An Evening with Whiston WI

On Thursday December 13th, the team visited Whiston Village Hall to play for the Whiston WI.

We received a very warm welcome, and enjoyed a delicious supper - a selection of hot and cold food, followed by indulgent puddings.

We played most of the pieces which we performed at our own recent concert, with a few extra carols added for the audience to join in with.

Wendy earnestly prompted us to keep focused ( and to keep smiling!) which we really tried to spite of a few things going wrong. A music stand fell off the table, carrying the music with it, which heightened anxiety levels, but was no doubt entertaining for the audience. We carried on regardless, congratulating ourselves afterwards on our increasingly professional approach in soldiering on.

Wendy quoted some common handbell sayings during her introduction:

“The right note rung at the wrong time is a wrong note. The wrong note rung at the right time is also a wrong note..especially when it’s the first one of the piece.  If you happen to ring a wrong note give a nasty look to one of your neighbours as though it was their error (usually to the right.)"  That’s not so good for me as my particular position happens to be the furthest to the right. Oh dear!!

Well...we managed to turn up on time, with most of us in the right uniform (you know who you are!!), and to play all of the right bells, usually at the right time.

Many thanks to all of the WI members who were appreciative and wonderful hosts.

Alan’s cracker joke of the evening:

“What did Cinderella say when she took her photos to be developed?

Some day my prints will come!”

Lynne  15.12.18

Photo by Alan Walters

Christmas Magic!

The hall is decked, the guests arrive.  Chris our Compère stands.  The audience settles.  We are ready.  Let the magic begin!

Bells and Belles weave a web that binds us all into a single spellbound entity for the whole evening.

Songs of the ‘40s with their lovely catchy tunes, beautifully sung with energy and joy, by The Heath Belles, complemented by their stylish ‘40s costumes, transport us into a different era.

Techniques on bells and hand chimes (from huge to tiny) create effects that enrich the sound: singing bells, martellato, martellato lift, thumb damping, shelleying, malleting, suspended malleting, echoes, giro and ring touch are all deployed. Sonja’s beautiful flute accompanies "Ding Dong Merrily on High" and Callum’s drumming in “The West Indies Carol” helps to bring the Caribbean right into Alton.

Three months ago, we wondered if we would ever learn the combination of bell techniques Wendy planned for us to use.  On Saturday, we ‘wowed’ even ourselves!   

Ready for traditional pie, peas, trifles and fruit salad, audience and musicians form an orderly queue and a buzz of chatter fills the hall before Julie Beeston reports the latest exciting developments at the Donna Louise trust, where the long planned home-from-home for young people over 18 is due to be up and running in the Spring.

Christmas now takes over and seasonal music fills the hall, reminding us that we are there, not only to enjoy ourselves, but to help others in need.  The wonderful support from everyone present enables us to give over £1,000 to the Donna Louise Trust this year.  We cannot thank you all enough.

Sue Fraser 10.12.18

NB information on the various bell techniques can be found at

Alton Handbells and the Heath Belles, 7.30 pm, Saturday 8 December, Alton Village Hall.

Tickets are available from 1st November.  Adults £12, children £5, including pie and peas supper (with dessert). Please go to the ‘Contact’ page to order tickets.

Our Grand Christmas Concert in aid of the Donna Louise Trust this year combines the talents of a section of the Heath Chorus (The Heath Belles) and the Alton Handbell Ringers.  Chris Mellor will host the show and we look forward to welcoming a speaker to update us on the Donna Louise Trust.





Alton Handbells and the Stoke Mystery, Friday 12 and Saturday 13 October 2018

Alton Handbells at the B-Arts Centre

Friday night saw the AHR perform with a team from the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester at B-Arts in Stoke-on-Trent. Community theatre, in the round about community life, at its best despite basic facilities; a stark warehouse from the outside - blink and you would miss it in passing. The welcome was warm and friendly, a lingering smell of baking bread and cakes, plus tea/coffee and even a bar.

This was part of “The Mysteries” cycle of 6 short plays performed in the actual town or city written about. Stoke-on-Trent was fifth in the cycle. The others were Eskdale, Staindrop, Whitby, Boston and Manchester, the last being the finale on 4 and 11 November at The Royal Exchange. The caption on the programme “when a place gets big enough to tell itself a story...”.

Part of this story was set in a Bell Tower and required some “change ringing” provided by Alan, Joan, Sonja and Wendy. We were then invited to ring tunes on 12 bells in the interval standing on an elevated platform in one corner of the café. What a pleasure to perform to such an appreciative and enthusiastic audience, including the cast and their backstage team.

A very different experience (and venue - with rugs so appreciatively provided for the audience, no heating!) for AHR but we rose to the challenge. Well done team, so pleased we could contribute to an amazing and dedicated Theatre Group production.

Judith Denning 13.10.18

Photos by Kate Reynolds, Royal Exchange Theatre Touring Producer