We have taught many people at St Michael’s and we would be delighted to teach you too. There is always a need for more ringers so you would be more than welcome!
All you need to do is either :-
A] come and see us on a Wednesday evening, watch us ring and have a chat about you learning to ring
B] give Jon a call on 07525 809565 and he will be very happy to talk to you and make some arrangements for you have a go
C] drop us an email on the contacts page on this website and most likely Jon will reply, if you send your telephone number Jon will give you a call back
People of all ages learn to ring bells every year. There are over 40,000 bell ringers in the UK and they are a wide ranging mix of men and women, girls and boys, the short and the tall, the strong and the not so strong, those with musical talent and those who are tone deaf, those who are members of church congregations and those who are not.
We are happy to teach bell ringing to children, usually once they are 12 or older [this is simply so that they have sufficient strength and are tall enough], all the way through to people who are in their 50’s. If you fit somewhere in that range, then we would be delighted to hear from you. Just about anyone can learn!
Learning starts with learning to handle a bell, that is, training you to physically ring a bell in such a way that you can control it and make it do what you want it to do. This usually take a few weeks or so and is done on a one to one basis with a trainer. It is usually done on a tied bell ie a bell that has the clapper locked so that although the bell can swing freely it makes no sound so that our neighbours don’t get annoyed!
Bell handling is divided into handstroke as the bell completes one revolution and the rope with its sally [the ‘fluffy’ bit] going up towards the ceiling and then the backstroke when the bell completes a single revolution in the opposite direction and the sally comes back down again.
We usually do this sort of training in small groups of two to three learners at a time so you will be with others who are at the same stage as yourself. Many people think of bell handling as the equivalent to learning to control a car when learning to drive.
Once you can handle a bell reasonably well you will move to ringing your bell along with the other bells in the tower. This is where a sense of rhythm and timing will help. Conventionally the bells in the ring are rung one after another starting with the lightest bell with the highest note first down to the heaviest bell with the lowest note last. The bells are all rung so that they all strike a blow one after the other at handstroke, followed by the bells all striking a blow one after the other at backstroke.
After you have mastered ringing rounds the next move is to start swapping adjacent bells. By adjacent we mean those bells that are ringing one after the other in sequence. It is true that many ringers consider that ‘Rounds and Call Changes‘ are merely a step towards ringing methods but in fact, when well struck [ie accurately rung] they are both very musical and very satisfying to ring. The conductor will call out a series of instructions as to which pairs of bells are to exchange position the following handstroke
Method ringing requires each ringer to memorise and practise patterns of successive changes in sequence, without the the conductor calling out individual changes. Methods vary enormously in complexity, providing additional challenges for ringers of all levels of proficiency.
Usually you will start to learn and practise simple methods together with call changes during the weekly practice. In addition you may be able to attend suitable courses run either by the Winchester and Portsmouth Diocesan Guild, or perhaps at a Ringing Centre.
There is almost no limit to the complexity and the challenge of method ringing but most ringers agree that the paramount objective of ringing is to produce ringing that sounds good to the average man or woman on the street and to that end the quality of the striking, ie the accuracy of the ringing and the lack of audible mistakes is what really sets good ringing apart.
Many ringers also ring changes on handbells, and this is especially popular outside the United Kingdom where tower bells are few and far between. It is customary for handbell change ringers to ring one bell in each hand, providing an additional level of mental challenge. However, the physical aspects of handbell ringing are straightforward, and there is no need for introductory handling lessons. Because of their portability, handbells can be rung almost anywhere, and because each ringer handles two bells, as few as three ringers can ring quite complex methods.
If you look at the Links page on this site here you will find links to a massive wealth of information, material and support for learners as well as the more advanced stuff. We at St Michael’s will provide all we can to support you as you learn but you can do a lot to help yourself by using these links.
Here you will find a PDF document from the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers that provides a brief introduction to ringing. This CCCBR website is a treasure trove on information about bell ringing and provides a wealth of links to other sites on the internet about bell ringing. See also the links page on this website and the quick links up to the right.