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Pittsburgh Ringing Course 2013

by Alice Gough Heilker and Martha Partridge

For those of us who can’t take a Hereford ringing course, the summer course in Pittsburg offers a wonderful opportunity to target one or two methods and advance your ringing skills. This year, Don’s annual Pittsburgh Ringing Course was the first weekend in August and concentrated on Stedman Doubles and Triples. Sue DeVuyst from Rochester; Rebecca Gingell, Amy Lam, and Martha Partridge from New York; Alice Heilker from Marietta; and Vivienne Shaffer from Pittsburgh attended the course, and, listening to everyone’s remarks, it was evident that we all thought it was a very productive weekend that also happened to be a lot of fun.

Don Morrison and Mike Schulte formed the dynamic duo that led us through Stedman. They started us with a variant of Bastow Little Bob (a.k.a. Cloister or St. Helen’s) in which the 2 and 3 are the hunt bells, so the start is like Stedman ( This method also has dodging in 4-5 (and 6-7 in triples), and all quick sixes. It was great preparation for Stedman, offering practice on hunting on three in the front and dodging in the back. Our group progressed relatively quickly to Stedman Doubles. Each of the students was able to ring with strong supporting bands and had standers-behind. As a testament to the effectiveness of the course, two of the students, Amy Lam and Rebecca Gingell, were able to ring inside for a quarter peal of Stedman Triples on Sunday. Don also managed to squeeze in two quarter peals of Plain Bob Triples on Saturday.

We appreciate the time that Don invested in organizing this course—mapping out a course, getting supporting ringers, and arranging food and lodging is a lot to pull together—and it was wonderful having Mike join us. No one is as imperturbable as Mike the Conductor when it looks like a quarter peal is slipping away. He will calmly issue instructions until everyone is back on track. So Don and Mike planned but the course would still not have been possible without the helpers who donated three days of their time and the cost of traveling to Pittsburgh. The helpers included Lynn Kodrich from New York, Meredith Morris from Washington DC, Rob Bannister from Washington DC and Miami, Dave Bassford from London, Ted Clark from Birmingham, David Hawkins and Mike Hinton from Toronto, Charley Heilker from Marietta, and Mary Bragdon, Ross Finbow, and Matt Nelson from Pittsburgh. They were—all of them—wonderful. We are also grateful for the Southminster community’s hospitality and to Betty for preparing lunch on Saturday and supplying us with home baked snacks. If you decide to take one of Don’s “Pittsburgh courses,” I recommend making Betty’s Uptown Coffee a daily stop. It is a short walk from the church and you won’t regret it.

Some Student comments follow -

“ What I enjoyed is the learning atmosphere created by Don and by Mike Schulte. They are relaxed, supportive and encouraging at the same time that they are quite specific with each of us about our handling and our striking. Small mistakes are not the priority; it is the overall patterns that we need to work on that they point out to us. We all saw each other improve every day and it was a pleasure to watch our brains shift and grow new ganglia! The helpers were also helpful, fun and easy to ring with. It makes me want to be one of his helpers one day just to give back what we all got from them. “

“ Repetition is a key element in ringing. This is a primary reason that a ringing course over a weekend with a narrow focus of 1 or 2 methods is so valuable. With 15 hours of practice spread over 3 days, this could be the equivalent of months of practice time for a specific method for some students at their respective home tower. The constructive comments given by Don or Mike at the end of each touch were extensive and exact (e.g. second blow in thirds needs to be higher), which helped to ensure that the next try most likely will be improved. For me, the added comments about handling were a bonus. I am very grateful that experienced ringers took the time to help ringers like me to get better at ringing. “

I thought this was a very successful workshop. Everyone did their part. The students all learned the methods. We had enough helpers so not only did we have a strong supportive band ringing around us but we had standers behind for each student which was a real bonus. And finally the course instructors, Don Morrison and Mike Schulte, were supportive and offered insightful, constructive criticism that was key to the success of the workshop”

Posted Aug 16, 2013


Don MorrisonAug 22 2013, 9:43 pm

I'd like to add my own thanks to all the helpers. They are what makes a course like this work, and I am in awe of their readiness, year after year, to come to Pittsburgh at their own expense only to be worked mercilessly, for the sole reward of helping others. Thank you!

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