The Performance (Does this ring a bell?)


Have I checked my bells?

Is that the correct sharp?

Is this music on my stand the right piece?

Oh dear…concentrate!



Watch Wendy’s wand -

Keep together.

Here we go ------!

It’s now or never!


Our bells are raised, we are ready to ring,

Oh dear I can’t remember a thing!


Keep calm it will be ok,

If you focus and remember to count… they say.


Where are my specs?

Where are my chimes?

I can’t remember how many times

I chose the wrong bell or picked up the wrong sharp!


“I’ve got the joy”, or I think I have!

“Oh no the wrong music!” she said.

“I seem to be looking at “Nimrod" instead!”



We hold up our mallets,

Then cross them in front of our faces,

This is the time we lose our places!

Sticks are flying, bells are clanging

There’s plenty of noise and lots of banging!


“Over the rainbow” we're playing it quite well,

As long as we remember to pick the right bell.

Oh, play it again, don't forget the repeat!

Keep ourselves steady, don't miss a beat.


And as for dynamics, the fast and the slow...

Rallentando, diminuendo or fortissimo!

So much to remember, the notes flying by,

I've skipped a whole line, I can't tell you why.


We finish the concert with Jerusalem,

Hopefully this one won’t go wrong,

The WI ladies love their song.

We play at our best,

No time for a rest.

Hooray, it's over. We've passed the test!!


Jean Reilly 30.09.15


It all started back in early June when, whilst on holiday in Madeira,

my wife received the latest Cheadle U3A email.  Alton Handbell Ringers were looking for new recruits and were to host an open day event on the 8th July.  Having an interest in things musical and previously having been a tower bell ringer in my youth, I quite fancied the idea of having a go.

It was with some trepidation that I went along to the church in Alton on the evening of the 8th July, and couldn’t help but think that I would no doubt be much older than the rest of the group and that  perhaps they wouldn’t want an old man as part of the team.

How wrong could I have been?  I received the warmest of welcomes from Wendy and the group and it was suggested that her husband Alan, being the sole male member, would perhaps appreciate some male company.

My reception into the team has been extremely good with lots of encouragement and little (although I deserve quite a lot of) criticism.  The Alton Handbell Ringers are a very warm and friendly group of people.

Well, eleven weeks on, I found myself stood in front of the Kniveton, Ashbourne and Tissington Womens Institute, about to take part in my first public appearance.  I arrived a little late due in part to giving a lift to someone who had moved house only a few days before.  We waited outside for a while and then knocked on the door several times, only to no avail.  Turns out we were at the wrong property – just one door away.  Upon arrival at Kniveton, I was furnished with a new bow tie and I dashed into the gents in search of a mirror.  Alas no mirror and everyone was by now waiting to start ringing.  I rushed into the village hall and became a slight object of ridicule as my shirt collar was twisted all over the place.  Thanks to Alan for sorting me out!

During recent practices, Wendy decided it would be a good idea if we all lifted our bells together upon her signal at the start of each piece.  This had been achieved with limited success but on the night it worked very well and I’m sure gave a professional image to those in attendance.

The performance was most enjoyable both for the participants and, it would seem from the warm applause and feedback, by our audience too.  Now I have to confess that when Wendy said we were to play to the Womens Institute, I thought maybe we would get a cup of tea and a piece of cake!  Well, after the concert had ended, the most wonderful spread appeared as if by magic.  All sorts of savoury treats, cakes and tea/coffee.  We were very well catered for and I would like to thank all those responsible.  This social part of the evening created an opportunity for me to chat and get to know everyone a little better.  When we meet for practice each week, there is little time for talking as we are very focused on ringing the bells.

So my first performance was a memorable experience and I hope that I will be a little less nervous when the next concert comes around.

Thank you Wendy, Alan and everyone else for your encouragement and enthusiasm.

Dave Jones


From a new recruit.

I was lucky enough to see the posters for the Open Evening in the village, and I thought I would go along to see what it was all about.  I'd long held an interest in musical activities, but they'd largely been confined to the privacy of my own home, or with a group of (generally impressed!) first school aged children.  Having recently retired from the teaching profession, I was ready to be taught a new activity.  I was so impressed. The sound of so many bells and chimes, co-ordinated with much skill and patience was beautiful and I was hooked!

So … I found myself at the audience end of the line of bell ringers at my first performance, suddenly realising what I'd put so many children through during so many school concerts.  I froze, and managed only two half-hearted notes in the first piece after completely losing my place.  However, my confidence grew (after a quick internal word with myself) and I think I hit the right notes on most occasions, whilst thoroughly enjoying the whole experience.

So many thanks to all of my new musical friends for such a patient and warm welcome.  It's really good to be part of the team.


What a warm welcome from the WI at Kniveton on 23 September!

Here are some of the comments I recorded after our concert, while we were tucking in to a delicious buffet.

Mary: I thought it was absolutely fantastic.  Apart from the sound - the way that your bells match your scarves and the glitter; it’s lovely, the presentation.  But the tunes were wonderful.  I will say that my granddaughter plays the clarinet.  When I listen to her practising, she always has to finish with ‘Ode to Joy’ because it’s my favourite, so to hear that was wonderful.

Molly:  It’s the first time I’ve seen bell ringers and they’re absolutely fantastic.  Really, really good and I would love to see them again.

Ann:  I think they’re fantastic.  And they all look so smart together and looking so happy.  You’re happy with what you’re doing.

Be: I think it’s been a wonderful evening.  Years and years ago, I did learn bell ringing but it was nothing like as fantastic as now.  And, of course, you’re more sophisticated now than we ever were. A wonderful, wonderful evening.

Angela:  I think the evening has been fantastic.  Really thoroughly enjoyed it.  Fabulous sounds and we’ve actually managed to have a go at the bells and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.  Very, very good.

Jackie:  Amazing.  Amazing.  I especially liked the chimes; they were wonderful.  And when you do the combination of the two it’s stunning, stunning.

Helen:  I thought it was absolutely amazing. I just wanted to close my eyes and float away on something like a lullaby.  Just tremendous.

Sue Fraser

Magical sounds like tinkling streams of running water...

The HRGB National Residential Ringing Week Concert 2015:

Rowena and I were lucky enough to attend the grand finale of the week: a concert in Sheffield on the Friday night, in which Wendy took part.  As members of the audience, watching and listening to the performance that evening, we were immediately impressed with the professionalism of the ringers from beginning to end of each piece of music they played.

The dynamics of the musical items were impressive and made each piece stand out as poignant and sensitive, holding the audience spellbound from beginning to end.

The great diversity of bells and other instruments enriched the whole experience.  They ranged from enormous bass bells, which looked far too heavy to lift, never mind ring, to tiny bells, harmonious chimes, and delicate hanging wind chimes with magical sounds like tinkling streams of running water.

Mallets were used to sound the bells in some of the pieces, sending out soft, muted tones.  Mallets were also used on the table to produce hard beats. Sometimes bells were damped on the table and, in contrast, continuous, powerful and beautiful notes sounded out from bells held upright, as the ringers stroked the outer edges with short wooden poles; this method of ringing is called “ singing bells”. The result was amazing!  

Each of the three conductors that night was excellent and brought to the concert their own particular type of music from their own countries.

We thoroughly enjoyed the evening and were impressed that such a performance could be delivered after only five days of playing and practising together.



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