The Montagu Encounter...

David Munrow

I had some email contact with Jeremy Montagu who knew David Munrow  but was somewhat critical of him. He indicated that he would only "speak out" if other people revealed the latter's "faults". His last email comment was that David Munrow  was "..commercially, artistically, and intellectually dishonest..." without giving any specific examples. However, unlike most if not all the other pioneers (including Greenberg), Munrow was the man who really put early music on the map..

Since the above post was sent Montagu gave a "derogatory" reference to Munrow in his autobiography. At the same time he also made something out of the the term nakers whose relevance becomes clear in relation to an earlier "cheeky" post on this blog!! ( )

The item below is from page 95

.......Talking of nakers and their name, there was a television thing on

early music, with interviews by Clement Freud, whom I’d known

as Clay when he was running the restaurant above the Royal Court

Theatre while I was working there, with many of the leading London

early music players (we didn’t know at the time that the intent of the

programme was to glorify David Munrow or many of us wouldn’t have

done it). First run through was fine, but next day the producer, Paddy

Foy, said ‘What did you call those things?’ so I said ‘Nakers.’ ‘Why

are they called that?’ she asked, so I explained about the Arabic origin

as naqqara. ‘Couldn’t you pronounce it in a more Arabic way?’ she

asked. Presumably she’d never met the slang use of the word, and

her husband or someone had enlightened her overnight. The survival

of that word for an intimate part of one’s anatomy, which the drums

resemble in large format as they hang down from one’s belt, is a

fascinating element of the English language, for nobody had seen a

pair of nakers between the sixteenth century, when their use died out,

and when I revived them in the mid-twentieth, and yet the slang use

has lived on for four hundred years. There’s another such survival in

Oxford: the path outside the city walls between Christchurch and the

Botanical Gardens is still called Jews’Walk, because that was the route......


After finding the above Montagu makes another reference to Munrow on another pdf  entitled

Early Music – Earlier and Later

Jeremy Montagu
The following extract was found on page 9 (due to a technical problem live link is not included here for now)
Don Smithers, who played like an angel some of the time, used a cornett with a trumpet mouthpiece

(that was before the NEMA Conference at which he insisted on the importance of

using the proper acorn-cup one), and David Munrow, while he still played with us,

lipped his shawm reed so that it sounded like a dyspeptic cor anglais. Jim Tyler used

an english guitar as a cittern......

PS. Though Munrow like most of us was not a complete saint he did have a number of  redeeming features though such as his wide cultural enthusiasm whenever he visited other countries with Early Music Consort of London.  On the negative side some contacts of mine claimed that he had affairs with both men, and women which must have caused tensions in his marriage. In one instance,  he is said to have  had an affair with the wife of a Cambridge Don!! But maybe that is just tittle tattle. I think if he was around now he would found that amusing!


( Since the above entry was included Jeremy Montagu  passed on. He was among other things a great musician and academic.         See his website )



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