• Simon Linford
    152
    There was an interesting observation at the Youth Contest yesterday from Graham Sharland, training officer of the Devon Association. He noticed that some of the bands that tried to ring with open handstroke leads in the call change competition ended up having open backstroke leads as well, and he thought it really defeated the object. Why not just ring with a closed handstroke lead and be done with it?

    There is a point to open handstroke leads in method ringing, contributing to the control we have over the handstrokes. However there is less point to having open handstroke leads in call changes, unless it is because we fear that if bands lose the ability to do an open handstroke lead then it will disappear from the method ringing as well. This is the reason why one band near me will not ring call changes with closed handstroke leads, even when ringing 60 on 3rds.

    What do others think? What is the argument for maintaining an open handstroke lead in call change ringing?
  • John de Overa
    72
    The argument is simple - many "average" bands, like my home tower, don't have the ability do one style of leading for CCs and a different one for Methods. That's from experience - it's closed for everything and it drives me nuts...
  • John Harrison
    92
    not sure the argument about needing to control the handstroke (and by implication not needing to control the backstroke) holds water. Method ringing needs accurate control, including speed control, at both strokes. (I agree there is plenty of ringing where the backstrokes are not properly controlled, but that's a failing not a feature.).
    Open lead and closed lead ringing are different and being able to do both is a useful skill for a competent band, but for a less expert band maybe not the highest priority.
  • Simon Linford
    152
    from my experience, with less experienced bands, open handstroke leads seem to be disappearing, with less said to correct them. I get the impression sometimes that ringers have given up trying to encourage them and am surprised when I see quite experienced tower captains letting quick handstrokes go uncommented, let alone corrected. Maybe it's evolution?!
  • John de Overa
    72
    when we were ringing CCs with just 4 ringers due to COVID I must admit it did sound better. But personally I find them helpful when ringing methods.
  • Phillip George
    23
    We rang four lots of 60 on 3rds this weekend as a preamble to the local amdram performances. We tried some closed hstroke leading which was quite good and brilliant fun. It also produced some good striking. We had excactly 20 minutes ringing on each occasion so gave us time to "get into it" so to speak. (I like set piece ringing but would never confime call changes to 60 on 3rds. That system happens to be the best known but there are plenty of others, or compose them yourselves).
  • PeterScott
    9
    Open handstrokes give structure for the listener, whether methods or callchanges.
  • John Harrison
    92
    agreed, it's like the bar structure in music. Perfect closed lead ringing does have an intriguing, somewhat breathless quality. But anything less than perfect sounds chaotic, since the random errors are the only structure.
    With open leads the brain can use the dominan structure of the open leads to mask a small number of errors. So the listener hears blemishes added to a regular rhythm, rather than just blemishes.
  • Simon Linford
    152
    That's interesting because I was at my mother's earlier this week and had taken by eBells to do some handbell practice. Ringing TD Minor she remarked at the end that it was a 12 beat sequence and she heard each note twice. So the open handstroke lead had defined the structure for her. She is a non ringing musician. When I next go I will test her on some closed handstroke lead ringing and see what she makes of it.
  • David Smith
    7
    One of the Victorian (in the Australian sense!) towers has adopted the convention that call changes are always rung without a handstroke gap, but method ringing always does have a handstroke gap. Interestingly, rather than causing confusion and chaos, this has the opposite effect - people learning there are very aware of what a handstroke gap is, when to apply it, and they don't have the usual problem of tending to insert a backstroke gap when trying to get the hang of a handstroke gap.
  • David Struckett
    14
    Interesting discussion. difficult to find much in the old text books about the open HS, other than references to 'compass' i.e. striking. However thinking of it as two different 'traditions' - closed version clearly being practiced in recent history in Yorkshire and Devon/Cornwall, it is six-bell ringing that offers most ringers the opportunity to experience 'good practice', and to compare the merits of each. I remember hearing a recording of some very good Yorkshire minor ringing in the 60's (Edgar Shepherd's book and EP). Either slow minor ringing or call changes can thus be very good either way - if the ringers involved can hear their bell ...... ! (and have that sense of rhythm which can accommodate the 'art of ringing'). There's no excuse for opening up the back-stroke - that just illustrates that they don't concentrate on their leading, or can't hear their bell at all.
    The reason why the 'open handstroke' became 'normal' in most of the country as far as I understand is that it averages out the tendency for handstrokes to be slightly slower than backstrokes (because of the weight of the rope). Try to have a 'two-beat' handstroke pause and you find it's too much, try to have none (closed H/S) and it's hard work on a ring of 4 or five. When ringing on handbells where 'good striking' is more easily achieved (physically, depending on ringers abitlities!), it is easiest to ask for a 'one-beat' pause rather than any other gap. I have heard of some ringers (S.major types and above) who say it should be a little closer (but not closed) on tower bells. Hm, I'm not sure about that, because 'the gap' obviously depends on how many bells are being rung! 'One beat' fits all, for the H/S gap in open handstroke ringing; seems right for me, and the bands that I have led in several different areas now.
    Last thoughts - Grandsire definitely needs an open H/S - imagine doubles on the back five (no tenor behind), rung at exactly the same pace as caters with tenor behind. Lovely stuff (esp. if the caters has lots of titums and hanstroke home...). Contrast the music produced.
    On the other hand - following the Yorkshire tradition ring Grandsire minor with closed H/S! (oops - some of them don't like Grandsire ... !)
    As has been mentioned, it all depends on the band, local (or peal-ringing!) traditions, and the ability of ringers to 'hear their bell'; but also - I would suggest, to appreciate that sometimes it is worth exploring some of these 'variations' in our art. They are not 'foreign' - just regional!
  • David Struckett
    14
    Subsequent to opening observation above - it would appear that the Clavis (1788) contained the first reference in print of the 'open handstroke' as one beat (or to leave 'double space' at HS lead). p3.
  • Nick Cronin
    5
    I have a copy of Campanalogia (1677) which also mentions in detail, on pages 23 to 25, the handstroke gap. I won't try to repeat all of it, but it sums it up at the start:-

    "A prospect of true ringing at any certain compass under the sett may thus be taken; for instance, in ringing a peal of 5 bells; from the fore-stroke of every note to the next fore-stroke of the same note, there ought to be eleven punctums or Beats of Time, which are all supposed to stand at equidistances: now in ten of these punctums, the five notes ought exactly to strike at the fore-stroke and back-stroke, and the eleventh stands as a cypher to guide the treble-note at fore-stroke to a double proportion of time from the tenor-note at back-stroke: which blank punctum must also be beaten in the same place by every note, to render its fore-stroke answerable to that of the treble".

    If this was in print as early as that, I think it fair to say that, certainly for change ringing, the handstroke gap has been there from the very start.
  • David Struckett
    14
    Hm, missed that one! Thanks Nick for pointing that out. A 'blank punctum' is 'the handstroke pause' then! Wonderful term! (not to mention 111 years earlier than the Clavis).
  • Simon Linford
    152
    Wow thanks for posting that! Punctum is my word of the day
  • David Struckett
    14
    It does seem an appropriate term, it's in the Concise Oxford Dictionary (same root as punctilious, punctual, punctuate, etc - plural: puncta). .... AND Fabian Stedman himself used it!
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