Dronfield Bells
 

Information and News on Towerbell and Handbell Ringing in Dronfield, Derbyshire.
 
 
 
 
 
Sunday, October 22, 2017

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30th Anniversary Concert



 

2005 was our 30th anniversary year, but it took us a year to fit in the celebration concert. 

At least the delay allowed us to support the ASpire to a Spire appeal at our local church
by donating the proceeds of the concert to this appeal.  

A report of this concert has been
written for 'Reverberations' and is reprinted here.

 

Aspire 

        ASpire appeal concert


 

In September 2006, Dronfield Handbell Ringers, a team of
eight who ring four-in-hand, held a concert to
celebrate the
30th anniversary of their official formation in August 1975;
for various reasons, it was a year
late!

 

The performance took place at Dronfield Parish Church
and the programme included our ever-versatile
mix of
classical, jazz, blues and popular tunes, featuring music by
Beethoven, Chopin and Handel, as
well as Henry Mancini,
Errol Garner, Scott Joplin and Michael Coe.

 

Two young musicians, Mark Gregory and David Jones, sons
of two of the members, also took part.

Mark, on guitar, accompanied us on Gershwin’s  'The Man I Love',
and played a wonderful piece he had
composed especially
for the concert, entitled Affinities.  
David played two saxophone numbers, 'Moby
Dick' by John Dankworth
and 'Someone to Watch over Me', another Gershwin number,
accompanied by
Vic Cox on piano.  
Both soloists joined us for our final number.

 

Seven of the current team have been playing together for more t
han ten years, with the cadet member
joining almost four years ago.  
Two members, Vic Cox and Stella Lintin, have been ringing for
the full
31 years, during which time, Vic has composed, arranged,
rearranged and compiled more than 300
pieces for the team,
regional and national rallies and the Dronfield Collection.

 

He remembers the early years:

 

During 1973, I acquired the use of a set of handbells, which I
thought should be inspected to see what
could be done with them.
Investigation showed that there were two chromatic octaves of
bells extending
from 18G to 4G.
They were a complete set of Shaw bells of generally good tone.
Some work was needed
to the clapper assemblies and the handles
were showing signs of wear, but they were certainly useable.

 

Some of the Dronfield tower bell ringers thought they would like to
try their hand at tune ringing, so some
music was needed.  
We had no idea where it could be obtained, so I decided to
convert some of my
piano and guitar music into a suitable form for
playing on two octaves.
I also decided that music in staff
notation should be used in
preference to the number system traditionally used by tower bell ringers

attempting tunes.  
I’d had some experience of number notation when a tower bell
ringer in Leeds, way
back in the 50's.

 

The team then consisted of myself and three others, and the first
practices were held at the home of two
of them.
They had heard the Ecclesfield ringers and had an LP recorded
by them:  this was our
inspiration to progress.

 

The most obvious tunes to play were Christmas carols,
but we needed some music.  
I was to have an
extended stay in Russia during the autumn of 1973
and decided to take along the two books of
‘Carols for Choirs’
and transcribed a few popular carols for bells in readiness f
or the coming Christmas.

 

Armed with these tunes, and after some little practice, we rang
outside at one or two locations around
Dronfield, usually ringing
at a central point and visiting houses within earshot.  
I think we collected,
probably in aid of the tower bell fund.

 

The fledgling group continued to practice during 1974.  
My memories and details are scarce, b
ut I assume that some handbell
tune ringing took place from time to time and that a number of new

tunes were added to the repertoire.

 

One ringer, who played saxophone, contributed one or two pieces
derived from some of his old band mu
sic.  
We also required more ringers and advertised in the church magazine;
this resulted in Stella
joining us (she is still with us).  
One ringer, who worked for Marks and Spencer in Chesterfield, and

one of her colleagues, and her husband, also joined.

 

1975 was a more stable year. The tunes practised extended from
No. 1, 'Minuet' (Robert de Visee), to
at least  32, 'Early One Morning',
taking in classical, blues, jazz, traditional tunes, Beatles and other

popular music numbers.  
So confident were we that we could become a reasonable group,
we decided
to form ourselves officially into
The Dronfield Handbell Ringers.  
This occurred in August when we
decided that our practices would be
held in a hired room rather than in one or other of our houses.

 

We had contact with one of the elders of Hill Top United Reformed
Church and the use of one of their
rooms was secured for the princely
sum of 50p per session.
The first practice was held on 8 August 1975.

 

The team at this stage consisted of Val Edson, Stella Lintin, Cliff Allen,
Vic Cox, Paul Edson, but there
must have been someone else,
probably Judith Kirby, whose sister rings with us today.

 

Our first performance in public was at the Dronfield Church Harvest
Supper on 4 October.  Our repertoire
was limited so the performance
was padded out by monologues by Paul Edson (very good)
and by
Cliff on his saxophone, accompanied by Vic on piano.

 

The general performance was OK, but in one item, a few of
the ringers managed to get the wrong bells
in the wrong hand
which rendered one tune a bit unusual to say the least!

 

In December, Radio Hallam recorded us ringing 'Ding Dong Merrily
on High' to broadcast over the
Christmas period and we rang at
the Dronfield Parish Church carol concert, the first of many.

 

The team played at its first HRGB rally at Ashover in 1977.  
We joined HRGB, initially as members in
the East Midlands
Region, but as the North East Region formed at that time,
we joined them instead.

 

Over the years, Dronfield HBR has rung at carol and Burns Night
concerts, private functions, residential
homes, at regional and
national rallies – our 300th performance was at the North East
Regional Rally
in Scarborough in October 2004.  
Venues have included National Trust properties, Manchester Free

Trade Hall, Selby Abbey, Renishaw Hall and private historic homes.

 

We have participated in the Buxton, Ashbourne and Bamford
Festivals, and won the Vera Broadburn
Cup three times and were
placed four times at the Harrogate Music Festival.  
In 2005, we were recorded
for a DVD for Taylor Bells.

 

The Dronfield Collection was launched at the National Rally in
Birmingham in 1997, with the full list
available at the
Lowestoft Rally in 1998.  
The repertoire consists of more than 50 tunes arranged for

two (and two+) octaves of bells by Vic.  
You can send for the catalogue, or see the collection at the

National Rally.

 

Another of our members, Helen Foley, instigated the Northern Bell
Orchestra in 2005, and four of the
Dronfield team are ringers.  
The orchestra is directed by Tim Willetts and the music we play
is very
different and in a different style – and great fun!  
For more information on the NBO, please contact:

Roger Lazenby at northernbellorchestra@ntlworld.com .

 

The Dronfield Handbell Ringers may lag 70 or so years behind
Ecclesfield, our friends in the North
East and traditional Yorkshire
off-table ringers, but the dedication, enthusiasm and fun we have,

makes us good for many years to come!