The Royal Academy of Music Intro to the David Munrow Collection
Munrow was born in Birmingham, 12 August, 1942. At King Edward VI School, Birmingham, he learned to play the bassoon and the recorder. Before reading English at Pembroke College, Cambridge (1961-64), Munrow travelled in South America (Voluntary Service Overseas, Peru), where his experience of indigenous music and traditional instruments - which he began to collect avidly - made a lasting impression. At Pembroke College, Munrow was elected President of the University Music Club. In addition to forming a recorder consort, and chamber ensembles, he began to give lively lecture-recitals to demonstrate the range of woodwind instruments. The lecture-recitals were given with the assistance of Christopher Hogwood, and with Gillian Reid (married to Munrow in 1966). In 1964, Munrow began an MA programme at the University of Birmingham, studying D'Urfey's Pills to Purge Melancholy. From 1964-66, Munrow was a member of the woodwind band of the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was during this period that he founded the Early Music Consort (in 1967), which made its London d?©but in 1968. In addition to Munrow, the Consort comprised Christopher Hogwood, James Bowman, Oliver Brookes, and James Tyler, and was frequently supplemented by other musicians as the occasion required. The Consort was highly successful and performed constantly in the UK and internationally. Recordings further enhanced the Consort's reputation, and it received a Grammy Award in 1976 (for The Art of Courtly Love, Best Chamber Music Performance).
Munrow's academic career continued alongside his performance career, at Leicester University (1967-74) and at the Royal Academy of Music (1968-75). Recordings made during this period include Bach's Brandenburg Concertos (under both Sir Adrian Boult and Neville Marriner), and The Art of the Recorder (1975). Munrow's research interests led him to extend and promulgate the early music repertoire through innovative programmes that typified the Early Music Consort. Contemporary composers also wrote new compositions with the Early Music Consort and its instrumentation in mind: Peter Dickinson, Translations (1971); Elisabeth Lutyens, The Tears of the Night (1972); and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies used the Consort on-stage in performances of Taverner (1972).
Munrow's passion to communicate with a wide audience was evident in his involvement in radio, television and the cinema. Between 1971 and 1976, he presented the popular Radio 3 programme Pied Piper, broadcasting four programmes per week. In addition, Munrow's pre-eminent expertise in early music soon led to numerous commissions from television and film producers keen to enhance their productions with authentic incidental music. Such commissions included arranged and original scores for the BBC television productions The Six Wives of Henry VIII, and Elizabeth R, and film scores for The Devils (with Sir Peter Maxwell Davies), and Zardoz.
Towards the end of his short life (he died by his own hand, 15 May, 1976, at the age of 33), Munrow began to develop an interest in the liturgical music of the Renaissance, and planned a new series of concerts in this field with the Early Music Consort. His last recording (Music of the Gothic Era) reflected this new direction.
Source: Grove, DNB, with additions.