Simple Change Ringing for Handbells
Compiled by Bob Butler, Endicott, NY, USA
All successful change ringing starts and ends in rounds. Rounds is the ringing of the bells in descending order from the highest pitch to the lowest pitch.
Change ringing can be done on any number of bells from 4 on up. The vast majority of handbell change ringing is done on 6 or 8 bells. While it doesn't have to be, it is most often rung on a major scale with the lowest note the tonic of the major scale. What ever the number, the lowest bell is called the tenor and the highest bell is called the treble. The bells are numbered from the highest bell (#1) to the lowest bell. In a single change each bell is rung once. The change is rung with an even beat at a tempo of between 3 to 5 beats per second. (bell strikes not changes) Each time slot in the change is call a place. There are as many places as there are bells. They also are numbered from #1 on the first beat out to the nth beat. Since there are both place numbers and bell numbers it can be confusing until you get it sorted out as to which set of numbers are being spoken of at any moment. Rounds are rung from the #1 bell to the nth bell. In the ringing of rounds each bell is rung in a place with the same number as the bell number. All successful change ringing starts with rounds and finishes with rounds. In all the changes between the sets of rounds the bells are systematically moved to adjacent places such that the order which the bells ring is never repeated between the two sets of rounds.
The basic principle of change ringing is call the Plain Hunt. Our good friend the Cross and Stretch causes the bells to cycle through exactly the same changes and in the same order as Plain Hunt. Cross and Stretch is far easier to learn and execute then the Plain Hunt in full change ringing style.
The CROSS & STRETCH system;
1) Lay out a set of six or eight bells. eg C to A or C to C with the low
C to the left.
2) The three or four ringers picks up a pair of bells.
3) They ring them from right to left. Any number of times you want.
4) As you ring rounds for the last time you are ready for the Cross.
5) Each ringer crosses his bells and sets them down on the table to
6) The ringers release the bells, uncross their hands and pick their
7) The order of the bells from right to left will now be 21436587
8) The ringers ring the bells from right to left again. Now the
9) The ringers stretch out and put their bells in front of their
neighbor. The two bells on the end do not get passed. They can remain
in the ringer's hands. There will be a collision here. Have the ringer
passing their bell to the left be under the person passing their bell to
10) The ringers release the bells and pick up the bells in front of them.
11) the order at this point is 24163857
12) the ringers ring from right to left again.
Then Stretch. Continue with alternate Crossing and Stretching. The 8th change should be back rounds. The bells ordered 87654321 On the 16th change the bells should come back to rounds. There is a rolling action to this. The ringers on one end will be making their bell changes while the ringers on the other end are ringing. They should be rung with an even beat and the next change should start on the next beat without pause. (In normal change ringing where there are two different types of strokes and there is a handstroke pause. This occurs ever two changes, but don't worry about this at this time.)
"Joy to the World" Starts on rounds. So, do your Cross and Stretch in the Key that "Joy to the World" is in. As the bells come back to round make it the first 8 notes of "Joy to the World" . Ring the entire song and at the end ring the Cross and Stretch again.
For more information on change-ringing click here to go to the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers (the worldwide organisation to support tower bell ringers in the art of change-ringing) or click here to go to the on-line Ringing World, the change-ringers' periodical.