Professor Meyer’s Guide to Double Bass Auditions. Unusual Difficult Solos.

Further to my other articles on auditions I thought I would mention some unusual pieces that I have been asked to play at auditions during the course of my career.

The English composer Sir Granville Bantock’s compositions are not played very much nowadays.  He was a prolific composer, having written operas, ballets, choral works, orchestral works, chamber music, music for harp, cello, violin and viola and many songs.

He lived from 1868 until 1946 and was Principal of the Birmingham and Midland Institute School of Music where I first studied the double bass with Arthur Cockerill, the principal bass of the City of Birmingham Orchestra as it was then known, and the BBC Midland Orchestra.

His pieces were often performed by the BBC orchestras.  Sir Adrian Boult was a champion of his compositions.

You can always count on a little bit of solo bass in his works.  There is his Comedy Overture  “The Pierrot of the Minute” which contains a difficult, exposed solo that I was once asked to play at a BBC audition.  Another one to look out for is his Tone Poem #3, “Fifine at the Fair”.

If you care to spend time browsing through his works you will find many other bass solos.

There are many  books of extracts of  difficult bits for the bass but in future I shall try to give some relatively unknown ones which to the best of my knowledge aren’t in any collections.

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Musical Families: The Cockerills

The Cockerills were a famous musical family who came from Birmingham, England.

Arthur Cockerill who was my first double bass teacher, held the position of principal bass in the City of Birmingham Orchestra as it was then called, and also principal bass in the BBC Midland Orchestra. He gave me a thorough grounding.  Later on I had to join the Army and off to France, but I did see him often later on in the ‘fifties.  He was a polite and courteous man, a true gentleman in the old fashioned  sense that you don’t see around much today.

His brother, Bert, was in the BBC Symphony Orchestra.  He was killed in an air raid on Bristol to where the BBC Symphony Orchestra had been evacuated from London for “safety”!

There were two harpists, Winifred and John Cockerill, cousins of Arthur, who were principal harpists with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra respectively.

Winnie was a good harpist, the only woman in the orchestra.  She was a very compassionate lady and  took some of the men under her wing when they needed help.  Keeping up the tradition of bassists and harpists she was married to a very fine bassist, Jimmy Hunt.

John was always immaculate as was his playing.  He was reckoned to be among the best harpists in London at the time. Once, when I was sitting near him at a rehearsal I heard him singing a naughty little ditty to the ballet tunes.  At that time, callow youth that I was, I didn’t expect to hear a pillar of the profession such as John to be so earthy, but it showed me that some great men are only human at times.