The Gnosall Handbell Ringers –Ringing for Pleasure

The Gnosall Handbell Ringers

Ringing for Pleasure

The team was formed in 1973 following a visit of some of the St. Lawrence
tower bell ringers to the first public rally and evening concert of the
Handbell Ringers of Great Britain (HRGB),held in Birmingham Town Hall.
The ringers had been introduced to handbells by two ringers from Brewood.
They rang 4 in hand so between them they could just span an octave.
Following the rally,on the train journey back to Gnosall great discussion
took place as to how we could proceed. At the time we only had 14 bells
and since there were more than 3 people who were interested in ringing
tunes it was decided to adapt the Brewood notation so that each ringer only
had the 2 notes on their sheet for which they had bells in their hand.
It was fortunate that one of the ringers knew that at St. Oswalds,Oswestry
there were 45 bells which were not being used,so he arranged for us to
borrow them. Our first adventure was to write out some carol tunes and
tour the village using a garden trolley to support the music as we walked
from street to street. One villager said ‘what are you collecting for’,we
replied ‘we are not collecting’,to which he said ‘Oh you must’. So he joined
us and started collecting. He,although not a tower bell ringer,later joined
the group.
With 45 bells our musical director started to arrange more tunes,and so
skilful were his arrangements that after attending our first National Rally of
the HRGB in Preston that we were invited to play in the evening concert of
the next year’s rally in Bristol.
We had decided to purchase a set of 45 bells from the Whitechapel Foundry
and priced them at £1500,and set about raising that amount,but when
the time came to pay for them the price had gone up,so with a grant from
the Parish Council and individual loans we managed to pay for them. To
pay back the loans we decided to make a record. This was recorded by a
member in the lounge of our Musical Director’s home and pressed for us
by the Grosvenor Studio in Birmingham. The sale of this record paid off the
loans. At the same time as our bells were being made our Musical Director
bought a duplicate set for himself. He then incorporated these into our set
making tunes much easier to arrange. With only 45 bells at his disposal,he
had to move the bells to different positions,between pieces,in order for
the ringers to handle the changes,that meant that there had to be a gap
between tunes while bells were moved into their right place to play the next
tune. This interval was covered by introductions to the tune and comments
about bell ringing. With more bells they could be placed on the table in
fixed positions so that the ringers would learn these positions and be able
to pick the bells up virtually without looking for them. Much later bells were
added to the set at both ends of the range,so that now we have 4½ octaves.
The bells are dedicated to the village and as such cannot be disposed of.
They are in Trust which allows the present ringers the use of them for as long
as the group exists.
As with all organisations people come and go. At the moment we do not
have sufficient members to fill the 11 places for which our music is set out.
Just before Christmas two people came to join us and are progressing very
well. We are still in dire need of a strong person who can handle our largest
bells and others to replace our longest serving members who will step aside
to encourage the new people.
We practice in the Brierley Room of the Grosvenor Centre from 8.00 to
10.00pm each Tuesday evening.

You may feel that you cannot join a group playing music because you
cannot read ‘staff notation’. This is not a problem with our music since we
use a ‘letter notation’ which tells the ringer which bell to ring and at what
time using a chart. Initially all you need to have is a sense of rhythm and to
be able to count to 4 and 10,and remembering the position of the bells on
the table in front of you.

Peter Jobling

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