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

Pupils enjoy a taste of handbell ringing.

The Alton Handbell Ringers were asked to introduce handbells to the children at  Hollinsclough Primary Academy back in December 2018.

We were delighted to agree, and a project was devised which would consist of the whole school accessing 10 hours of tuition.

The first group consisted of the youngest children (including the Nursery aged children), who learned to play small colour coded bells. They were very good, learning about rhythm, tone and musical notation. We played simple tunes and chords.

The older children played two sets of belleplates, and read harder notation which involved counting and numbers…much as the AHR Handbell Team do.

Both groups achieved a lot, working hard and with enthusiasm.

We aimed towards the presentation of an Easter Service at Longnor Church, when children from the school in Longnor, parents and other villagers came to listen to the final production.

There was also one occasion when a larger team of Handbell Ringers visited to play to the children. I think they were impressed!

Each week, different members of the AHR Team went along to help, so many people were involved. I think however, that all would agree …team members, children and staff… that the project was useful and extremely enjoyable for us all. We hope that we have left a lasting legacy of the love of music and handbells with the pupils.

Lynne 23.7.19

Children’s views:

From: Principal <>

Date: 16 July 2019 at 12:02:08 BST

Morning Wendy,

We asked the children who enjoyed the bell sessions, and all put their hands up.  Wish I could have bottled their response for you!

Comments included:

Oliver S -  ‘it was fun to take part and fascinating to hear about their jobs in the Church’.

Will R – ‘it would be great if all the family could join in too, and take part’.

Oliver R – ‘ it was really fun.’.

Indi – ‘I think it was inspiring.  It was generous of them to give up their time, wasn’t it?’

Charlie – ‘I enjoyed doing it and want them to come back’.

Mrs O (with Bethan agreeing) – ‘What was also great was that it was an alternative way of learning maths’.

Many, many thanks for all your hard work, it was very much appreciated by us all. Please let us know if there is anything we can do for you in return.

Kind regards,

Janette Mountford-Lees


£200 Donation for Churnet Valley First Responders

Alton Handbell Ringers present a cheque for £200 to Churnet Valley First Responders outside Alton Village Hall on Thursday 4 July.  Left to right: Sue R, Beryl, Wendy, First Responder, Sarah, Jean.

Photo by Alan Walters

Draycott Bells Concert 10.2.19

What a lovely audience! Everyone in the Church Hall was very welcoming. As we began to play our opening music, “Celebration”, there was a “feel good” factor straight away. We were all determined to play everything with feeling and to the best of our ability together with good dynamics and no racing away!

Our peripheral vision was totally concentrated on Wendy”s wand!

The audience looked rapturous; that is, what little I could see of them without taking my eyes off the music.

My daughter, Lucy and my two grandchildren were in the audience, sitting on the front row. I was determined that, as a team, we gave a good impression. I even tried to smile a little as I played!

In some of the pieces Morgan, the youngest, looked mesmerised but I have to admit in some parts of the performance they both looked pretty tired and a little bored with the proceedings. Not to worry, the delicious tea and cakes cheered them up no end and gave them the boost to watch the second half!

During the half time break two ladies sang some solos and duets, accompanied by a talented pianist. My word they were very good, reaching some amazingly high notes! They were splendid and we could have a rest and a sit down to listen to some well known songs from the shows and operas.

Our second half began with “You Raise Me Up”, which was a good choice because we needed something to “ Raise us Up” after the tea and cakes! The audience too looked uplifted (excuse the pun), very good dynamics in this one.

There was a stillness in the Hall throughout our playing of the Polaris piece. We played it softly and carefully, almost holding our breath and it sounded magical. I think we could imagine the moving colours of the Northern Lights spreading across a vast sky.

In contrast to this the audience sang along heartily to “3 For the Road”and “Over the Rainbow”; no wrong notes or keys from the singers, at least!

Our Finale was the “ Vivaldi” arrangement which went down well. They all seemed have enjoyed themselves and so did we. The concert was rated a great success!

Jean Reilly 11.2.19