Pictures of Open Rehearsal Session of the Alton Handbell Ringers

Moments of intense concentration by our visitors, captured on camera by Alan, as Team members helped them to produce a very creditable rendition of ‘Like a River Glorious’.

As part of the National Get Creative Festival being celebrated as part of Cheadle Arts Festival, we invited people to:

    *Find out about tune ringing on handbells*

    *See how we rehearse*

    *See how different techniques produce different sounds*

    *Have a go themselves*

The Get Creative Festival is a national celebration of everything creative, taking place across the UK from 17-25 March 2018. The annual festival is a merger of the previous Get Creative Weekend and Voluntary Arts Festival - now joined together to make one huge nationwide event.  Get Creative Festival shines a light on all the great cultural activity that takes place right across the UK on a regular basis and encourages people to try their hand at something new and creative.

Photos by Alan Walters 21.3.18

Carols at the Roundhouse in Alton

We had a good time at the Carols at the Roundhouse in Alton on Friday 15th December. There were quite a few people there enjoying Christmas carols and the nativity scene in the village Roundhouse. The Handbell Ringers then rang some Christmas carols and songs while folk gathered round with mulled wine and soup and warmed themselves by the brazier. Lynne, Peter and Sonja clearly enjoyed themselves too!

Text and Photos by Alan Walters

“What the Dickens?” Christmas carols on bells in the Sculpture Gallery at Chatsworth House, Thursday 7th and Friday 8th December.

“Great Expectations” was the setting for our carol concert this year.  A ghostly Miss Havisham glided into the Gallery from her cobweb covered, yet magnificent, dining room as we arrived….. 

Thursday afternoon:

We set off in plenty of time to reach Chatsworth and set up our bells ready to ring at 5:30pm. It always takes longer than we think to check in and be shown into the Sculpture Gallery where we play. This year we were led in through the house itself and so got a glimpse of the wonderful decorations and trees on display and actors dressed in Dickensian costume. What a magical sight!

Tonight we have a team of 8 ringers plus Wendy, our conductor, enabling us to change in and out as only 6 of us play at any one time. It is quite tiring playing for 2 hours and standing for that length of time. It is always chilly at Chatsworth and those of us who have been before know to go prepared with plenty of layers and warm drinks.

We set up our stands and music, picked up our bells and had a run through of a couple of carols before people started to filter through from the guided tour of the house. Initially only one or two people came through but then larger groups appeared; some just walked through, others stopped to listen, some for more than one tune. We had some gentle applause and many favourable comments as to how nice the bells sound. We rang a selection of carols and Christmas music and finished ringing at 8pm.

Friday afternoon:

We woke up to snow this morning and wondered what the weather would be like up in the Peak Park; set off mid afternoon for Chatsworth not knowing what sort of journey we would face. We had not had any further snowfall but the higher parts of the route still had compacted snow on the roads, which made driving hazardous in places. However, once we reached the A6 the rest of the route to Chatsworth was clear.

We set up our bells as on the previous night but tonight we are a team of 6 plus Wendy, meaning we are all ringing all of the time. Wendy rings bells occasionally to give each of us a break but this means we then have no conductor.

Good ringing again tonight and many appreciative comments once again. Some young children helped us out by ringing our sleigh bells along with us for ‘Jingle Bells’ and they really enjoyed that, so much so that one family came back for another go.

We closed the evening again at about 8pm and made our way home, this time using the main roads, as by this time it was freezing, and although this took a bit longer at least we all arrived home safely.

All in all a very enjoyable couple of evenings in the run up to Christmas.

Josie 9.12.17

Photos by Alan Walters

£1,446 raised for the Donna Louise Trust

Ring and Swing 2.12.17

A magical evening with Alton Handbell Ringers and the Denstone College Swing Band, joining together in a charity concert for the Donna Louise Trust, packed Alton Village Hall to capacity on Saturday 2nd December 2017.

Wendy: "What a fantastic evening. The hall was filled with chatter and people enjoying themselves and such a lovely atmosphere. The band were terrific and we thank them for joining us at what is a very busy time for them all. We raised £1,446 for the Donna Louise Children's Hospice."

Jean: “The Village Hall filled with people. They came in their droves. Every nook and cranny and every chair was taken. It was incredible! There was chatter and excitement. It grew louder and heralded the start of an evening to remember.

The lights in the hall were dimmed; only the stage lights shone out over the waiting Denstone Swing Band performers, quiet and still, gathering their calmness and composure. No sign of the handbell Ringers. Where were they? 

There was a hushed silence from everyone in the audience, full of expectancy.

In the foyer, nerves were subdued; we were ready to perform! 

Wendy raised her wand, we raised our bells and the MAGIC began! As they rang out we gradually processed through the hall, weaving round the tables until we reached our places in front of the stage, our rhythm gathering momentum to lead us in to the beginning of our first piece, ‘Di Tanjong Katong’.

Rapturous applause inspired us as we went on to play ‘Over the Rainbow’ and then ‘Thaxted’, my favourite piece. I felt quite relaxed and completely enthralled by the intricacies and variety of our bell ringing techniques in this arrangement of “I vow to thee my country”. ‘Polaris’ and ‘Three for the Road’ completed our first set.  

We were followed by the Denstone Swing Band kicking in, full of life and vibrancy! The young players were incredible, so positive and confident playing their variety of instruments.

After a feast of pie, peas and puddings, the Denstone Swing Band opened the second half, and gave us another immensely enjoyable set of tunes, culminating by raising the roof with ‘Tequila!’. 

Now in our red and gold Christmas scarves and red bow ties, we raised our bells again. We burst into laughter as Wendy slowly revealed a large printed smiley face. Feeling lighthearted, we launched into ‘Frosty the Snowman’ and a selection of Christmas tunes, ending with ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ as a grand choral finale for the audience to join in, which they did lustily.

Our Christmas concert was an outstanding success! Everyone was uplifted, happy and smiling to the very end!

I feel very proud and privileged to be part of our Alton Handbell team and it is lovely to think of us making a difference to children’s lives by supporting our chosen charity each Christmas.”

Peter: “What a wonderful evening.  Not only was the occasion a wonderful opportunity for dedicated performers to delight a very appreciative audience with two contrasting types of entertainment, but it was also extremely noticeable that the whole event was very much a social occasion, when friends old and new get together. A good time was had by all, with the added bonus of raising a lot of money for The Donna Louise Children's Hospice.”

Wendy: “Paul Denning, our compère, did a great job, guiding us, filling in and keeping us in order throughout the evening with humour, wit and pleasantries.”

Judith: “The audience made it all worthwhile; who would have thought that playing with a Swing Band would be such an amazing experience!”

Photo by Alan Walters