The Nightingale is brass band cornet solo composed by the legendary trombonist, Harold Moss. Moss was famous as a trombone soloist before the war and famous as a conductor of brass bands too. He was the conductor of the famous Leyland Motors Band which belonged to the car factory in Leyland, Lancashire.
One of my first trumpet/cornet teachers was Harry Bentham. Harry had been the Principal Cornet of Leyland Motors Band under Harold Moss during his tenure in charge of the band. Harry made a speciality of playing The Nightingale and another famous solo, Cleopatra, in the band’s concert programmes. By the way, I used to play for Leyland Motors myself as a kid and my father was a member on the E flat bass.
As soon as I learned to double and triple tongue, aged about nine or ten, Harry began to teach me The Nightingale. This Grand Concert Polka is still popular in British Brass Bands to this day. As you can see from the photo below the piece already contains a fair amount of triple tonguing but I have decided to take this a stage or two further.
I tend to play through this piece quite a lot during any holiday I manage to get from my day job with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. I prefer to practice music rather than books of unmusical technical exercises (lip slurs etc).
During the opening cadenza I double tongue the tongued semiquavers and use back tongue on the single semiquavers paired with the dotted quavers. I am not satisfied if I think my back tongue doesn’t sound as good as my single tongue (or better!) and I’ll do a little work here if necessary.
In the following Andante, I try to play as musically, expressively and wring as much emotion and music out of it as possible. It is this musical approach which I think pays me much more benefit than pages of lip slurs etc.
At the Tempo di Polka I triple tongue and during the two quaver rests I play a middle C followed by a high C (fortissimo) as Harry Bentham told me Harold Moss wanted. I don’t know if this is common practice in bands but it is not printed for some reason.
In the Polka itself I immediately use double tonguing on all the tongued quavers. For example, the first B natural is played with the back tongue, as is the E in the fifth full bar and the D at the end of the sixth bar. The next section is the same, so I do it the same way.
In the Trio I continue in the same way, so the C in the third bar is back tongue, as is the F at the end of the fourth bar.
Following the rests I employ the same tactics, so the top G in the first bar is back tongued and the third, fourth fifth and eighth bars. The tenth and eleventh bars have both got a nice little manoeuvre whereby triple and double tonguing are employed on the first beat of each bar and the A in the penultimate bar is also back tongued.
The next segment, prior to the CODA, is played the same way as previously. The CODA is fairly obvious with more examples of mixing up double and triple tonguing in the tenth, eleventh, fourteenth and fifteenth bars. I actually get better results playing the piece this way and this is also how I choose to perform the piece, so it is not just an interesting exercise. By the way, I always try to play these pieces musically. I don’t like to sound like a snare drum or machine gun, so I try to play with style, in a melodious way.
Another good cornet solo which can be used for similar training purposes is Fantasie – Polka ‘Pandora’ by E. Damare. The first half of the second page is a particularly good study…