Christmas Carols at Shugborough Hall 2019 sue fraser Sun, 08/12/2019 - 12:13

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
sue fraser Thu, 05/12/2019 - 19:42

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


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