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There has been a team of handbell ringers in Ecclesfield for over a hundred years.
We are proud of our heritage in general, and in our traditional 'Yorkshire Method' of off-the-table style ringing in particular.
|As founder members of HRGB (Handbell ringers of Great Britain) we travel the country attending rallies with other handbell teams, sharing ideas and promoting this form of music making among the general public. (link to HRGB NE Region - click here)|
|Our bells were made by Whitechapel Bell Foundry (or Mears & Stainbank, as it was then) as a 'long set' in 1925. They number 170 in all, covering over 5 chromatic octaves, with numerous duplicates, some triplicates and an octave of quadruplicates. Our team consists of 10 ringers plus 1 conductor.|
How does this work? You may well ask!
A typical practice can go something like this:-
The bells are arranged around a table fairly much like a piano keyboard with bass notes to the left and treble notes to the right. The duplicates, or 'spares', are scattered around the table in no sensible order, changing places according to the music being played.
10 ringers then stand around the table (like 10 fingers for the piano?) and start with 2 bells each (plus appropriate sharps and flats), except the bottom bass player who, for some reason lost in the mists of time, greedily hogs the bottom octave all to himself. The top 4 ringers, or trebles, who always think they are cleverer than the rest, then grab another octave, higher than their usual bells, and share them out between them.
Someone then produces a 'lovingly' created piece of sheet music, usually hand written, and thinks we should try to play it.
It has all been transcribed into treble clef (something to do with brass bands and history!) which confuses real musicians no end, but seems quite OK to the musical idiots we mostly are. For the same reasons not all the score is written on one sheet. The top 2 octaves are written on 2 identical sheets for the 4 trebles to share. The octave around middle C is written up an octave (so middle C is on the '3rd space') and put on one sheet to be played by the 3 ringers, or tenors, in the middle. What would normally be in bass clef is put on 2 identical sheets for the three remaining bass player to share. This arrangement generally ensures no-one knows what anyone else is doing!
The conductor is the one with a loud voice, but no bells, who shouts one, two, three, etc. The 'music' then starts until someone decides they need three arms, and a general fight ensues to see who can grab the 'spare' bell, which then becomes their bell for the duration of the piece. The conductor shouts "SHUT UP!!" We recommence and proceed until the next fight. Much scribbling and crossing out and 'decomposing' is done to above said 'lovingly' created music. "QUIET!" Eventually we may get from start to finish and a general consensus decides if the piece is worth practising and will find a place in our repertoire, or if sulky arranger will mutter off home, with much maligned music, swearing never to write out another piece ever again!
Luckily, a lot of our music is nearly as old as the bells and all the arrangements and arguments were thrashed out years ago. But we still enjoy a challenge! Who fancies their chances at arranging a new piece for us?
This is all true. I kid you not. Don't believe me? Well join us at the Gatty Hall, Ecclesfield any Wednesday evening after 7.30pm and see.