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Handbell ringers from across UK set for Caithness celebration

By Alan Hendry

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The Scottish Spring Rally will be hosted jointly by the Poltney Bell Ringers and Caithness Handbell Ringers.
The Scottish Spring Rally will be hosted jointly by the Poltney Bell Ringers and Caithness Handbell Ringers.

Musical groups from across the UK are joining together in Wick this weekend to celebrate 25 years of handbell ringing in Caithness.

The Assembly Rooms will be the venue for the Scottish Spring Rally of the Handbell Ringers of Great Britain (HRGB).

Saturday's gathering will be hosted jointly by the Poltney Bell Ringers, from Wick, and the Caithness Handbell Ringers, based in Thurso.

They will be welcoming more than 60 visiting musicians from Orkney, Inverness, Haddington, Cushnie, Jordanhill, Bearsden, Dunblane, Blairgowrie and Aberdeen, as well as from Farnsfield in Nottinghamshire, Ashbourne in Derbyshire and Burghill in Herefordshire.

The musicians will rehearse under the baton of conductor Susie Dingle, giving an informal public performance at 4.10pm (doors open at 4pm).

The concert will feature four pieces, including a new one called Confluence by Wick High School pupil Blythe Bullen. It is described as a poignant work that uses the metaphor of a river to represent the various stages of life and, when the river finally reaches the sea, the inevitable passing into the ocean which represents the peace of death.

Originally a piano piece, the work has been arranged for performance by the Caithness Handbell Ringers.

Their musical director Katrina Gordon said: “Blythe’s sensitivity and creativity is so clearly illustrated in the fluctuating tonal landscape of her music.

"The finale of this piece is so evocative – you’ll be able to hear a pin drop, and I’ll be surprised if audience members don’t shed a tear or two at the ending, so bring your tissues!

"Blythe is a real star of the future and it’s definitely worth coming along on Saturday to support her talent and hear her music.”

Entry to the concert at the end of the day is free of charge, and any donations will go to Arran’s appeal for Anthony Nolan.

Katrina pointed out: "It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear the surprisingly gentle sounds of massed handbells, and there will also be an opportunity for the audience to enjoy singing along to Come Over the Ord, by Donald Sutherland, which has the apt lyrics, 'You will always be welcome in Caithness.'"

This is the first time an HRGB rally has been held in the far north and the organisers say they are delighted with the positive response from the national handbell community and the local audience in Caithness.

Katrina added: “We’re looking forward so much to showcasing local music and the incredible sound of the handbells to our friendly Caithness audience. Everyone is welcome."

A broch-inspired handbell logo for the event has been designed by Margaret Reid of Wick. It is featured on posters and banners.

Caithness ringers attended a rally in Dunblane last October.
Caithness ringers attended a rally in Dunblane last October.

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