so that’s what we need to learn to work with.
  • What is the goal for a call such as “2 to 3”?  Why is that being called rather than some other call?
    We noted that not every call is allowed, depending on the context.  For example, in rounds 12345, the (up) call “2 to 3” is allowed, resulting in the row 13245, but not the up call “2 to 4”.  No call is allowed that would make any bell move more than one place;  the only calls that are allowed are those that ask two bells ringing in adjacent places to swap places.

We also got concrete confirmation that the practice software uses recently-added features of the Javascript language, and so it is unusable without an up-to-date standards-compliant browser, which for some computers are not available;  one ringer’s Mac, not that many years old, can’t be updated to such a browser because of the changes in Apple’s hardware evolution path (we tried).

The Dean stopped by to look over our shoulders for a moment and chat.

After the software practice session, we moved to the tower, rang up four bells, and rang Rounds and Call Changes.

Miami ringer rings at Christ Church Dublin

Miami ringer Eoin reports from Dublin, Ireland that he rang at the 2012Jul20Fr practice at the Christ Church tower.  26 ringers attended the two-hour practice.

The tower there has a total of 19 bells for change ringing, the largest ring in the world, though not all 19 would be rung at once as they are not all in the same scale (see diagram at right).  The bells support peals of 12 (an octave plus a fifth) in 3 keys (B, C#, F#) as well as two peals of 14 (B major and C# major) and one of 16 (B major), and are described in Dove’s Guide as in B, plus 6#, 9#, and 13#.  Keeping in mind that bells are numbered from the highest pitch downward, this would be the set of pitches illustrated at right, with blue for B major, red for C# major, and green for F# major.  The peal of 14 in C# major probably sounds a bit awkward, as it runs from low B to high A#.

We look forward to hearing more about his experiences when Eoin returns in a few weeks.

Service ringing · 2012Jul22Su

Seven ringers:  Anne, Jim, Jody, Judy, Marguerite, Nancy, Thomas.  We began raising bells a few minutes after 9:00.

  • Rounds on Four then up to Seven as the remaining ringers arrived.  We occasionally called some changes when the rounds steadied.
  • Plain Hunt on Four with two covers, as our show-ringing immediately before the service.
  • Rang down more or less in peal.