The performance was billed as "Ring Forth Ye Bells", but the first number played was "There Grew A Little Flower" (yes, they did do the Sorcerer opening, but later). Handling two or three bells each, a small company filled the room with beautiful resonance. The music must of course be arranged specifically for bells; of the G&S pieces played today, this work had been done well.
As well as demonstrating the full-on bells, the Ringers introduced us to bell-plates, what might be called the economy class handbells. Instead of several thousand quid for a set of bells, the bell-plates are a few hundred - and they sound *mostly* as good, but not quite. They lack the resonant beauty of the bells, but are played the same way and produce a reasonable tone.
One thing that can't be done with bell-plates, though, is holding two in one hand. It's the bell equivalent of playing a piano with both hands, I suppose; handling four bells and knowing which one to ring at any given moment is something that calls for some serious skill. We were treated to a three person four-in-hand number - twelve bells between three players - including their conductor, who in most of the other numbers wasn't able to himself play.
My biggest regret about this afternoon is that it was not recorded for DVD. The playing was excellent, the music lovely. There were a few numbers that seemed to have a lot of mistakes in the playing... oh wait, those were the ones where the experts stepped aside and invited audience members to come up and play! Yes, we got to try playing through a couple ourselves - pick up a couple of bells and swing them when the music calls for it.
Great fun afternoon, a pity it was so ill-attended.