[r-t] Method focus: Alan Reading

Philip Earis pje24 at cantab.net
Sat May 14 23:02:46 UTC 2005

Alan Reading is a name that has caught my eye over recent months. Aged only 
18, he has composed and conducted many peals  of new major and royal methods 
in the Sheffield area.  I am assuming the new methods are his creations, and 
thought it would be worthwhile to summarise and review what he's produced in 
the past 12 months.

Plain major:
Cheers Bob Major (-4-, mx, 23 <4-runs>, rung 08/12/04)
This is passable as plain mx major methods go: the double Norwich overwork 
is great and as it needs to be, though the underwork is workmanlike and 
suffers from 3rds at the half-lead (though it is admittedly very 
constrained). Upton Imperial (-4- and Hethersett 
(-4- are better mx methods with the same overwork. Even better, 
stick to Double Coslany.

Treble-dodging major:
Name                 Notation                  Rung         <4-runs>
Cross Fell          -34.5.6-7-1-2-3.4.56-7 e   11/05/05  BD   48
JJLG                -5-4.5-2.36.2-4.5-4-7 f    16/04/05  Bc   42
Tan Hill            -34.5.6-56-36-34-1-34-5 c  13/04/05  Da   34
Great Shunner Fell  -34-4-2-1-2-3.4.56-1 k     08/02/05  BD   56
Millhouses          3-5.4-5-6-4-5-34-7 a       15/12/04  Bc   30
Moonshine           3-5.4-5-6-34-3.6-2.7 a     13/11/04  Bc   43
Carol               3-5.4-5-6-4-45-4-7 a       17/10/04  Bc   32
Whernside Delight   3-5.4-5-1.34-34.5.4-6.7 f  12/10/04  Bc   34
Pen-y-ghent Delight -3-4-2.5.6-2-1-2-5 a       11/08/04  BD   42
Samaritan Surprise  -34-4-5-36-4-25-4-3 mx     24/07/04  DNce 32
XXXB Surprise       3-5.4-5-36.2-4.3-2-5 c     09/06/04  Bc   29
Allwood's Delight   3-56.4-56-8-2-25-4-5 a     15/04/04  Bac  23

I'll take the treble-dodging major methods in chronlogical order. Allwood's 
delight was a big disappointment. I'm a fan of the overwork, which has a 
very visually appealing grid. It is used to great effect in Tellurium 
Surprise (also 'a' group, first rung 1983), which employs the Cornwall 
underwork to give music based on a coursing four hunting.  Allwood's delight 
(also a trivial variant of Ewhurst Castle) does not come close in terms of 
elegance or music.

Samaritan surprise is no better.  A mx method with DN falseness, the 
underwork conspires to completely avoid music. I'm not sure what the method 
was trying to achieve, but it's a bit of a dud. I'd rather ring 

Fortunately things pick up with the next method, XXXB surprise. This is is 
first of five new methods beginning 3-5.4, four of them having the Sussex 
overwork, and all with just Bc falseness. XXXB is pleasant enough: quite 
neat and tidy if a litle static on the front. However, on inspection it 
appears to be the distinctly poorer cousin of the much better and similar 
David Hull method Cumberland Row (3-5.4-5-36.2-4.3.2-6.7), first rung six 
months before XXXB.

Whernside is more fluid and a fairly decent method: probably the pick of the 
bunch. It demonstrates that f group methods with this overwork can be good 
and distribute the music over the treble, unlike f-group Cambridge-over 
methods. It also has regualar half-lead-ends, with the added bonus of a 
hand -> back wrap of rounds in the final lead of the plain course.

Carol is beautifully simple, and good. It is almost-Ditchling (16 instead of 
36) under, and gets the music when the treble's at the back without actually 
having regular half-lead ends/heads. If you can have almost-Ditchling under, 
you can also have almost-Lancashire and almost-Bristol under. The Bristol 
has three consecutive blows, but the Lancashire under works like a dream. 
It is called Crayford (3-5.4-5-6-4-5.4-4.7), and first rung in 1935. There 
has been one peal of it in the past 20 years.  Why do people keep trying to 
reinvent the wheel? Though I guess you could argue that Crayford is just a 
varient of Lancashire, which is just a varient of Bristol.  As long as 
everything comes back to Bristol, I'm happy.

Millhouses is another inferior variation on the theme; with -34-7 round the 
half-lead it keeps pairs together a bit long, and suffers rather than 
benefits from a 5-pull dodge on the front. Moonshine packs more raw music 
than Whernside with a respectable 43 <4-runs>, though at the expense of 
elegance. The 2.7.2 round the half-lead is a bit of a sledgehammer.

