Project Pickled Egg - Part 23
I am going to start this article, the penultimate in the series, by discussing Belfast, which along with Glasgow generated more debate than all the other methods put together.
Glasgow and Belfast are often uttered in the same breath when discussing methods which are very difficult but commonly rung. In Part 20 I concluded that Glasgow had made it into our ‘spice rack’ – an iconic method, and something to aim at as a significant challenge. Belfast however is not going to follow it.
The arguments found in favour of including Belfast in Project Pickled Egg were as follows:
• Useful formulaic above work
• It is included in some well known compositions (Horton’s 4,Chandler’s 23)
• Being an mx method (like Bristol), it can be rung as a three lead touch, which is useful in a practice environment
• Hugely structured so helps in understanding how bells work together even in difficult methods
• Concept of pairs of points at the same stroke, crossing over the half lead, is very useful and not seen before
However, there were arguments against Belfast as well:
• It is nothing special musically
• The structure above the treble is not particularly obvious when only rung on 8, and isn’t that common on higher numbers
• Falseness gets in the way of exploiting musical potential
• There are better alternatives for introducing the same concepts
• Apart from Belfast's inclusion in well known compositions, and its familiarity, none of the other arguments in Belfast's favour are unique to Belfast.
When the inclusion of Belfast was put to the vote in an online poll, 31 respondents voted to include a better method that includes the key features, 11 went for straight exclusion, and a couple went for including it. 44 people is not a huge sample but it is a pretty good indication given it wasn’t even close (Glasgow voting was much closer).
Belfast just did not get enough support. It’s not a bad method by any means, and it is not disapproved of. Marianne Fisher summarised it pretty well:
“Glasgow and Belfast will of course still be rung whether they're in PPE or not - their place in iconic compositions assures that. To exclude them from PPE simply says that they're not essential parts of the early curriculum. As an analogy, there are thousands of English words that are interesting and/or useful (or even just showy), but you don't need them to pass an English Language A-level. Keeping them off the curriculum is not the same as cutting them from the dictionary.”
The method most highly rated as an alternative to Belfast is Mareham Delight. It doesn’t have the benefit of being mx, and isn’t known by lots of other ringers yet, but it has less debilitating falseness than Belfast, and has more musical potential. So what are the features of Belfast that were considered worthy of inclusion that Mareham delivers?
1. Formulaic or rules-based backwork. Commonly used expressions but what does this mean? You could argue that all backworks have a formula or are based on rules. However it is the description of backworks where all the place bells start by doing the same thing relative to their starting position for a few rows, before settling into treble bobbing. Belfast starts with all the back bells (5-8) doing a point then a fishtail (when treble is in 3-4), and then treble bobbing after the treble has left 3-4. Last week’s methods, Jovium and Bolonium, have an overwork featuring a pair of fishtails, the second when the treble is in 5-6. The rule in London-above methods is to wrong hunt four places to a fishtail (treble in 3-4), then treble bob back the way you came.
There are lots of these regular structures, with some used much more than others. They are practically helpful as if you know the formula or the rules you know the starts for a whole batch of place bells, and quite a bit of the rest of the line. It is also helpful for the conductor who may be able to see the regular structure and make sure that bells execute the structure relative to each other and the treble.
There is definitely merit in getting used to different above works like this, especially ones which are most commonly used at the moment. Belfast isn’t actually a particularly widely used one, but the above work in Mareham is, and should this Project extend to 10 and 12 there will almost certainly be methods with this above work featured. In Mareham the back bells hunt three blows to a point at handstroke, then hunt back to a point where they started at backstroke, and then treble bob. So 8ths place bell does point 5, point 8, and then meets the treble in 5-6. It might not seem so obvious with 6ths and 7ths place bells, but the structure is still there – you just have to see that the places made in 5ths and 8ths are part of the plain hunting. Key is that the four place bells involved do the two points in sync with each other.
2. Cascading pairs of points. This is best explained by looking at the line – the feature comes in 8ths place bell after dodging with the treble in 5-6, and in 3rds place bell going in the opposite direction. See how these two place bells do two pairs of points, then they cross over across the half lead, and then do another pair of points. A key feature of the pairs of points is that they are at the same stroke. Belfast also has these cascading pairs of points across the half lead, and other difficult methods do as well. It is actually quite satisfying to ring, working with and maybe even helping the bell coming in the other direction.
3. Hugely structured. As you learn and ring this method it should be possible and helpful to see how the work of bells fit together. I’ve talked about the work above the treble and how that all fits together, the bells doing the cascading points fit together; the frontwork is quite static but again you should be able to see what the bell you are working with is doing.
Mareham then is the second Delight method to make it into the larder – a difficult and worthy addition. It is arguably more difficult than Belfast because of the lead end order, and it will be interesting to see whether bands aspire to ringing it.
1344 Mareham Delight Major Composed by Robert W Lee
2345678 1 2 3 5 34256 2 2435876 s – s – 2437658 s s –
2 part. 18 5678s (3f,15b), 2 6578s (2f,0b), 24 crus (7f,17b), 61 4-bell runs (25f,36b), 256 5678 combinations (96f,160b), 16 8765s (6f,10b).
- The Ringing World, No 5616, 14 Dec 2018, pg 1249.