MMCC's VP of Technical Services happens to have been a handbell ringer. In the course of working with his church handbell choir he naturally wrote software to help with the record keeping chores. MMCC is pleased to offer this software as shareware which can be downloaded from our web site.
If you're a bell ringer you probably already know about the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers. We'd also point you to Paul McKlveen's page for a great list of handbell links.
MMCC's "Bell Choir Manager and Performance Planner" (BELLS) is an integrated set of computer programs which manage the day to day operations of a typical handbell choir. It includes an inventory of property and bells, a music library, bell assignment charts and a performance planner. Each of these will be described below.
BELLS is a PC application written for MS/DOS. Some consideration has been given to writing a Windows version but we have NOT done that for two reasons. First, the application is over twelve years old and is fully debugged. Converting to WINDOWS would be very time consuming and would require an entirely new testing cycle.
The second consideration is that many of the potential users for this system were churches or other organizations which may not have computers capable of running Windows 9x, which is what we'd write for. Lots of people we talk to are using hand-me-down computers which can have any version of Windows or even run only DOS. As a DOS application BELLS will run on ANY PC.
All of MMCC's software packages are designed and built by small teams of people who completely understand both the system design and the application area which they are developing for. In the case of BELLS, the software was designed and written by one person who is himself was an avid bell ringer.
BELLS was not originally written to be sold. But after several years of listening to people say "this is GREAT... you ought to sell it!" the company decided to test market the system. Although the reception was acceptable, we soon decided that it would be more appropriate to distribute the program as freeware . That means that you can download the software and use it without cost. It also means that we are not required to actively support the product. You can download the program directly from our web site. If you have questions you may send an e-mail request to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CONCEPTS and CHARACTERISTICS
The following few paragraphs offer a very brief overview of the BELLS system. You can view the entire user manual by clicking here.
As with any comprehensive computer system, BELLS may be used in many ways. Different choirs find different things are important; individual computer skills vary; choir sizes, music preferences and equipment inventories differ, etc. BELLS was written with this in mind and is easily tailored to meet each choir's priorities.
The BELLS system incorporates several related functions. These include:
Instrument lists show the actual instruments the choir owns. These lists are categorized as handbells and handchimes and each list is organized by octave. If you own more than one of any bell or handchime the system allows you to enter the quantity. The lists are primarily used for performance planning purposes.
A Property and Instrument Inventory keeps track of ALL the property that the choir owns. The inventory is organized into categories such as handbells, chimes, cases, tables, music stands, etc. Each of these groups can include any number of specific items. Each item is recorded with a description, costs, purchase and maintenance dates and similar information.
The Music Library is a compilation of all of the musical numbers that the choir owns. The list includes the typical items like title, composer and publisher but it also includes octaves, difficulty, instruments, purchase date, last performance date and the like.
Bell Assignments is a special feature of the music library. Each piece of music is given a list of instrument assignments to show which book or position plays which notes. This list is used by the performance planner to map the movement of bells during a complex performance.
ThePerformance Planner is the reason that BELLS was written in the first place. When our choir played a program we tended to mix things up. It's common to use both bells and handchimes and these are frequently passed from one position to another between pieces.
Before the Performance Planner was written, our music librarian would take the director's list of pieces and plot on paper where the instruments were used and who needed to pass to whom. The process could take a week and once it was done we dared not change the program order!
The performance planner automates this mapping process. The software takes a list of musical numbers and the inventory of instruments then figures out the movement of instruments from book to book as the performance progresses. After the mapping is completed the software can print "pass sheets" for each book showing which bells are used, where they come from and where they're passed to. If the directory changes the order of performance the software can re-chart the movements in minutes and print new pass sheets.
Being a DOS application, BELLS is very efficient. A typical system will require less than 2.5Mb of disk for both programs and data files. The original program was designed to be able to fit on a single DISKETTE! (It's outgrown THAT but not by much.) The system easily runs in as little as 450K of RAM.
BELLS is written in the ANSI Standard PL/B language. The language fully supports both DOS and WINDOWS as well as most flavors of UNIX. MMCC uses the PL/B system sold by Sunbelt Computer Systems of Tyler Texas.
This page has been only a brief overview of the BELLS system. You can view the entire user manual by clicking here.
Updated January, 2002
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