Bell ringing at St Lawrence
As the year races with seemingly ever-increasing
speed towards its close, we start to think about Christmas ringing. Although
at the time of writing, the programme of Christmas services has not yet
been announced, we know that it will be our busiest time of the year, as
we try to ensure we have a band to ring
for all the special services that St Lawrence will hold
in the weeks before Christmas.
On Christmas Eve we will be in the bell tower at 11.00 pm, to ring for Midnight
Mass and then back again on Christmas morning at 9.30.
clubs or associations organize some sort of social event at Christmas. Hungerford
tower does hold an annual dinner, to which we invite partners, friends and
guests from other towers but this is never held at Christmas (when would
we fit it in?) Instead, we hold ours in “Holy Week” –
between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, when traditionally all church bells
One of our ringers was recently asked “Are you busy practicing for
Christmas?” Well, unlike choirs or brass bands, which plan their programme
well in advance and practice each piece to perfection, we have to wait to
see who turns up. There are less than 10 core members of the Hungerford
band and, although ringers from other towers can often be called upon to
ring at Hungerford if needed for special events, at Christmas they will
invariably be busy in their home towers.
So, because of the wide range of experience amongst our ringers we have
to ring to the highest level of the most inexperienced member of the band.
This should not lessen the impact for anyone listening. Well-struck call
changes are as pleasant to listen to as a complex method that might take
years to master.
When you hear the bells, you will know we are ringing call changes if a
sequence of notes is repeated several times. The order of the bells is determined
by the conductor telling the ringers which bell should follow which. It
is not possible to ring tunes as such, as bells must keep moving and in
each sequence a bell can only swap places with the bell it has just rung
before or after. However, the conductor can work the bells into sequences
that sound particularly musical or tuneful.
In earlier centuries, bell ringers were sometimes paid in beer and a cask
would be kept in the tower. Today, only wedding ringing is paid for and
we prefer cash as we generally like to keep a clear head when ringing. However,
if there are enough of us available to ring in the New Year on 31st December,
this is one occasion when we will raise a glass in the tower (as much as
anything to give thanks for having survived another festive season!).