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Postscript: Calling a Short-Course Peal      


If you are new to the business of calling peals of Bristol, much of this website may seem arcane, and the compositions unachievable in the tower. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most of the compositions have a compelling internal logic that makes them simple to remember and to call. Perhaps the finest example is my 5056 no.1, which has a beautiful palindromic structure, few calls, and a simple pattern of musical links from one section to another. If you know how it works, it is a piece of cake to call; and it is easy to understand how it works, as I hope the short guide below will demonstrate.

First of all, let's look at the figures:

5056 Bristol Surprise Major (no.1)
Composed by Mark B Davies

  23456  H M B W
  54326  -     -
  42563      -
  24365  - - 5
  26354  -   -     |
  36452    -       |
  35426  -   -     | OSEB
  24536  -     -   |
  43265      -     |
  53462    2
  63254  - -   -   |
* 52436    -   -   |
  34625    -   -   | 5RB
  26543    -   -   |
  64352    -   2   |
  34256    -
  23456  -

At first there doesn't seem much to get hold of, but in fact most of the peal consists of three big, easy blocks: the set of five Befores beginning in the third course, and the other two blocks marked as "OSEB" and "5RB" on the figures above. In fact, the latter is really just another set of five Befores; the calling W, M across a course end brings the bell in 5th's place to the back of the coursing order - 53246 goes to 32465 - so is the exact reverse of a Before. This is just what the 5RB ("5 Reverse Befores") block does (although note that we really only call W, M four times, this being enough to visit all five coursing orders).

Already you can see some nice symmetry here. The peal opens with five Befores, which bring in all the rotations of coursing order 64235, and it ends with five "Reverse" Befores on the reverse of this coursing order - which is the plain course, 52346! Because the W,M calling misses out the Home lead, the 5RB block can include the whole of the plain course with the exception of the rounds lead, meaning we can ring this in the middle of the peal (I've marked this course with an asterisk).

The ten coursing orders brought in by the 5B and 5RB blocks are classic musical courses, including both 56/65 rollups and the "waterfall" coursing orders 35642 and 24653, which give 5-bell little-bell runs, as well as the COs 23564 and 46532, which not only produce 3456/6543 runs, but also some amazing six-bell runs based on 123456 and 654321. The two sets of coursing orders are shown below, in the order they are rung:

  B 56423
  B 35642
  B 23564
  B 42356
  B 64235
    53246 WM
    32465 WM
    24653 WM
    46532 WM
    (only call 4 "WM"s!)

What about the "OSEB" block? This stands for "Optimal Super-Efficient Block", and is the main bit you need to learn, forming the heart of the peal. It is symmetrical in its own right, being an exact a palindrome (meaning it has the same calling forward and backward). It has three Befores, two at the ends and one in the middle; on either side of the central Before is a Home, and beyond that is a Middle or a Wrong (which are actually the reverses of each other). So, replacing the Middle/Wrong with "z", the block looks like this: BzHBHzB. Very neat, very symmetrical.

If you write out the coursing orders, you will see that the OSEB block starts and ends with a 6xxx5 coursing order, and features little-bell music based on 53462/25346 in the middle; the other courses visited give 5678/8765 rollups, and are of the form xxx56 or 56xxx. So the coursing orders themselves make a sort of palindromic, self-reversing set, too:

  B 56234
  M 56342
  H 53462
  B 25346
  H 23456
  W 34256
  B 63425

In fact, the four 56 coursing orders included in this block - 23456, 34256, 56342 and 56234 - are exactly the four we need to complete the set of 72 8765/5678 rollups included in the peal. The two blocks of "5 Befores" described above include the other two xxx56/56xxx coursing orders - 42356 and 56423 - and, because the peal begins and ends with a Home, we naturally have the 56 rollups from the three 5xxx6 coursing orders.

So that is it, apart from a couple of linking courses here and there joining up those three big blocks. To see those, it's helpful to write out the coursing orders for the whole peal:

    H 52436  Start with a Home
    W 24536  Little-bell music on 2345...
    B 62453  ...more of it!
    H 64523  H, M transitions to 64235
    M 64235
   5B 64235  Five Befores on 64235
    H 62345  A Home gives 65s and transitions to...
 OSEB 63425  The OSEB block (see above in full)
   2M 63542  2 Middles give LB music on 2345...
    H 65432  Then H, M transitions to the first
    M 65324  "5RB" CO.
  5RB 46532  (Note we only actually call four W,M pairs)
   2W 54632  2W gives some 4567 runs...
    M 54326  ...and a Middle brings the 56 home
    H 53246  End with a Home

As you'll see from the above, there are only three small linking sections, each of two courses or less, and they hop naturally from one musical coursing order to another:

  • The first takes us from the opening Home to the "5B" block with WBHM, taking in lots of 2345 little-bell music on the way.
  • Hardly a linking course in its own right, but remember the lone Home between 5B and the OSEB!
  • The second link takes us from OSEB to 5RB using MMHM, and like the first link gives 2345 runs.
  • The third uses WWM and brings us to the final Home.

In its final reduction, the whole peal becomes: H, link1, 5B, H, OSEB, link2, 5RB, link3, H. What could be simpler?

I hope this short description of the 5056 has explained some of its structure, and revealed its underlying simplicity. Good luck if you call it - and I am always interested to hear any feedback you have.


MBD July 2010