The Heart of England Handbell Rally, Halesowen, 26th October 2019

What weather! What a day! The drive down to Halesowen in the pouring rain, which went on all day, it was horrendous! We ploughed through pools and rivers right across the road and encountered numerous traffic jams as well!

When we had carried all our equipment into the Church hall, through the driving rain, and set up, we had a welcome cup of hot tea and settled down to enjoy the rally.

The opening remark announced by the compère was “ Here is an important announcement, England have won the Rugby match 19 to 7!”

There was a cheer and then he introduced the Handbell Team that was the first to play, to start the Rally entertainment. We settled back on our comfortable chairs to listen. The playing was crisp and clear with the booming of the bells ringing out loudly. The acoustics were good in the hall and in the second piece there were rhythmic sounds and rounds ringing out bright and clear and confidently around the hall.  In their final piece the huge bells were played with control and precision, making it look slick and effortless.

The second handbell team was a few short in numbers and they had some help from The Inn Ringers. Their repertoire included numbers from the 1940s; the “Call the Midwife” tune got off to a shaky start but once they got going it was a beautiful arrangement with gentle ringing tones, a lovely sound!

The next team began with “Over the Sea to Skye” which they played gently off the table. Some of their large bells were hanging from a wooden pole and the player used a mallet to sound them out in a rendition of “Norwegian Wood” which was nicely played.

It was soon our turn then and we managed our first half quite successfully except that I made a mistake in the first piece (I think it was nerves) and lost my place for a few bars, I must admit I ad-libbed for a few bars towards the end.

The audience seemed to enjoy the chimes in the Eton Boating Song, the tune seemed very appropriate for all the floods we had to negotiate.

We put a lot of effort and enthusiasm into our “ Last Night of the Proms” pieces in the second half, with good dynamics. We were pleased to hear very enthusiastic clapping at the end.

The Halesowen Girls Brigade Belleplate Team played for us, as a visiting entertainment act. We listened, entranced, to the beautiful sounds coming  from the belleplates. The girls played “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” with great concentration and the dynamics were very good. Excellent playing! They finished with “You Raise Me Up” This piece was very moving and sensitively played. I was completely immersed in the ringing tones and the melodious sounds: delightful. The applause was rapturous!

During the interval we all went to the dining area and enjoyed coffee or tea and gorgeous cakes, which members of the Halesowen Team had provided. Here we had a chance to mingle and chat with the other team members.

We thoroughly enjoyed the whole day in spite of the weather and were pleased to have the chance to listen to the varied techniques of the other Handbell Teams, and for us to have played well and taken part in this very pleasant annual event.

Jean Reilly