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Christmas Bells at Chatsworth House

Ringing the  bells at Christmas time is different from any other time of the year. Ringing Christmas carols on handbells is somehow special and the highlight of our year and ringing at Chatsworth House, in the Marble Hall, is extra special. Well, that is what a group of us did on Thursday 20th December.

It takes about an hour to get there so we set off around 4ish to arrive and set up to ring around 5.30 - 6.00pm ( all dressed accordingly in our thermals...the words ‘marble hall’ gives you an inkling that it might not be the warmest of places!)

We were met and it was explained to us that they were running late. Apparently, it was the day the House gives a Christmas party for the children of the village and they were running late and as it was held in the Great Hall no visitors were allowed in ‘til it was finished. So we waited...we looked around the gift shop and some of us sneaked into the next room to see the beautiful decorations .. the giant trees are so spectacular ..we could also look down on to the Great Hall and see Santa sitting half-way up the staircase giving out presents to the children. It looked magical.

Anyway the time came when visitors were walking through and we began to play.  Some carried on walking past but the majority stopped and listened, took photos and videos of us and gave us a clap. We gave out the sleigh bells when we rang Jingle Bells and one little girl was thrilled to ring them. All in all it was a very enjoyable evening although very tiring. We rang for nearly 2 hours nonstop!

The journey back was good, no snow this year! Big thanks to Josie and Alan for driving.

We have put the bells to bed now until 2019 when we look forward to another eventful year.

Sue Robins 22.12.18

An Evening with Whiston WI

On Thursday December 13th, the team visited Whiston Village Hall to play for the Whiston WI.

We received a very warm welcome, and enjoyed a delicious supper - a selection of hot and cold food, followed by indulgent puddings.

We played most of the pieces which we performed at our own recent concert, with a few extra carols added for the audience to join in with.

Wendy earnestly prompted us to keep focused ( and to keep smiling!) which we really tried to do..in spite of a few things going wrong. A music stand fell off the table, carrying the music with it, which heightened anxiety levels, but was no doubt entertaining for the audience. We carried on regardless, congratulating ourselves afterwards on our increasingly professional approach in soldiering on.

Wendy quoted some common handbell sayings during her introduction:

“The right note rung at the wrong time is a wrong note. The wrong note rung at the right time is also a wrong note..especially when it’s the first one of the piece.  If you happen to ring a wrong note give a nasty look to one of your neighbours as though it was their error (usually to the right.)"  That’s not so good for me as my particular position happens to be the furthest to the right. Oh dear!!

Well...we managed to turn up on time, with most of us in the right uniform (you know who you are!!), and to play all of the right bells, usually at the right time.

Many thanks to all of the WI members who were appreciative and wonderful hosts.

Alan’s cracker joke of the evening:

“What did Cinderella say when she took her photos to be developed?

Some day my prints will come!”

Lynne  15.12.18

Photo by Alan Walters

Christmas Magic!

The hall is decked, the guests arrive.  Chris our Compère stands.  The audience settles.  We are ready.  Let the magic begin!

Bells and Belles weave a web that binds us all into a single spellbound entity for the whole evening.

Songs of the ‘40s with their lovely catchy tunes, beautifully sung with energy and joy, by The Heath Belles, complemented by their stylish ‘40s costumes, transport us into a different era.

Techniques on bells and hand chimes (from huge to tiny) create effects that enrich the sound: singing bells, martellato, martellato lift, thumb damping, shelleying, malleting, suspended malleting, echoes, giro and ring touch are all deployed. Sonja’s beautiful flute accompanies "Ding Dong Merrily on High" and Callum’s drumming in “The West Indies Carol” helps to bring the Caribbean right into Alton.

Three months ago, we wondered if we would ever learn the combination of bell techniques Wendy planned for us to use.  On Saturday, we ‘wowed’ even ourselves!   

Ready for traditional pie, peas, trifles and fruit salad, audience and musicians form an orderly queue and a buzz of chatter fills the hall before Julie Beeston reports the latest exciting developments at the Donna Louise trust, where the long planned home-from-home for young people over 18 is due to be up and running in the Spring.

Christmas now takes over and seasonal music fills the hall, reminding us that we are there, not only to enjoy ourselves, but to help others in need.  The wonderful support from everyone present enables us to give over £1,000 to the Donna Louise Trust this year.  We cannot thank you all enough.

Sue Fraser 10.12.18

NB information on the various bell techniques can be found at www.handbellworld.com

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