Sleigh Bells

Sleigh bells have an immediately recognisable chime, it’s the sound of Christmas.  Of course individual sets of sleigh bells are produced in a number of pitches and so can sound very different to each other – I know this because I’ve just carried a sack full of them to the car.

So many Christmas records have sleigh bells running right through them, it made me ponder as to why they are so associated with this time of year.

You all most likely know but it turns out they are horse bells and have been used to make horses look pretty since 800BC, they were thought to bring luck to the animal and gave the owner an ideal opportunity to flaunt their status and wealth. On a more practical level quite handy for warning pedestrians to get out of the way.

Britain has played a big hand in bell making history.  Robert Wells and his family were famed for their small crotal or rumbler bells, which come in different sizes some plain some beautifully ornate.

During the 1800’s Winter pleasure drives became popular among the party set, who would dress up to the nines in fashionable warm clothes, the horses would be expected to do the same with their polished harness and bells.  People began to associate horse bells with Christmas and Winter and the sleigh bell was born.

The Americans were big fans of Wells Bells but when William Barton set up shop in East Hampton Connecticut in 1810, the US sleigh bell business started to boom.  William taught other craftspeople his skills and East Hampton soon became known as Belltown or Jingletown. By the late 1800’s Jingletown was providing 90% of the world’s sleigh bells.

With success ringing in their ears they probably didn’t hear Henry Ford’s affordable Model T automobile creeping up behind them, putting bell manufacturers out of business at a rate of knots. I’m reading here on the Classic Bells website (as you do) that by 1937 the situation had hit rock bottom when the Wisconsin State Tourist Society had to search far and wide for a set of sleigh bless to use for it’s Christmas party.

Not the case today, virtually every supermarket is awash with sleigh bells but I’m thinking if I’d have been a horse in the 20th Century with tinnitus from years of sleigh bell abuse I’d have been quite grateful to Henry Ford.


Food for thought – gifts that help other people

I’m determined not to leave my Christmas shopping to the last minute this year no more flapping about in a blind panic. I’ll aim to be like Muddy, calm, organised and on the sauce by the 24th.

The world and its inhabitants have gone through a lot this year with both natural and political disasters affecting so many, so I’m thinking this year’s present list should definitely be gifts that help other people, in the past we’ve sent cows and built toilets, here are a few new ideas to ponder on.  A £13 donation to Unicef will provide 100 polio vaccines for children, £18 will proved 3 quality footballs for kids to play, exercise and have fun or £322 will build a water pump for a school or community.

£20 to Macmillan will provide an hour of care for a patient with cancer, £10 to Refuge will buy a young homeless person a Christmas dinner, £30 will ensure a safe comfortable bed for the night.   A donation to The Trussell Trust, who partner with local communities, helps stop UK hunger through their 400 strong network of foodbanks.

You could give £11 to Save the Children and they’ll kit out a child living in freezing conditions with warm winter clothing, £78 will buy 2 goats, to provide a family with milk meat and an income selling future baby goats and £158 will secure a year’s education transforming a child’s life.  Embrace will take your £30 and provide food parcels for refugee families.  Or how about buying all your friends an Age UK Lottery ticket?

WWF offers the opportunity to help protect some of the world’s most vulnerable animals adopting a leopard or a dolphin perhaps for £3 a month.   Grab a family membership to RSPB for £5 a month.  Alan has asked for a calendar from Dogs Trust

We performed at the King’s Hall in Ilkley on Friday.  A beautiful venue lovingly restored by The Friends of the King’s Hall & Winter Garden formed in 2000.  The difference from my first visit in 2004 to now is spectacular and for £25 you can join the friends and contribute to their good work.  Speaking of fine venues Victoria Hall in Settle – the oldest music hall in the world, £10 makes you a friend of the hall, £100 you can sponsor a balcony seat which includes a little name plaque.  Food for thought.



The winners of the British Jazz Awards 2017 were announced late on Wed 8th November.  Featuring a broad array of jazz talent and now in their 31st year they are the only poll that gives jazz lovers up and down the country the chance to vote on who their favourite musicians, bands and albums have been in the last 12 months.

Teal, who has previously won the British Jazz Awards for vocals in 2005, 2007 and 2015, is a sought after singer throughout the country with her stunning voice, encyclopaedic knowledge of jazz, swing and big band music, and her innate warmth as well as a prolific recording artist and popular BBC Radio 2 broadcaster.

Clare Teal says ‘It is an honour to win any award and as the British Jazz Awards are voted by the public it is pretty special to win for a fourth time particularly with the stellar line-up of nominees.   So a big thank you to those who gave me their vote and a massive congratulations to all the other winners and nominees’.

Click here for the full list of winners and nominees



All of Manchester’s communities stand together in strength, resilience and love.

In this most musical of cities, Manchester’s orchestral musicians from the Hallé, the BBC Philharmonic and the Manchester Camerata will come together with The Bridgewater Hall for a concert in support of the families and friends of the victims of last Monday’s atrocity.

The event details are:

  • Thursday 1 June at 8pm
  • The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
  • Sir Mark Elder and Stephen Bell will conduct members of the Hallé, Manchester Camerata and BBC Philharmonic orchestras
  • Performances by Clare Teal, Alice Coote and Guy Garvey

The evening will include inspiring and uplifting classical music, a performance by Alice Coote – one of the world’s finest mezzo sopranos – as well as songs from international jazz star Clare Teal and award-winning singer-songwriter Guy Garvey.

Everyone involved with the event are giving their services free. Tickets for the concert are free, but you MUST have a ticket to gain entry.

We are asking people, if they are able, to make a donation to the WeStandTogetherManchester Justgiving page at


You can get the latest information, details on admission and book tickets by visiting www.halle.co.uk/westandtogether. You can also contact the box office on 0161 907 9000. The Bridgewater Hall has waived its usual ticket charge. You will need your tickets to gain entry to the building.

Please check the Hallé link above for updated information as it is confirmed.


The Making of ‘Twelve O’Clock Tales’ – Clare’s upcoming album

To whet your appetite, here’s a little taster of what’s to come … enjoy!

Accompanied by the renowned Hallé, conducted by Stephen Bell and arranged by British composer and trumpet maestro Guy Barker and celebrated jazz pianists Grant Windsor and Jason Rebello, Twelve O’Clock Tales’ rich jazz infused repertoire includes songs from Cole Porter, Billy Strayhorn, Van Morrison, Tim Rice, made famous by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Nancy Wilson and Peggy Lee, the songs include ‘Sans Souci’, ‘Secret Love’, ‘Feeling Good’, ‘Lush Life’, ‘It Might As Well Be Spring’, ‘Wild Is The Wind’, ‘Into The Mystic’ and ‘Paradisi Carousel

Twelve O’Clock Tales launches at The Bridgewater Hall concert April 30th 2016

Pre orders are available now from Bandcamp