Concert at St Giles Church, Croxden, Friday 6 December 2019

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

Christmas Carols at Shugborough Hall 2019

A lovely bright Saturday morning, not too cold, but better take plenty of layers as this afternoon we are playing at Shugborough Hall. Past experience tells us it will not be very warm and standing for a couple of hours ringing handbells the chill sets in.

Sue arrived first, only to discover at reception that they were not expecting us! A phone call to Wendy, whose phone was in the boot of the car, and then to myself, assured her that through lack of communication at Shugborough we definitely were booked to play today.

We arrived in plenty of time fortunately, as from the car park it is quite a way to the Mansion House; no buggy in sight, so best foot forward, carrying all our equipment and bells, we set off down the road. On arrival we were given a warm welcome and we set up our music stands and bells just off the entrance hall and prepared to play.

We played a variety of Christmas Carols, working our way through our repertoire, which took about 45 minutes. Plenty of people wandered through  and commented how lovely the bells sounded throughout the house.  A number of people stood around to listen and plenty of money went into our collecting box for the Donna Louise Hospice, the charity we support.

We then had a short break of about 10 minutes, for a sandwich and drink, apart from Dave, who never did manage to have his cup of coffee as more people were approaching and Wendy decided we had better play again.

The buggy driver came to ask what time we would be finished ringing as he would drive us back to reception which was very welcome.

We played through most of the carols again and, if any children came by, we played Jingle Bells, as we have some small jingle bells for them to ring along with us. A number of children took part including a little boy of about 18 months old who rang with great enthusiasm.

At 3pm we packed up our bells and headed to the clock tower for our lift back to reception. We were very grateful for the ride as it was beginning to get chilly as the sun had disappeared. After loading our things back in the car we headed for home after a really enjoyable afternoon.

Josie Bettany 7.12.19

Alton Handbell Ringers' Annual Christmas Concert in aid of The Donna Louise Trust

Saturday 30 November 2019 - Alton Village Hall


Alton Handbell Ringers Annual Christmas Concert in aid of The Donna Louise.


Guest artists  -The Something Good Singers.


Compere - Chris Mellor


What a bitterly cold night it was! Thankfully it did not deter our loyal audience who turned out to support this annual charity event, so the hall was full to capacity as usual.


The handbells started proceedings with a very seasonal Little Drummer Boy, complete with processional introduction and drum accompaniment. (thank you Callum!) This was followed by a spirited arrangement of La Réjouissance from the Handel's Fireworks Music. (Easier to play than to say!) Old favourites Berceuse from Fauré's Dolly Suite (the theme music to Listen with Mother for those old enough to remember) and Feed the Birds from Mary Poppins followed.


Next was our new piece, Michael Helman's original composition Reverie. This piece  captures the true essence of the handbell idiom and displays the full range of our bells and chimes, and it was much appreciated by the audience.

Ending the first half was Tomoko Kanzaki's arrangement of Takeda Rhapsody, a fascinating piece in the Japanese style, employing many different interesting handbell techniques.


The Something Good Singers, a lively group of performers based in Doveridge, took to the stage next and the audience were taken back to the 1960's with a nostalgic selection of all time favourites. They were ably led on the keyboard and guitar by Peter Dixon and sensitively accompanied on drums.The group's energy and enthusiasm had the audience singing along with them.


The traditional Pie and Pea Supper followed. Congratulations to the caterers who did us proud with a delicious meal. Thanks also to the ladies of the bell team who provided some delicious trifles and fruit salads.


The raffle was drawn and many prizes were claimed including a superb Christmas hamper.

Rowena Dawson, representing The Donna Louise, gave an update on the hospice and expressed her gratitude to all those who contributed to the success of the evening and for the fantastic efforts made not only at this concert but throughout the year. Total for the concert was £1,374. 


The Something Good Singers started off the second half with some more toe tapping songs from the past and Alton Handbell Ringers finished off with a selection of Christmas items including a beautiful arrangement by Susan Nelson of Still Still Still.


To complete the evening the audience joined the singers and ringers in a rousing rendition of White Christmas.


What a splendid evening's entertainment. Just the thing to get one in the Christmas spirit! Well done to all those involved in any way.






Stoke-on-Trent South U3A at Longton Methodist Church

Thursday 28th November 2019 was the date for our second Full Team Christmas Concert. The Methodist Hall in the lively metropolis of Longton was our venue. The event was run and organised  by Stoke-on-Trent South U3A. A  mid-week early afternoon is not a usual time for our full team but everyone gathered for our 2.00pm start. The parking faculties were superb as we had to use the Tesco/Argos/Next site which was at the rear of the Methodist Hall. I must say it was very pleasant  using this park without the necessity of having to endure hours of shopping!!

However, it turned out that this resulted in a route march carrying tables and all that we require a distance of some 115 yards and climbing 21 steps for each single journey. It really was a workout before we even started.

After setting up we were ready in good time for our performance.

The fact that we were to play our full programme without an interval meant we all had to be mentally charged up for a full hour of high concentration. Thoughts, reinforced at practices, begin to flash through each of our  minds  before the first note: Watch Wendy our conductor. Have I got all the correct bells and  chimes? Do I need a mallet? When convinced you have the correct bells in hand, look up and smile at Wendy; a signal to lift bells and a count in from Wendy, then like the start of an F1 Race, we are away!

Our first piece ‘Little Drummer Boy’ gave us lots of confidence as some in the audience began to hum and sing along. We must have been playing it correctly therefore for the audience to recognise it. This singalong continued when we played ‘Feed The Birds’. Good applause was given at the end of our numbers from the audience of just over 100.  Three other numbers were played before we played our Christmas selection,

The singing continued with our rendition of 'White Christmas'.

‘Still, Still, Still’ was listened to by a very hushed  and appreciative audience. The ‘West Indies Carol’ was exceptionally well received and interest shown in all the techniques used in playing the piece.

‘O Holy Night’ was so much enjoyed that before we played our last three bars the audience was already applauding. They must be used to watching 'Strictly'

Our  final number again produced much singing as the audience sang along to 'Jingle Bells’ and gave very enthusiastic applause at the end and shouted for more. We gave them another rendering of ‘Jingle Bells’. We had not foreseen the eventuality that an audience might request more, as we had no additional music!!!

Thanks for our performance was given by the Chair of the Group and we were invited to enjoy a really great selection of food from their buffet. This time of relaxation was welcomed before we had the task of dismantling everything and going through the workout of getting everything back to the cars. After a job well done and a busy journey home I am sure everyone was pleased to reach the tranquility of our own homes.

Peter Walker 28.11.19