It was the 3rd June 2022, the Queen’s Jubilee and a public holiday for Britain. The rain clouds were gathering in the morning and further up the street a group of men were struggling to set up a gazebo in preparation for the Jubilee Street party.
I decided to do something productive with the day. In Otley the Parish Church bells would ring at three o’clock in the afternoon. This was an opportunity to not to be missed to record the unique sound of the recently refurbished bells.
I’ve always enjoyed the sound of church bells and often use them and some of my own music compositions. During the 2020 lockdown I use bells to accompany Stewart Ullyott’s piece “I tried to write a happy song, but this is what came out” (see post: Force Majeure 2020 ). I hoped that the Jubilee peal would provide enough new material for a future project.
I was lucky to the meet the campanologists at the end of peal. The Otley Bell Ringers were keen to offer to have a recording of their work for the Church archives, so I was happy to oblige. The performance was a Quarter Peal, a full peal can take about three hours. Peals have a variety of names handed derived from people and places that refer to specific patterns used to permutate the order of the bells being struck. The permutation pattern used in the Jubilee Peal was the Plain Bob Doubles. Featuring six of the Parish Church’s eight bells being used.
The full recording about 50 minutes includes the bell being rung up into the set position before starting the Peal. Each bell can fully rotate, at beginning the momentum is built up until the set position is reached with the mouth of bell pointing upwards and locked into position with stays.
Once the peal has started it is team effort to get the bells “ringing the changes” in the correct order by each member having to remember their position on every change.
About a week later I got back to my studio to check the results of the recording and makes some edits. While playing back I improvised a bit of piano and trombone over the sounds of the bells. Unfortunately, the trombone track didn’t record on the first take, I must have pressed the wrong button, which was a pity since the first take is always the best when you are in the mood to improvise.
The finished edit of the music is set to video clips shot on the day in the Church yard while making the audio recording. It is work in progress and I will be experimenting with the recording of the Otley Church Bells again soon. The video also features retired bell ringer, Geoffrey Cooper, seen in the video slowly walking away at the end of the music.