For our last full team concert of the festive season, we had been invited to the tiny church at Croxden, just a few miles from Alton. It was beautifully decorated and had a huge Christmas tree beside the altar. It was also beautifully warm, a great bonus.
Because the church is so small, organising our tables was a bit like a jigsaw puzzle – we had to all fit together properly to get the picture (sound) right! We are usually in a wide horseshoe shape with the smallest bells at one end and the big bells (which need a lot of room) at the other, running chromatically. Here, to get the sound balance right, the smaller higher bells were positioned in front of the altar rail on one side, not exactly squashed, but very cosy; some of bass bells were on the other side with rather more room. The mid-range bells were arranged at 90 degrees in the aisle between the choir stalls with Wendy and her baton almost with arm’s reach. Alan, with the very large bells and hand chimes, was very pleased to have two whole tables to himself, though he was very close to the audience. The only space left for me to go with the jingle bells which played in two pieces (Takeda Rhapsody and, yes, Jingle Bells) was in the pulpit! Although it seemed very strange at first, we were delighted with the acoustics and found that we could hear each other ringing much better than usual.
Peter and Grace (piano and voice), accompanied by Anthony on drums, who were appearing with us, managed to squeeze into the space between the altar and the altar rail, though Peter looked at first as though he might have to fight with the tinsel on the tree...
For this concert we kept to our previous repertoire with a range of classical and popular music as well as music written specifically for handbells, in the first half, and Christmas music in the second. Peter and Grace performed a variety of songs from the 40s through to the 70s – there was some singalong - before the interval, when everyone could enjoy mulled wine and mince pies. At the end, we sang three carols, accompanied by Peter on the piano. I must admit I’d never sung ‘While Shepherds Watched’ to the tune on ‘On Ilkla Moor Baht Tat’ before, although I gather this hymn tune ‘Cranbrook’ predates the song. I had to remember which words to sing!
We had a lovely appreciative audience and a good night out. Thank you Croxden for your hospitality and a Merry Christmas to all.
Lindsay Trevarthen 9 December 2019