Bell ringing

Last night I was able to attend the bell ringing practice in the tower of St. Michael’s and All Angels Church in Wolverhampton. I’ve attended practice three times now, so I’m beginning to understand something about this amazingly complicated and very English form of music making.

The Band

Several of the ringers allowed me to interview them on camera afterward in the local pub (there are two pubs within a block of the church, and having a pint after practice is an integral  part of the experience) and they said some very wise things about bell ringing. It is a complicated undertaking, and ringers have to memorize intricate patterns and work together as a team. There are so many towers in England that you can spend every night of the week ringing with a different band. Peels of bells are pretty rare in Canada, though we’re lucky enough to have one in Toronto and in Victoria.

Chris Twiggs

My friend Renee set up a breakfast meeting with her neighbour, Chris Twiggs, who happens to be an expert on touring WWI battlefields in northern France and Belgium. We poured over the map (literally – that is a tea cup you see there) and he gave me some advice about what to see on my trip later in November.

Now we’re off to visit a nearby village with notable ruins. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow!

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7 Responses to Band of Bellringers

  1. abner says:

    Sounds like great fun. We now know more of your goings on than when you’re at home. Sold some of your cd’s yesterday. “O Sacrum Convivium” sounds sort of Rachmaninov’ish don’t you think?

    • Ricardo says:

      For the first four and a half years of my life I lived half way along this street (Chapel) on the right hand side. I vdlviiy recall Petrie’s the butchers on the right. The house behind the shop with the steps wasn’t there but I do recall an old banger of a car rusting away ungracefully in the waste area where that house once was. Bill Davidson, then David Urqhuart had their joiners workship there before it was demolished and a bungalow built in it’s place.

      • Stephanie Martin says:

        Thanks so much for this reply Ricardo. I missed reading it when you posted, so forgive this very tardy response.

  2. David Pabke says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    Quebec City actually had TWO peals of bells when I was growing up!
    I rang at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in a situation where we were all “beginners”. Out greatest achievement was to learn “plain hunting” (see below) – we used to make it about halfway through the required 16 change pattern!

    “Plain Hunting” => The Simplest Change Ringing Pattern
    (Only the first half of the pattern is shown here – moving from “1 to 8” to “8 to 1”

    (Bell # 1 (highest pitch) starts in position 1 etc)

    POS 1 POS 2 POS 3 POS 4 POS 5 POS 6 POS 7 POS 8
    Start 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
    First 2 1 4 3 6 5 8 7
    Second 2 4 1 6 3 8 5 7
    Third 4 2 6 1 8 3 7 5
    Fourth 4 6 2 8 1 7 3 5
    Fifth 6 4 8 2 7 1 5 3
    Sixth 6 8 4 7 2 5 1 3
    Seventh 8 6 7 4 5 2 3 1
    Eighth 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

    You can see how bell # 4 “hunts” bell # 2 up and down the ordering etc!

    Thanks very much for sharing your experiences by blog!

    Regards and best wishes

    • Stephanie Martin says:

      This is wonderful David. It is those moving patterns, like square dancing, that makes this musical activity so fascinating. The other, human element of people working together to produce this 50 feet up in a stone tower is equally delicate and complex.

  3. Just to add to the list, the church I grew up and was a chorister in, Christ Church in Calgary (where Paul and Tina regularly perform), has eight bells in its tower. I attempted to be a bell ringer, but never mastered the intricate concentration required while being simultaneously terrified of being pulled up through an extremely small hole by a run-away bell. Climbing up right into the bell housing itself was a regular occurance, to “tie off” the clappers so that practice could proceed in the evenings without disturbing the neighbourhood. I contend that you don’t know fear until you’ve been up in a dark, dangerous bell tower.

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