CEA Smiths 23 spliced
For any association band to ring Norman Smith’s 23 spliced S Major with only local members would be considered a significant achievement and indeed there are probably only a largish handful of UK territorial associations who could do so. For one with less than 20 ringing members spread over a very wide geography , where some have to travel close to 300 miles, sorry 480km, to their local peal tower then this would be some achievement.
During 2011 our thoughts had turned to ‘beyond 8 spliced’. This had been discussed a few times as it was clear that a new challenge was desired and through various conversations, fuelled maybe by Hertog Jan and his friends Merlot, Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc, the consensus was to aim for Smith’s 23 spliced. Of the available ringers 4 had rung this before (although 2 just once or twice and over 20 years previously), however, with Mike, at least we did have one very experienced ringer and conductor of this composition in our ranks which proved an invaluable help. Mike had discussed the idea with Roger Bailey and Roger was also keen to join, he would bring a lot of experience, the ability to put people back on their blue line if required, and in his own way a good deal of encouragement to us. As Roger was, alongside Mike and some others, a keen grabber of new countries in which to ring peals (mostly handbells) then the ‘international’ flavour was enhanced.
Looking back through some old emails I see that it was on the 10th November that the first email setting out a broad plan was sent, asking for commitment and confirmation of interest. Already at that point we had a target date, which in hindsight was a good thing, of mid July 2012 to get our first peal as Margaret would be leaving for Norway then. Positive replies were generally quick to come back. Based on a Saturday afternoon peal followed by a Sunday morning peal weekends were identified where we could get 8 of us together in Dordrecht, about once every 4 weeks.
One of the beauties of the composition is that it can be built up, method by method, from 13 to 23 methods keeping pretty much the same composition outline, this greatly assists organisation as a learning plan is pretty clear! The first step was taken at Brandau in early January 2012 where the ringing meeting had as its focus various methods from the first 15. These were rung in courses and in quarters and gave us the confidence to score (quite well as I remember) 2 peals of 13-spliced (the introductory level!) on the final weekend in January. A good start and the most methods for 5 of the band! The organiser was feeling better about it all! The next time we gathered we upped to 16 and scored a steady peal (the tenor ringer having decided some thinking time would be helpful!). Leaving for the piste I was feeling good, but then news reached me of our first loss the next morning. Nothing to worry about, but although a quarter of 17 methods was scored maybe some confidence was knocked. Next up was possibly the low point when we lost 2 peals of 17 methods in a weekend although I remember both lasting to at least the 5th or 6th part, so proving we knew the methods. The next attempts unfortunately had to be cancelled, but we used the AGM weekend to practice individually some methods that had caused some trouble and a couple of new methods, but again 17 methods (I think that’s what we attempted!) proved elusive and, unfortunately then we were nowhere near what was needed!.
The next scheduled weekend was then getting to be the last one before Margaret headed towards the frozen north. We had 2 attempts and although we had racked up rather a lot of losses in general the ringing had been OK and we had been close. There was another meeting at Brandau which was used to practice methods individually and like the first time this proved very useful. We decided therefore to jump straight in at 23!! Live life on the edge!!
In all honesty I think not many of us really expected to score that first attempt. We got to the start of the last part and suddenly it seemed to dawn on us that this was on and thus some nervousness set in which needed all of Mike and Roger’s efforts to keep us on track. However we just did so and when “That’s All” was called there were smiles all round and a loud cry of “Wow” from Paul. Champagne was then the order of the day.
Since then we have rung the peal again twice (at Dordrecht and Stevenage) with a fully CEA residents band enabling almost all of us to have now rung the peal inside once or more. But this is just the start.
This summary cannot be complete without a word about Roger Bailey. His encouragement, humour and ability to keep us right was a key element in our success. Roger sadly died in January 2013 and our first peal of 23 methods was his last towerbell peal. Many tributes to Roger have been made, not least by Mike, and some are available on the internet so I would encourage you to have a look at those.
In conclusion I believe we all feel that this was a worthwhile and fulfilling project, it shows with an aim (at whatever level), work and perseverance that we can push our ringing boundaries together. In that very first email I concluded with these words which do seem to have come more or less true!: “I am sure we all understand this is not an easy job, will require a good commitment and dedication to learning the methods well and in advance, however when we do it this will be a great achievement for us. Although we do not plan to we should be prepared to lose a few attempts along the way and also recognise if we collectively have not managed the right standard and be prepared to attempt that again rather than just moving on. Quality is always more important than quantity!”
So what’s next?
Clive G Smith
Peals of 23 spliced rung by the society.
The build-up peals