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

Noyes Fludde, Lichfield Cathedral 7July 2018.

AHR Team with Stephen Threlfall, Director of Music, Chethams Music School, just before the performance began.

Heavenly Handbell Ringers - impressions of the experience...

1.  Sue Robins 8.7.18

Excited - to be asked to ring
Terror - are we good enough !
Courage - of course we can.
Practice - quite a difficult piece. 
Apprehension - what are we letting ourselves in for.
Comfort - Wendy not conducting .... no comfort blanket !!
Confidence - we’ve got it. We can do it.
Conductor - builder of confidence
Enjoyment - such an honour to be part of the performance with so many talented youngsters.  
Elated- we gave it our best and were complimented  on our ringing.
Lesson -  have confidence.  We can do it. 


2.  Jean Reilly 11.7.18

What an amazing day!  One of the best adventures you can ever imagine.  Team spirit was filtering through to all of us as though we were one.

Inside the cathedral it was fascinating to see the hard work and dedication of all the cast and helpers in the Noyes Fludde team behind the scenes. They were so calm, focused and committed to complete their preparations.

We were welcomed soon after we entered the cathedral with, “Hello you lovely ladies!”  What a boost!

The conductor, Stephen Threlfall* was a very friendly and pleasant man who took us under his wing. He praised and advised us and gave us the push to jump in at the deep end, which we did feet first!

Cathy Lamb* was very welcoming and generously gave us the use of her house to rest, change and get ready for the evening performance.

We practised and practised right up to the very last minute. With Rowena’s* help and encouragement she gave us the confidence to feel prepared for the performance.

Being on stage, poised and ready, was nerve wracking but we were also excited, with adrenaline flowing like a fountain. It was mind-blowing, everyone together, music, percussion, singing, Noah speaking!  We were in a parallel universe where exciting things were happening and we were part of it. At crucial times we lost sight of Stephen conducting but, unfazed, we carried on ringing our own version of the score in front of us.

At the finish, rapturous applause echoed through the Cathedral. What a high!

It was a truly fantastic day, which I would not have missed for the world, but most of all I felt very privileged to be part of the whole experience.

*Stephen Threlfall (Director of Music and Head of Vocal, Chetham’s School of Music).

*Cathy Lamb (Director of Lichfield Cathedral Young Voices).

*Rowena Dawson (Visiting Member of the Inn Ringers Handbell Team).


3.  Lynne Croxall 13.7.18

It was such a privilege to be invited to play during the performance of Noye’s Fludde, and just a little nerve wracking! 
To play in such a great cathedral, with a hugely talented young orchestra, and professional singers was indeed daunting. There was a pressure to perform well in front of so many in the audience, and the piece was difficult.
However, this was an amazing experience which I will never forget. Playing handbells has indeed opened new doors, and enabled shared me to share such occasions with new friends.  We were treated with such kindness by everyone, and such patience by the conductor!
It was a truly great and memorable evening!


4.  Sue Fraser 14.7.18

Taking part in Britten’s ‘Noye’s Fludde’ was the experience of a lifetime, never to be forgotten, and made more special by the kindness of everyone, both those working behind the scenes and the performers, who made us feel we were truly part of the whole team.  We were also hugely encouraged by Rowena Dawson, who gave freely of her time to coach and ring with us.

We were warmly welcomed by Cathy Lamb, on Thursday into the Great Hall of Lichfield School of Music for our first rehearsal, and on Saturday into the Cathedral itself for the Dress Rehearsal and later the Performance.  Cathy had already come to Alton for a special practice with us, so that we would know exactly how our bells fitted into the composition.  Stephen Threlfall, who conducted the work, shared with us his skill and musical wisdom, supporting us all the way through. We greatly appreciated this as Britten’s music is difficult and extremely challenging for us.

The powerful music rolled through the cathedral and soared up to the ornately carved roof.  As the storm built, so did the tension and excitement. The delicate dances  of the Raven and Dove led into the rejoicing after the flood, when Alleluia, sung by the children, alerted us to be ready to ring out our bells in joy. The cathedral resounded to the magnificence of the orchestras, the choirs and the hundreds of voices of the audience.  It was deeply moving, even overwhelming, and we were privileged to add the tones of our bells to the glorious sound.


Praise Indeed!

Concentration in rehearsal!

Dear Wendy and all your Team: 

On behalf of everyone from Denstone Tuesday Club, may I thank you once again for your superb concert.  The whole performance, from the dressed table for the bells, your smart appearance and, of course, the music, plus the information you gave us, was not only professional but also awe-inspiring.  I think most of us were magnetised by the ambi-dexterity of all the ringers and their sheer concentration.

We are all looking forward to next year.

Many, many thanks,

Wendy Forrester, 6 March 2018

Photo by Alan Walters: 'The 4 Belles - A study in concentration!'