Hand Bells



Gareth Malone in Cornwall

Now why would I be standing by the Carnon Downs roundabout holding a sign saying BELLS?  No doubt many of the passing drivers were asking the same question.

Eventually one car gave a sharp blast of his horn, turned off and pulled up round the corner.  The driver was Gareth Malone of Military Wives Choir fame, and with him was his recording team, sound engineer Steve, cameraman Chris, and publicity agent Zara.  They were coming to MY HOUSE!

The story began some ten days earlier when I received a phone call saying that Gareth Malone was looking for a handbell team in Cornwall for his 2016 Christmas Album and they had been given my name.  I explained what we did and that we had a wide range of Christmas Carols, imagining that was what was wanted.  Several phone calls later I discovered that Gareth wanted handbells on two tracks, “O come all ye faithful” and “Happy Christmas war is over.”.  I said that we played from number notation and would need to transpose the music.  We received a backing track and the music on Saturday and had one practise on the Monday (not good!!).  Recording was to take place in my lounge on Thursday.  As you can imagine we were excited but rather apprehensive.

The day of the recording was to be a never forgotten experience.  Gareth and his team had flown in from Belfast that morning and by 3 o’ clock were turning my lounge into a recording studio.  I had set out the bells in advance, so it was a case of setting up microphones and recording equipment.

By half past three we were invaded by BBC Spotlight, Radio Cornwall, ITV Southwest and Country Life magazine all wanting to interview Gareth Malone about his Christmas Album.  They also asked for my thoughts on how I felt about being part of the project and meeting with Gareth.  It was somewhat of a shock for the handbell ringers when they arrived to find TV cameras everywhere.  All the interviews and publicity took quite a time but eventually we were left in peace to begin recording.

We had all seen Gareth Malone working with various choirs on television, now he was going to be working with us!  He was just as we had seen him, enthusiastic, patient and always encouraging.

The music was slow (12/8 time), we had to be spot on with our timing to fit in with the backing track, so it required many takes, I lost count of how many.  We recorded it piece by piece until it was absolutely right.

All the members of the team have their own personal memories of the day.  Sue Green said “it was an honour to be asked to play for such a prestigious conductor ‒ such a super person, that smile says it all.  An unforgettable experience.”

Lyn Chapman wrote on facebook “Thanks Gareth from all the Perranarworthal Handbells.  It was so exciting recording, and we can’t believe we were actually being conducted by you.”

Anne Richardson said “Spent the evening with my handbell group and Gareth Malone recording his Christmas album ‒ Couldn’t have dreamt it up ‒ AMAZING!”.

Look at the photos!