123….I love handbells…

Yes…”123…I love handbells” is the accepted way to take a bow. This is what we did after a successful and very enjoyable evening at Wolstanton United Reform Church  where we performed with the excellent  Not Strictly Barbershop singers on Saturday November 19th.

We arrived at the church on a very cold November evening (note to team..wear vests to all performances) and performed a number of our favourite arrangements.  Some of the more haunting melodies (‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow,’,‘The Rose’,  ‘Sakura’,  ‘ Brother James’  Air ‘) filled the church, which has such good acoustics.  I think the beautiful sounds even surprised us!  Members of the audience were quite moved…

“A lovely calm and relaxing sound…”

“Something really beautiful and different…”        were some of the kind comments.  Everyone agreed that we’d done a good job (“best handbells I’ve heard!” was an accolade from  one gentleman.)

We were joined in the concert by the choir,  who sang a variety of entertaining and varied songs  in amazing harmony without accompaniment.   Helped, of course by “the techno wizard with his little gadget.”  Members of the audience and all of the performers will know how vital this was to their performance.

The second half picked up pace with the singers performing ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight,’ the James Bond’ theme and ‘Hey Big Spender’ (complete with bright red feather boas which enthusiastically shed their feathers around the church as they sang!)  We played music which demonstrated the range of musical effects and tones it is possible to achieve using handbells, including the use of the mallets in’ I’ve got the Joy’.   It was great!

We rounded off our performance to match the upbeat mood with a Proms night theme which included the ’ Toreador’s Song’ and finally ’ Land of Hope and Glory’ to which choir and audience sang   and waved  flags enthusiastically.  It was a  wonderful and rousing  ending to a special evening, which was  thoroughly enjoyed by everyone (including us!)  All the practice had  been worthwhile (although the vicar said that we need to smile more.  Oh dear .. must try harder with this then, although as a relative beginner to the team I know how hard you have to concentrate, and a smile as well???)

Many thanks to Wendy for guiding us with such patience, and to Sarah who both conducted the choir and played in the handbells team.

What a privilege it is to be able to make such lovely music with so many other people.  So when we take our bow, we really DO mean…

123… we love handbells!

 By Lynne Croxall 

HRGB West Midlands Regional Rally Alton (Staffs) Saturday October 1st

Having just returned from a fabulous rally at Alton (Staffs) Village Hall hosted by Alton Handbell Ringers, to which I belong, I realise that it’s my turn to write a piece for the website!

Weather wasn’t brilliant as most of the day it was drizzling, but who cares what’s going on outside when so much fun was to be had indoors in the warm!

Planning for such an event began months ago. Booking the hall, the layout of tables for the bells, not forgetting the most important ingredients for such a day - lots of tea and the homemade buffet of course. (WI notes became quite useful when catering for over 70 people!!)

It is also a special year for our Alton team as we are celebrating our Silver Jubilee!!  Josie offered to make and ice a cake to share. When Alan and Wendy cut the first slice everyone sang Happy Birthday!! We also played a special piece near the end of the day called “Celebration.”

Ten teams enrolled for the day from the West Midlands Area, NE Region and 3 ringers from the Brailsford Team in the East Midlands Area. Therefore some had quite a journey, consequently all arriving at approximately the same time and in need of the facilities and a cuppa before unloading all their equipment to set up in their allocated places.

As you can imagine there were various levels of experience (a few months to many years!) and various sizes of teams from “Tintinabulus” (2 players ringing “Four in Hand” WOW!) to the BIG “Sunday 5 Octave Workshop”! I love the sound of those deep bass bells!)  

Such a variety of styles and techniques were also on display when each team rang their “own choice” pieces in timed slots throughout the day.

Guest conductors Tim Willets (Chairman of HRGB) and Jason Walker (Secretary of the WM Region of HRGB) were also “on the baton” for two massed ringing items for which all participants had received copies a few months ago to prepare. (“Reverie” arranged by Michael Helman and Jason’s own arrangement of  “To God be the Glory”).
Then there was “Ringing from Scratch” where Richard Hartnell (Vice Chairman of the WM Region of HRGB) picked up the baton and gave out a piece we’d never seen before!!

All three were very strict with us but what a fantastic sound we achieved (with fun) the more they nagged!!!  

Oh, and I mustn’t forget the Chinese Raffle!! What a great way to do a raffle with no fuss, no bother and much quicker than usual!!

Thanks to everyone who came and a big thank you to our extra slaves in the kitchen. All contributing to making it a great day that we shall talk about for a long time!!


Sarah Williams 3.10.16

Photo by Alan Walters

An evening with Rushton Spencer WI

We enjoyed a wonderfully warm and friendly evening with members of Rushton Spencer WI last Tuesday.  They meet in the village community pub, the Royal Oak, so we knew we’d have a good time.

Our 12 bell band played after the regular business meeting (which was kept very short).  We set up by the bar and launched into our 12 bell repertoire.  In no time at all the audience started singing along.  What a boost that gave us!

Several people were keen to have a go on the bells at the end of our performance and, with a lot of laughter, managed to ring a very passable rendition of a popular Elvis number.

After our performance, in the hubbub of the bar, I persuaded a few people to record comments about us. Here they are:

Christine “I’ve never heard handbell ringing before, and I was amazed!  It’s very difficult.  I was impressed how difficult it must be to get the timing right and do it together.”

Frank “I think you were very good, but I’m not very musical.”

Margaret “Very entertaining evening. It’s amazing how many sounds you can make with so few bells.”

Shirley “I’m just admiring how clever your logo is, with the handbell in the letter A.  It’s absolutely brilliant, as you were too.”

So thank you, Rushton WI, for a lovely evening.

Handbell Festival in Alton

On Saturday 1 October the glorious sound of massed handbells will ring out from Alton Village Hall to celebrate AHR Silver Jubilee year.

Alton Handbell Ringers are hosting the Regional Rally of West Midlands Handbell Ringers of Great Britain and welcoming 70 musicians from all over the West Midlands who will gather for a whole day of making music.

Fortified by plentiful food and drinks, individual teams of handbell ringers will play tunes of their choice and all the teams will join together for some marvellous massed ringing. 




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