We have not practised or preformed on the handbells or chimes since places of worship were closed back in March.

Many of us were suffering severe withdrawal symptoms and looked with envy at groups comprised of family members who were able to make music together. A number of bands used modern technology to ring together via programmes such as Zoom. However we had a further problem in that our bells were locked in the church.

The government’s partial relaxation of lockdown allowing 6 people to meet together, as long as they were socially distant and outdoors, gave us the possibility of meeting up to ring.

Detailed planning was needed. It was decided to use the chimes rather than the bells as they are less fragile for outdoor use and freestanding music stands as they could be placed further apart than our usual ones that stand on a table. None of our equipment had been used since March and would not be used again for a week so we were doing our best to keep them free from lingering germs. We also made sure that each pair of chimes were only used by one person. As an additional precaution we wore our usual gloves.

Some of our band, understandably, did not want to take part for health or shielding reasons to protect themselves or members of their families. However 6 of us were only too keen to play. We found a date we could all make and met up in my garden. The weather stayed dry and not too cold – if only we had been able to arrange this in the previous dry and sunny weeks!

Luckily some of our music is specially written for 12 bells which is 6 people and we spent 2 hours playing a variety of pieces. One of my neighbours who enjoyed “the tinkling noise” travelling over the fence took a video and a couple of photographs to record the event.

The afternoon was a success and before we departed we began plans for the next two weeks. We hope that if the weather improves a group may be able to meet up in an evening to give those of us who work full time the opportunity to take part.

Solna Burnham