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Two Choirs Festival – with Bells

As well as two rings of eight, Wokingham also has two church choirs with pro-active music directors. To cut a long story short, this led over the Pentecost weekend to a music festival involving both choirs and several other musicians in events at both churches. On Saturday there was a Choral Evensong and a Concert at All Saints, and on Sunday a Recital and Festal Choral Eucharist at St Paul’s. But where do the bells come in?

Our new musical director Richard Smith began holding special practices for young children on Monday evenings, and I run a weekly pre-practice session in the tower before our main practice, also on Mondays. Some months ago Richard was still there when I arrived so I invited him to come up and see what ringing was about. I showed him the bells and explained how they worked, using the model. He couldn’t see ‘real ringing’ but he could observe three of our ringers each practising with a simulator, and listen in on what one of them was doing. He was fascinated, and asked lots of questions, many relating to performance and the skills needed.

Around that time he was planning the festival, and he asked me if we could include ringing as a part of it. We discussed the logistics, and decided on a quarter peal at each church – after the service at All Saints (before would be impossible because we are open to the church and couldn’t have rung through the choir rehearsal) and before the service at St Paul’s (where the ringing room is upstairs).

So far so good, but this was a music festival, and he wanted to know what we would be performing so he could include it in the publicity. At this stage we didn’t know who would be available to ring, so Ken Davenport (tower captain at St Paul’s) and I decided to keep it simple. We also decided to ring one of Triples and one of Major in order to vary the music, so we went for Grandsire at All Saints and Plain Bob at St Paul’s.

I set about getting together two bands, and the next I heard from Richard was a request for a couple of pages of notes to be included in the glossy festival programme. I decided on a very brief introduction to the instrument and the music, illustrated with some pictures, followed by a brief description of the musical aspects of the two performances. Of course it all had to be in language that non-ringers could understand, as well as fitting into the required space.

The weekend duly arrived, and apart from the first service finishing earlier than we had been told, all went smoothly. Ken and I both received appreciative comments from people who had heard the two performances, and Canon Angela Tilby, who was guest preacher at the final Eucharist, said that she recorded some of the ringing because it was so good. That was praise indeed, since she is no stranger to ringing – I first met her at the Cambridge University Guild dinner when she was in Cambridge.

The (ringing) programme notes are at: allsaintswokinghambells.org.uk/notices/ProgrammeNotes2013.pdf 

  John Harrison (May 2013)

Wokingham, Berks, All Saints

Saturday, 18 May 2013 in 42 minutes

1260 Grandsire Triples

1  Susan E Davenport

2  Julie B Goodchild

3  Sian J Haseldine

4  Jane A Mellor

5  Geoffrey K Cook

6  Alan K Barsby

7  John A Harrison (C)

8  Jonathan P Goodchild


Wokingham, Berks, St Paul

Sunday, 19 May 2013 in 44 minutes

1264 Plain Bob Major

1  Stephen C Wells

2  Susan E Davenport

3  Barbara E Wells

4  Graham E Slade

5  Lavinia Sullivan

6  Alan K Barsby

7  John A Harrison

8  Kenneth R Davenport (C)

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