Project Pickled Egg - Part 15

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Lancashire Surprise Major

The rivalry between Yorkshire and Lancashire exists in many fields of endeavour, but when it comes to eponymous Surprise Major methods, the contest is a difficult one to judge. Yorkshire scores for longevity and ease of ringing but is a bit dull, while Lancashire is a much more interesting and exciting affair. If I were to return to the larder of ingredients analogy, while Yorkshire might be a staple of butter or flour, Lancashire is something like chorizo – tasty on its own but even better for spicing up other dishes.

Lancashire Surprise Major is not well known outside the peal ringing fraternity, but was a strong suggestion for inclusion by the initial core group developing this project.

Arguments for inclusion:

• It’s a great method to think about structure. And for someone who knows Bristol, it’s quite useful as it is a sort of ‘inside-out’ Bristol.

• It’s also good for thinking about “how it works” when you’re ringing it, and encouraging ringers away from rote blueline memorization.

• The a group lead end order, while familiar from Plain Bob, is a surprisingly under-utilized lead end order in spliced, and an excellent one to add to the mix.

• Clean proof scale to aid composers.

• Like London, learning to negotiate the changes of method into and out of it in spliced teaches a useful skill.

Those who have rung Norman Smith’s 23 Spliced will see familiarity in Lancashire because it is Whalley above the treble, but it also has the Whalley above work below the treble as well – a double method with rotational symmetry. It has similarities with Bristol, having the line of Bristol just started one blow later – difficult to explain but if you compare the grids and you will see that the bells in 5ths and 8ths place lie still, 67 cross, and then you have the Bristol starts. So if it is a bit like Bristol but not better, is it worth including, and what value is it adding?

I don’t think many ringers when learning Whalley say to themselves “ooh this is like Bristol”. They see the similarities of bits of line but it feels different. I have always seen methods like this, that start with the notation 58x58.14, as being a group in their own right, rather than as some sort of Bristol variation. For me they sit alongside, and can get confused with, methods like Sussex which start 38x58.14 and have similar lines above the treble.

Although Lancashire has not been rung as a single method that often (it was first pealed in 1922) it has been used by composers of spliced. Colin Wyld used it as one of the methods for his ground-breaking 6-part all-the-work composition of 24 spliced composed in the 1980s. This is, I think, the only Surprise Major composition that is ring by above and below works rather than by learning 24 lines – there are three above works, of which Lancashire is one (Premier and Stanton are the other two), and eight below works. It is firmly at the non-trivial end of the spectrum and has not been rung very often!

Don Morrison has used Lancashire and exploited its musical properties in lots of his compositions of spliced, and there are excellent compositions of 23 Spliced by both Don and Philip Earis that include Lancashire (and plenty of other PPE methods). However I realise that in discussing such compositions I am straying away from reality for most readers, and I am only trying to emphasize the fact that highly regarded composers use methods for good reason, and Lancashire is one that get used. If there was a composition of 23 Spliced to aspire to, it is more likely to have Lancashire in it than Whalley.

For quarter peal compositions, a simple six homes isn’t a disaster, (2p 2s 2p b) x6 is better, or you could try this rather more ambitious offering:

1280 Lancashire Surprise Major Composed by Mark B Davies

 23456 	W	V	F	B	M	H
 24356 						S
 25364 				–	–	
 32456 		–	–	–		Ss
 23456 	–	–	–		–	S

17 5678s, 4 6578s, 38 crus, 88 4-bell runs, 176 5678 combinations, 19 8765s (7f,12b), Tittums, Backrounds.

So, Lancashire is a very good method in its own right with a nice line and musical potential (sorry Yorkshire, you have lost this particular battle for me), it introduces a genuinely different above and below work, it has the special beauty of a double method, a new lead end order from previous PPE methods, and is a good method in spliced both because it is different and for its musical properties.