As Alan's clearly a fan of the Sussex overwork, I'd recommend he looks into 
using it as the basis for a double method...this can be made regular in 
3-5.4-5-2367-4-5.4-6.7 .  Note that beautiful single change at the 
symmetry-point: reminds me on Anglia cyclic.  I just thought I'd better 
check it hasn't been rung before, and I'm amazed and gutted to find that it 
has: Skywalker surprise major, rung on 15.5.2002 at York, St Laurence 
(coincidentally only days after Anglia cyclic was first conceived!).  This 
has the hallmarks of that Hull chap. Sometimes I think all the best ideas on 
eight have been taken.

Of the other methods, Tan Hill is a respectable method with a new overwork 
that doesn't have too much wrong with it. The underwork is underwhelming 
though, and the method generally is hardly a huge improvement on any of the 
many similar rung methods. More more raw music is possible with the same 
overwork, though normally at the expense of fluidity.  The 
unrung -34.5.6-56-36-34-5-56-7 is quite nice if you like wading through 

Pen-y-ghent has the standard Phobos overwork, though the 2nds place leadend 
makes it 'a' group, and consequently a slow process cycling through the 
music in the course. As I've said in a previous email, Shoesmith Hall 
(-3-4-, rung October 2004) is a better method on the same 

Three to go. Great Shunner Fell uses the Yorkshire delight overwork (first 
rung 1808), together with a quite good underwork. The result is decent, 
leading to a high score of 56 <4-runs>. Yorkshire delight major 
(-34-4-2-1-1234-1-1234-1) is a bit of a curiosity, being rung so early, 
containing double changes and pivoting like Oxford TB. It's possible to 
tweak it so give it music: -34-4-2-6-234-2345-23456-1 is a (unrung!) mx 
method with a huge 72 <4-runs> in the plain course, all for just the minimum 
BD falseness.  Just look at the elegant progression of notation towards the 
half-lead. Some day things like this will come back into fashion.

When I first looked at JJLG I liked the notation, which is one change away 
from making the method double. On the assumption that Bristol is better than 
Premier, I thought a 18 halfleaf/leadend combo would be an improvement.  On 
checking, this has already been rung, namely Bouchavesnes, rung in 1988 at 
Bushey. JJLG is therefore another trivial varient. Mickelgate bar is a 
further varient on the theme - it looks like David Hull (that name again) is 
guilty on occasion too.

But when all was looking lost, along comes Cross Fell. This is a little gem. 
Sent up with the footnote "Believed to be the first peal in a method in 
which all the bells (including the treble) pass 2-8 in reverse coursing 
order throughout", it's always good to see new innovative double methods. 
Half of the lead is pure Ebeneezer, one of the neatest of the new methods 
from the 'standard 100' (surfleet minor on the front four with the 2nd as 
the treble). I could happily ring a peal of this.

So in summary, lots of the methods are pretty reasonable on a stand-alone 
basis, and definitely show talent, and with Cross Fell displaying neat 
design and innovation.  Sadly there are a number of inferior trivial 
variations of existing methods.  Treble-dodging major is a well-ploughed 
field, and a bit of research would be prudent when designing further 
examples.  Quality is more important than quantity for new methods.

Treble-dodging royal:
Name         Notation                        Rung      <4-runs>
Saltergate   3-3.4-2-1-2-5-6-1.56-58.9 f     08/05/05     80
Nether Edge  3-5.4-5-36-2-5-6-7.6-56.7 a     30/04/05     99
Monkhill     -3-4-2-3.4-2.5.6-6.5.4-4.9 b    12/03/05    118
Hangingwater -5-4.5-7.36-7.4.58-4-7-8-7 k1   19/02/05    105
Titan        -5-4.5-5.36-4.7.58-6-1-58-5 j1  15/01/05     79
Pale Rider   3-5.4-5-3-2-1-6-7.6-78.1 e      05/09/04    111
Ringinglow   34-5.4-5-3.4-7.58.6-6.7.6-2.9 l 04/07/04    101
Flash        3-5.4-5-3-2.7.58-56-7-8-7 f     22/05/04    118

Alan's new royal methods are summarised above.  I'm rapidly losing the will 
to stay awake, so won't write much more.

Saltergate is London over, with a three-pull dodge around the half-lead on 
the front to give a coursing four reversed.  Passable method, but doesn't 
come close to Triton in terms of music.

Nether Edge is a bit too static to make it worthwhile.

I do like Monkhill, though.  It's got a fairly standard overwork giving it a 
b-group structure, but with hunting on the front four around the half-lead. 
Similarly Hangingwater is a pretty good method, though it's not Bristol.

Titan is a dud, with an underwork straight out of a Rutland Royal varient. 
Or a Gus Warwick method.  It's the stuff of nightmares. The overwork 
deserves better. If it has to be unrung, something 
like -5-4.5-5.36.4-7.58.6-4.7-4-1 perhaps?

Pale Rider and Flash both have the favoured 3-5.4 start.  Flash suffers from 
being too static, though Pale Rider effectively uses hunting to points to 
produce the music.  This is a well-crafted example.

The Royal methods show more skill and imagination than the major offerings. 
Watch this boy - I think he could make a mark in years to come. 

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