New Year Issue 117: Ring in the Year

I once took a set of handbells into school. It was a splendid three octave set, ranging in size from a sizeable bucket to a tea-cup.

If you ever embark on something as brave as this, remember to think it through Very Carefully. A child could whack themselves on the forehead with the sharp edge of the bell – they didn’t on this occasion but there were a few close shaves. Or they may accidentally whack someone else – again, this didn’t happen, because I took care to space the children well apart. They could drop the bells; have them stand beside a table which is covered with a thick blanket, and enforce ground rules;

Stand Still when holding a bell, hold the bell over the table, and Pay Attention to what you are doing.

Having gone through everything that might happen, just stay vigilant. If you can work with small groups of children rather than the whole crowd (I teach classes of up to 42 children), so much the better.

With an octave of bells, you can ring simple chimes like this; number everyone off from 1(the highest) to 8 (the lowest). Then ring a scale down; 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, alternate bells; 1 3 5 7 2 4 6 8, down again and up; 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1. That makes a very effective little piece. The trick is to go very slowly and steadily, as you get used to how to play the bells.

For “proper” church bell, or “Change” ringing, you need to know a lot more than I do. Here’s about the limit of my knowledge; this is a chart showing the order for a “Plain Hunt on 4 bells”. I copied this from here: which is a good introduction.

The idea is that you ring through every different sequence of arranging order of the bells, in an organised series of changes, until you get back to the beginning. Each bell tracks through the sequence in a pattern; the blue line shows the path for bell number 2.

I have used chime bars and boomwhackers instead of handbells. Not as exciting, but still a great activity for small group work.

Noisy monkey

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