Tenth Annual Pittsburgh Ringing Course
The tenth annual Pittsburgh Change Ringing Course was held the weekend of 29-31 July at Southminster Church. Reprising the first such course, it concentrated on helping folks acquire the practical skills to move beyond plain hunt dominated methods, nominally using Stedman and Kent for the purpose, though we sprinkled some Cambridge as well as Plain Bob into the weekend. Six students from Birmingham, Kalamazoo and Rochester joined us: Amy Bishoff, Sue DeVuyst, Peter Lagone, Susan Lagrone, Thomas Lagrone and Marlisa Pennington. We are especially grateful to the hardy souls that came from Birmingham, Brewster, Dallas, Kalamazoo, Pittsburgh, Rochester and Toronto to help: Mary Bragdon, Ted Clark, Chris Haller, David Hawkins, Margaret Miller, Matt Nelson, Linda Rankin, Mike Schulte and Dave Westmoreland. I remain in awe of how readily folks go to great trouble and expense to come help others at our courses, where the reward is getting to ring the same thing over and over again. Such self-less folks are the heart of the course, and the reason it does whatever good it does. The course was led by Don Morrison and Mike Schulte.
The entire Birmingham contingent, plus David Hawkins, came a day early, and joined our local practice Thursday night, making the best we've had in long time, ringing being predominately on eight. We had such a good turn out we started a half-hour early. With so many folks arriving in town early we had enough for a several hour handbell practice before the course ringing proper started Friday evening, and had multiple handbell bands going simultaneously. The course ringing occupied all of Friday evening, all day Saturday, and all of Sunday afternoon, after service ringing. In a first for the course, everyone arrived in time for the start of Friday ringing, and no one had to leave early, before the end of Sunday ringing!
Lots was learned over the weekend, and everyone's ringing noticeably improved. Late Sunday we even took a brief hiatus from our usual scheme of fitting just one or two students into strong bands of helpers, and had a successful course of Stedman Doubles rung by a band consisting of just the six students!
Thanks to Matt Nelson's efforts, it's even possible to watch all of Sunday's ringing, both service ringing and the course :-)
Besides general course ringing, we managed to fit in six tower bell quarters, each of the students ringing in at least one of them.
And also two handbell quarters, which were significant accomplishments for some of the helpers, too.
And, of course, you can't ring without eating and drinking. To save time, Saturday lunch was at Don and Betty's house, a few steps from Southminster, cleverly consumed in shifts to allow the bells to be used for quarter attempts throughout. The three evenings we were together we all dined together at three different places, all new for ringing outings. The winner was undoubtedly Saturday's at the Penn Brewery, a local micro-brewery and pub; we'll undoubtedly be back.
As noted above, this was our tenth annual course. The course was originally the brainchild of Ross Finbow, who arranged the first one, but sadly has moved back to the UK and so missed this one. It's always held sometime in the second half of the summer, though the exact weekend wiggles around a bit. Over the ten years of its existence, the course has served forty-nine different student ringers, many more than once, from twenty different North American towers or ringing areas. And the hard work has been shouldered by thirty-two different helpers, many of whom seem to just keep coming back, no matter how badly we abuse them. In fact, several of our most devoted helpers started out as students in earlier years. The focus of the course changes from year to year, with topics ranging from helping folks move from plain hunting to plain bob doubles, up to surprise and conducting. We usually try to limit the course to about six students to ensure they all get sufficient attention and opportunities with strong bands around them. The course is always devoted exclusively to practical skills, without any blackboard type work: folks are expected to prepare extensively ahead of time and arrive prepared to practice what they've learned. The date and topic of each year's course is usually announced in the early spring. If you're interested, be sure to watch the NAGCR web site or subscribe to the nag-talk mailing list.