Nine Lessons and Carols

As we reach the end of the Christmas period, let’s look back to the start and an event in my local village. It’s an annual event, a little before Christmas day, and consists of nine readings, telling the story of Christmas along with nine appropriate carols. Most are sung by all but some are for the choir only.

I was there half an hour before the service for amongst other things I do I am a bell ringer and we try to give half an hour of what we think is a joyful sound before the service begins.

By the way, please don’t call me a campanologist. Ologists study something. I don’t particularly study bell ringing. I just do what I can. A couple of bell ringing newcomers have recently arrived in the village which is great. It means we have a fair chance of getting 6 ringers for our 6 bells. In fact this time we had nine ringers present which meant I could step out for one set and take a photo or two.

It’s never easy getting photos of ringers. Churches aren’t very brightly lit and that becomes even less so when only candles are in use. I got the agreement of the team to use flash but please don’t ever think of using flash photography with ringers without permission. It could dazzle and cause a disaster. And keep your distance. Bell ringers know what they are doing and accidents are very rare, but surprises or intruders can distract and damage to limb or even life could occur.

Apart from lighting difficulties, ringing areas are normally quite compact and inconveniently placed. It can be hard to get everybody well included in a photo.

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There we have our ringers at work. Where you can see faces you can see the intense concentration. For those who want to know the bit of stripy, fluffy material that can slide through a hand without causing rope burn is called the sally. I don’t know why.

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As you can see there is no sexism in bell ringing. It doesn’t actually require huge strength and so anybody can do it although some prefer to stick to lighter bells. Personally I find the lighter ones a bit flighty and prefer the heavier ones.

But this was just the preamble. As a ringer I sit right at the back if I do attend a service. It’s ideal for quietly taking photos.

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There’s the candlelit church as the congregation sing ‘hark the Herald’.

And here, down in the choir stalls are the ladies of the choir as they sing the Coventry Carol.

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I am not a regular attendee at church services but the church does form an important part of village life and I can feel quite at home there. After the service there was time for a chat, with mulled wine and mince pies. What better than to be part of a friendly community, enjoying a good old sing and companionship?

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