Four Shires Guild of Bell Ringers

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An Original idea (part 2)

Part 1 had to break in the middle of me describing what bells do at various positions in Original Minor when a bob is called. (Oh, the pain of being an Editor! Ed) You might just wish to refresh yourself on this information before continuing here.    Robert

Position of bell at backstroke when bob is called:4
Hunting up or downdown
Change in plain course when bob is called5 3 6 1 4 2
Action over next two changes 
Unaffected position, so continue hunting down to 3rd and 2nd place, arriving at the 2-down position at the next backstroke.
Resulting changes5 3 6 1 4 2
 3 5 1 6 2 4
 3 1 5 6 4 2
Position of bell at backstroke when bob is called:2
Hunting up or downdown
Change in plain course when bob is called3 1 5 2 6 4
Action over next two changes 
Unaffected position, so continue hunting down to lead, ie lead twice, arriving at the 1-up position at the next backstroke.
Resulting changes3 1 5 2 6 4
 1 3 2 5 4 6
 1 2 3 5 6 4

Looking at the above, it would appear theoretically possible to keep calling bobs every two changes an infinite number of times, which (if you were the 5-up bell for example) would have you dodging 5-6 up in perpetuity. Happily this fate will not befall us in practice, as the composition will run false after just 8 changes, so the maximum number of dodges you should ever be required to do in the same place is just three.

The 'circle' of Original

Many ringers memorise a blue line by visualising a circle, where the order of events is represented by moving clockwise around it. So for Original Minor we could draw the following:-

As well as showing each of your backstroke positions in sequence, and hence what you should be saying to yourself every backstroke as you ring it, each number also shows where each bell starts in the plain course. Using this diagram, and the operations for a bob which we described above for each of the six positions, you now have all the theoretical material you need to ring a touch. For example, if a bob is called on the first change (while rounds is still being struck), the 3rd (the 3-up bell) will make the bob, the 5th (the 5-up bell) will dodge in 5-6 up, and the 6th (the 6-down bell) will dodge 5-6 down.

Calling original

The disadvantage of Original is that, in order to ring it, you do need someone to call the bobs. (For anyone who likes bob-calling, though, this might be seen as a significant plus-point, as there is no shortage of bobs that need to be called. For example, there is a normal-length peal of Original Royal that requires more than 1000 calls - needless to say it has never been rung.)

The qualities required of an Original bob-caller are somewhat different from those of the normal non-bob-calling original ringer. For one thing, he or she does not actually have to be as alert, as he or she will know when the next bob is about to be called. On the other hand, while non-callers can drift along with the short-term memory span of your average goldfish, the bob-caller needs to possess the memory capacity of a modest-sized laptop. Not all touches of Original are that hard to remember, to be fair, as many compositions include lots of repeating sections (the above peal, for example, is in 12 almost identical parts). Nevertheless, reeling off a seemingly random and endless barrage of bobs while dangling on the end of a bellrope remains one of the best ways to impress that I know. (Now we are sad, truly sad. . .)     . . . and keeping it right in the barrage when it goes wrong is even more impressive. . .!! . Ed

There are also two types of Original bob-caller. The first is the type who thinks it would be fun to call bobs more or less at random for 3-4 minutes, and then spend the next 30 minutes trying to call it back into rounds. The other sort, however, has done their homework, and has learnt what they are going to call in advance. This has a lot more to recommend it because:

How to call a touch

As we said, you call each bob at a backstroke, and the action takes place (or "the bob is made") over the next handstroke and backstroke only. The bob-calling positions are easiest to remember by the place of your bell, ie whether you are in 1-up, 3-up, 5-up, 6-down, 4-down, or 2-down when you call a bob. (From here on, we'll call these positions 1, 3, 5, 6, 4, and 2 respectively, as with familiarity you'll soon twig that all the odd numbers are "up" positions, and all the even numbers are "down".)

You can call any touch from any bell. However, if a touch repeats itself (ie it is in more than one "part"), it is easier to remember it from a bell that returns to its home position at the end of each repeat (ie at the end of every part). For most compositions, this will apply to the tenor at least, so the tenor is generally a good bell to choose. (Go on, you know you want to!) It's also, usually, the most fun.

Touch 1: 36 changes of Original Minor

This is the simplest touch of all. Call a bob every time the tenor is in the 2-down position. The result it that a bob will be made every time the tenor leads, involving just bells 1, 2, and 3 at each bob, and will come round after 3 courses.

This is how we could write the touch:

Tenor:6 4 2 1 3 5Course end
     -3 1 2 4 5 6
     -2 3 1 4 5 6
     -      1 2 3 4 5 6

The bar (-) in the table indicates a bob is called when that place is reached by the tenor in the course.

We could actually shorten the writing of the above touch, as each course end happens also to be a repeat point (ie a part end). So we could write it as:

Tenor:6 4 2 1 3 5Course end
     -      3 1 2 4 5 6
Repeat twice

We suggest you try ringing this touch first, in order to get started. Also, as it only affects three bells, you could call it of other bells, so that everyone has a go at the bob-work (eg try calling it off the 3rd), or alternatively ring the same touch but get people to ring different bells.

Touch 2: 84 changes of Original Minor

Tenor:6 4 2 1 3 5 6Course end
 2 -         13 1 2 4 5 6
Repeat 5 times

Now we're getting really exciting! We start with the same "Go Original. . .bob!" command as in touch 2, but now there is a second bob, which is called straight after - in the same position. Hence you will call two bobs, at consecutive backstrokes, in the same (6-down) position, and physically you yourself will double-dodge 5-6 down as a result.

The "1" under the 6-down position at the end of the course could have been written as a (-), but we wanted to emphasise that this single bob in 6-down would then be immediately followed by the two bobs in 6-down at the start of the next repeat. So, physically, you will be calling 3 bobs together in 6-down every time, followed by a bob in 4-down, and then doing all of that a total of six times. It just so happens that the touch begins and ends part way through a 3 bob sequence.

Have a go at ringing this one: because only then will you see why Original is so well worth ringing - the music is very pretty.

Parting thoughts

You will note that I have been very careful to avoid the word "conductor" when talking about calling Original. It is one thing to call the bobs, it is quite another to be able to sort out any mistakes. But, one step at a time: you (and others) can get a lot of fun (and good ringing) with the services of a (not-so-humble) bob-caller. So, if it fires up, it will probably fire out. So what: try again, and if the ringers know that success really does depend on their staying alert for the duration, then the ringing you can achieve on success can be close to perfection and extremely satisfying for all.

I think you now have enough of a starter pack to get your own Original Minor band going. Next time I'll show you some more interesting touches, singles, a quarter peal, some hints for conductors and composing. In subsequent articles I hope to cover such delights as Original Triples, Major and Royal. Happy ringing!

Robert Chadburn

Thank you Robert for such a full and readable description of this fascinating Principle. Let's hope it fires up the enthusiasm for ringing Original Minor and, after Part 3 (or 4?), Triples, Major and beyond. Ed