I hold very vivid recollection of the first time I played for the Sunday singing. The opening hymn was Jesus, Lover of My Soul written in the key of G and this I had to play on my B-flat cornet in the key of A (three sharps) in order to be with the singers. You can imagine that it took some mighty keen thinking on my part not to make any mistakes, which not only would have sounded horribly raucous and out of tune, but might easily have thrown the singers off the key. There were four verses to the hymn. The first and second verses went along all right, but as the accompanist did not play an interlude between the successive verses and each verse came right along after the other, there was not the ghost of a chance for me to rest between verses or even wipe my lips for a fresh start.
What made matters worse was that I had started the hymn with a fine big tone played in full strength. After the second verse was played I felt that by the time the end of the third one was reached my lips would be all in and - they were! Nevertheless, I had enough grit to stick it out and made up my mind to go through with the fourth verse or "bust." Of course I did not do that last named thing, but playing the hymn through to its finish required more stamina and greater physical exertion than would have been needed to break the running record for a fast mile. It certainly was an awkward situation in which I found myself, my face was the color of a beet from the exertion and enforced strain I was enduring, and I seemed to feel that my eyes were fairly popping from their sockets. I could not stop playing, however, for inasmuch as I was sitting on the platform in full view of the people and doing my first church playing, it would have been most embarrassing and humiliating if I had been forced to quit, and so - I stuck! I sincerely hoped that the next hymn would have only two verses at the most, and then began to worry whether, after all, I would be able to play through another tune. No one ever can know my intense relief when for the second hymn the superintendent of the school announced: "We will next sing two verses of Pull for the Shore, Sailor." That indeed was a blessing for me, and as this hymn was taken at a much quicker tempo than the first it did not tire my lips so badly. It surely was some embouchure exprience for me, and playing through that opening hymn was the first time I ever was obliged to exert all my power of will to combat physical exhaustion. Pride, however, forced me into doing what I would have believed then impossible; it also taught me a man's lesson.
As a passing thought - I wonder how many of my readers ever have experienced their "first time" of playing in church, and perhaps passed through a similar trial of mental suffering and physical strain induced by trying to play four verses of a slow hymn? The experience proved of excellent service to me, nevertheless, for it started me trying to play through as many verses of the different hymns as was possible without a stop. Strange to tell, this practice not only helped in building up my embouchure, but eabled me to play everything better and easier than any practice I ever before had tried.
There is no better experience for a young cornetist, after he had made a certain degree of advancement on his instrument, than church or Sunday playing. The very knowledge that he is playing before an audience (congregation) gives him a new confidence in himself, besides inspiring him to the endurance necessary for finishing in good condition. As regards myself, I stuck to the Sunday school playing during that entire winter, which greatly improved my band work. At home too, I began to practice, playing "sotly" to keep my lips from tiring so easily, and that purified my tone to the extent that I no longer had to use a mute when playing in the orchestra.