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Laura's report from the NAGCR AGM 2015

We didn’t go to the course, so we arrived on Friday afternoon.  We missed Alan Hughes’s steeplekeeping class, but we got the new Old North bolts from him afterwards. 

St Mark’s Cathedral in Shreveport fulfills the role of Cathedral, including hosting an elementary school, but it also acts like a parish church, so there is a Sunday school building as well.  Access to the tower is from this part of the building.  There are regular sturdy stairs (no ladders, no creaking) up to the ringing room, which is well-arranged, has lots of natural light, a couple of closets (!), and air conditioning, for people who like that sort of thing.  The bells go well, and we felt over the weekend that the striking was unusually good, even though a lot of method mistakes were made (not entirely by me, but many of them were).  There was some doubles and minor ringing, but most seemed to be on all eight bells, including some surprise.  Everyone was accommodated.  There were rounds and call changes, mostly called up (imagine the worried faces I was making trying to call them that way, but middle-school aged Nathan from Houston did a good job of following my instructions, having only tried it a few times before).  There were quarters.  Nick and David had driven down from Toronto with Mike’s “Smoke Ring,” and the mini-ring was set up in the back of the sanctuary.  I’m not much of a mini-ring person, since it involves not reaching all the way up at backstroke, among other things, but I got better, to the point of being able to hunt.  Even though they are tiny and can swing around quickly, it works better for method ringing (and striking) to slow down and leave some space.  An interesting news item is that they are going to go back via Montreal, where it will be set up for a while, so that the handbell group at the Cathedral can have some “tower” experience. 

Friday night’s dinner was at the home (farm?) of Lennis.  The caterer had done a great job of making traditional Louisiana/southern food while still having some of it be edible food for the vegetarians and vegan. 

            Saturday there was a really nice communal breakfast provided by the ringers and parishioners.  After that, there was a lot of ringing.  Arthur and I lengthened our lunch break enough to attend part of the Red River Revel arts festival in downtown Shreveport, our token tourism of the trip, and then stopped by a yarn shop so that I’d have something to do while attending the meeting (in addition to sort of paying attention, of course).  The minutes will be posted on the NAGCR web site sooner or later, but the main points dealt with money.  The proportion of people who are senior, students, or religious community members compared to the adults who pay full membership is getting ever higher, so for the total number of people, we’re taking in less money.  The Canadians feel that it’s unfair for their dues to go up as result of unfavorable dollar to dollar exchanges.  Printing costs a lot of money.  Stuff like that.  One of the things the guild uses its money for is to give a starter set of ringing books to new towers.  A set each was formally donated to the new Virginia and Rochester groups.  The consecration at Virginia Theological Seminary is October 13th and the dedication of the Rochester bells will be November 21st.   Then there was another dinner that couldn’t be beat, except for a few slip-ups (the servers forgot to put out butter, little things like that) and the air conditioning was making the place too cold.  The dinner was held at Centenary College.  Their chorus sang for us. 

            On Sunday, Arthur and I  joined the excursion to First Presbyterian at Texarkana.  They bells are a very lightweight eight, with a small ringing room.  They are high-pitched but sound nice and carry for a couple of blocks down the street.  There are videos from Sunday on the church’s Facebook page.


A worrisome thing is that there are no longer enough ringers there for regular ringing. 

      After service ringing, we left to head for the airport and home, missing the afternoon’s ringing and a potluck supper of leftovers from the previous days, among other things. 



Laura Dickerson