Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Ramble 2 - The bells The bells

Rings, loops and double-backs...

Ramble 2 has led me towards visiting two bell-ringing groups in Shoreham by Sea over the last two weeks.  I attended two practice sessions. One with the St Mary De Haura Bell Ringers (of the large variety ie. change ringing in a church) and the second with the St Mary De Haura handbell ringers.  Both groups were really welcoming and I even got to join in and play some handbells. I played lower C and D and was reminded that I can in fact read music, something that I had somehow forgotten.

It goes without saying that he two experiences were completely different.

With the large bells, after being let into St Mary De Haura's after hours and climbing the winding staircase, the group stood in a circle and pulled on ropes (the bells themselves weren't visible). They pulled the bells in various patterns which were called out to them by one person.  Names of patterns that have stayed with me were 'Cambridge' and 'Yorkshire', which were bellowed out above the sound of the bells, but there were a lot more.  In between sessions the ropes were tied up - so feet don't get caught up in them I presume... The sound and the patterns were incredible, plus also the simple act of watching a team of people work together and move in the same manner in order to produce an ordered sound - there was so much choreography involved!

After the session, one of the members sent me a leaflet called '20 questions and 19 answers about English Church Bells' and in his note to me said "what other organisations outside of bellringing offer free training and use of £100,000's equipment in beautiful historic settings and a life-time's worth of skill progression?"...well... exactly...  It definitely seemed to be keeping those involved fit and happy!  I was lucky enough to record the session and hope to use some of fragments in the sound installation I now know I am working towards producing.

The handbell practice was equally intriguing. The bells themselves are covetable objects and sound beautiful.  The group stood in more of a horseshoe shape and played from music as opposed to memory.  Everyone wore white gloves and some of the group played several bells at once.  Again, it was great to witness (and experience) a group working together to produce a particular sound or set of sounds.  At the end of the night the bells were packed away into orange velvet drawstring bags and black boxy cases - something I also of course enjoyed seeing.  Because I was playing in this session (which was a surprise to me) I didn't manage to record, but intend to return another time to do so...

Somehow, all of this is coming together. I have a sense of what the story-telling part of Ramble 2 might be about and I'm going to start writing some text and threads of thoughts tomorrow...

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