Project Pickled Egg - Part 16

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Kenninghall Surprise Major

Those ringers fortunate to have the opportunity to ring more advanced methods on 10 and 12 will be used to the concept of ‘formulaic’ methods. Formulaic methods have structures which are very driven by the treble, particularly the above work, but often the work below the treble as well. Formulaic methods can be rung by sets of rules, so it is helpful to have an advanced awareness of structure and an ability to see where the treble is. Bristol becomes much more formulaic the more bells you ring it on, and very popular methods like Phobos and Zanussi are described as formulaic. This nature of methods makes them much easier to ring in practice than their blue lines might suggest.

Many of these more advanced, yet popular, methods on 12 feature wrong hunting below the treble, i.e. hunting where the leading is back and hand rather than hand and back. The general lack of more advanced ringing on 10, the paucity of bands ringing Spliced Surprise Royal, and the propensity of such bands to stick to extensions of the Standard 8, mean that there is a huge gap between the standard methods on 8 and 12. A Surprise Major method that clearly demonstrates how a right place backwork can be married with a wrong place plain hunting frontwork could at least start to bridge the gap.

Most ringers at the Surprise Major level are familiar with the concept of wrong hunting. For a start it is one of things that makes London more difficult! It may not make any difference to you but the difficulty in wrong hunting is usually noticed when bells lead, with the handstroke lead tending to be difficult to strike. In early discussion on PPE we felt it was important that wrong hunting is tackled in ringing Surprise Major because otherwise the first time wrong hunting like this is met is London Royal, or even Bristol Maximus. So we set about looking for something that was right place above and with plenty of uninterrupted wrong hunting below. The top pick was Kenninghall.

Kenninghall is Cornwall above and has Cornwall lead-end order, but has wrong hunting on four for a large part of the work below the treble. And to make it better, and set it apart from London, which also has lots of wrong hunting below, the wrong hunting in Kenninghall keeps bells in coursing order. Look at the grid of Kenninghall and you will see the block of wrong hunting below the treble – the wrong hunting in London is not as isolated or clear as this and London is much harder.

Any method selected for Project Pickled Egg needs to be worthy of ringing in its own right at the same time as providing a progression and introducing something new. Kenninghall scores well – any band that has rung Cornwall should be able to tackle Kenninghall and just focus on this wrong hunting work. Keeping Cornwall above isolates the new learning and reduces cognitive load (my school-teacher wife wrote that bit!).

It was said on the Facebook group that the front work is confusing because it all looks the same. That’s true – it does look the same in blue line terms – how do you remember which bit of 4ths and back you are in and hence when to stop? The clue unsurprisingly comes from the treble, and hence this is a good method for trying to see where the treble is and using it to make ringing the method easier. Half of the method is easily rung simply by knowing that whenever the treble is in places 5-8, one simply wrong hunts in places 1-4 and treble bob hunts in places 5-8. When the treble is in places 1-4, the blue line is very tame and identical to Cornwall. The transitions into and out of the wrong hunting on the front as the treble moves from 4 to 5 and vice versa are about as intuitive as they could possibly be.

There are two methods that were considered for providing the ‘right place above, some wrong hunting below’ feature. Chesterfield is reasonably well known because it is in Stephen Chandler’s iconic and aspirational composition of 23 Spliced. It is Cambridge above for reduced cognitive load (and excitement), an e group method would be new for PPE, but not that special musically. The other method which almost made the main list was York Surprise Major. York fulfils the brief in terms of isolating the wrong hunting below with a right place above work, but given the front work is slightly more difficult than that of Kenninghall, and the backwork is new (but simple), it sits well as this week’s ‘try also’.

For compositions of Kenninghall use any good composition of Cornwall. The music above the treble will be exactly the same, and most of the rows below the treble are the same.

There is only going to be one more new method introduced (and it’s a cracker) before I embark on a discussion about how Project Pickled Egg gets disseminated beyond the pages of the Ringing World and a Facebook discussion group. There are signs that seeds are dropping and taking root – a quarter peal of Deva here, Lessness as a special method there, and more and more people are discussing methods. Who knows it might even get a mention at the Central Council this weekend! But as was said of Project Pickled Egg on Facebook: “Until its widely rung, all we are achieving is fine talk…”


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