Handbell Concert at St Lawrence’s Church, Bramshall.

It was a very tight schedule on Sunday 12th December 2021 when we went to play 12 bells at St Lawrence’s Church. We were there to set up at 3.30 pm and we had reckoned we would be finished by just after 5 pm, so we could be back in good time at St Peter’s Church in Alton for 5.45 pm for the Carol Service which was starting at 6 pm. Three of the ringers, including me, were singing in the choir that night.

When we walked into the church we were warmly welcomed by ladies selling raffle tickets and they showed us which pews were reserved for us in front of the congregation. They were very pleased to see us and we set up all the bells and stands at the front by the pulpits, ready to play.

The Carol service that evening was a traditional one with prayers, readings and carols.

We had to wear masks while seated until we did our bell ringing performances, when we were allowed to take them off and we made the most of it by smiling or grinning at the audience.

We played Christmas music and carols for two sessions that evening. The congregation seemed to really enjoy it. In the second performance Wendy gave out the sleigh bells to all the children in the congregation just before we played “Jingle Bells”. There was a very positive response from them and they were excited to be involved. They were encouraged to play along to the beat, or to their own beat and they had a great time!

Soon afterwards, the vicar drew the service to a close and then he began to draw out the raffle tickets, there were lots of lovely looking hampers provided and other prizes.

Time was ticking and we really had to leave very soon in order to get back for the Alton Carol Service, so it was quickly decided that Dave and Lynne would stay until the end and would pack up the bells and stands into their cars and bring them back.

So we gave our apologies and left the church leaving Lynne in charge of our raffle tickets. We whizzed back to Alton just in time for Carol Service at St. Peter’s.

Ironically Joan and I both won a raffle prize each, which poor Lynne had to bring back for us, sadly not managing to win one for herself!

Jean Reilly

Christmas tunes at Highwood Court on 17th December

It is always nice to Visit Highwood Court which we have regularly gone to at Christmas time.  We are always made to feel very welcome and it is a very jolly community. We had our 12 handbell team and played various Christmas carols including Jingle Bells with which some of the residents joined in playing sleigh bells. They also accompanied us with singing, this is sometimes difficult as some of our music has occasional variations.  Nevertheless they accompanied us very well.

It is so nice to see them enjoy themselves and we came away thinking it was a lovely start to Christmas.

Beryl Forrester

In Memory of Sue

Sue Fraser

I have known Sue Fraser for many years and we have had many adventures together on our bird watching trips with the U3A.

She has been a good friend to me and we have shared our love of nature (animals and birds). Sue has taught me a great deal over the years as she knew every bird we spotted and every bird song we heard.

I used to visit her at her home and we would go for walks with her dog Pipit across Wetley Moor Common nearby and have tea and cake in the Summerhouse when we got back.

I introduced Sue to our Handbell Team in Alton and she joined the group, learned quickly and she loved playing bells. She has been an asset to our team and has supported us in many concerts and events.

We will miss her company and cheery smiling face very much and we appreciate all she did.

I am so glad I got to know Sue and I am so sorry to have lost her but I think of her often and I will never forget her.

Jean Reilly

Christmas Social in Alton Village Hall

Alton Village Hall

Saturday December 4th 2021

Because of Covid limitations and restricted numbers allowed in the hall we were unable to have our regular Christmas Concert.

However we decided to have a social evening instead with each member given only four tickets to distribute to their own family or friends. The tickets were free but we asked for donations on the evening, so we could donate the money to our usual recipient The Donna Louise children's and young people's Hospice.

The weather on the evening was very wet and windy but thankfully those with tickets still turned out. The hall had been decorated. The tables were spaced out with table cloths and lit candles on each. Coming in from the cold outside, the hall provided a very warm. atmospheric, welcoming and cosy contrast.

To restrict movement once in the hall we were not providing our usual pie and pea supper but instead guests were asked to bring their own drinks and nibbles. The tables were soon laden with all types of drinks, nibbles and all sorts and styles of drinking glasses. The general chatter in the room now made it apparent, that this was, very much, a social evening.

A varied programme of tunes and carols was very warmly received by the audience. Many different techniques were used by the ringers using the bells, chimes and mallets. Even dynamics were observed!!

Celebration' started our evening off. A fitting number to really celebrate our getting together with friends and family after all the recent restrictions.

During the interval mince pies were brought to each table. Because there was no supper to give out and all the work clearing tables and serving desserts, the ringers were able to join their table of friends to enjoy a drink and partake of the nibbles. Very relaxing for all.

Before the second half began,the raffle was drawn.

Wendy and Alan then gave a very impressive performance of ringing with two bells in each hand. The audience really appreciated the skill and dexterity involved.

During the evening, Peter read out  a poem he had written entitled 'Bells or Bells?-- And Belles'  and Sarah read the words from the carol 'In the Bleak Midwinter' before it was played by the ringers.

The evening concluded with a rousing version of 'Ding Dong Merrily on High'.

Peter Walker 

A first concert for a new recruit

AHR at St Chad's Longsdon

I joined the Alton Handbell Ringers back in June 2021 – at the time I wasn’t sure if my university timetable would put an end to it, but thankfully everything has gone to plan and I’ve been able to continue ringing on Wednesday evenings, which I’m really pleased about!  

My Grandad sat me down with two wooden spoons and a piece of music for an hour before my first session. I didn’t realise until then how tricky it was to count up to 3 or 4 repeatedly, whilst also following the bars and ringing when my number came up… I barely even knew what a bar was to be honest, other than the Cadbury Dairy Milk kind! So I rocked up to the first session I was joining and was greeted by a lovely and welcoming group of folk (I’m sorry, I still haven’t quite got all the names I’ll be honest, but that’s just me…) and I enjoyed attempting to follow the music and remember which of my hands held the 19 bell and which one the 20 bell. I was pleased that it’s number not music-based because I’ve never been musical so found it much easier to follow, eventually! 

Skip forward 5 months and it’s time for my first concert! It was a beautiful big church but characteristically cold, so I was grateful for the gloves and scarf that’s part of the attire! As we arrived, Wendy and Alan had everything bell-related set up already (thank you!) and there were a couple of ladies setting up a raffle table and jigsaw and cake stall in the Church. I felt pretty relaxed to be honest – I enjoyed ringing anyway and we did a warm-up by doing the start of all the songs which was a good way to remember each piece and where the tricky bits were in them. There was a daunting audience of 12 people! (I’m told there would normally be more, but I quite liked it for my first concert… although maybe 70 people would have brought some warmth into the church? Probably not.) But they were very appreciative and said they really enjoyed listening. I also had the privilege to sit and listen to one of the songs that I don’t play in (I’ve Got the Joy). Apparently it didn’t go according to plan or as well as the rehearsals, however my untrained ear didn’t notice anything wrong and I thoroughly enjoyed the joyful melody. I think it’s one of those tunes that you appreciate more the more you hear it! Overall, I really enjoyed my first concert and I think everyone else did too. The snowy drive home, not so much, but it did feel very apt following In the Bleak Midwinter and Frosty the Snowman! I have my second, more social concert tonight, I’m hoping that knowing there are friends and family in the audience won’t put me off!   

Becky Ward