Clive Muncaster was born in Sussex England in 1936. At age 12, Clive was taken to an orchestral concert at The Royal Albert Hall in London, and was so enthralled that he then decided he wanted to become a composer and conductor. He wrote his first string quartet at age 12. He was accepted into the Royal Academy of Music at the early age of 15 where he studied violin, piano, composition, and conducting.
In 1961, he was appointed conductor of the Finchley Symphony Orchestra, and later, the Finchley Operatic Society. During this period, he won the music prize for a piano composition with Herbert Howells as the Adjudicator, and his string work “Petronella” received its first performance at the Wigmore Hall in London, performed by the string section of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Later in his career, Clive established a memorial concert at Blenheim Palace to commemorate the death of Winston Churchill, which continues on to this day and sees distinguished speakers every year. He also began a career as a registered music therapist after studies at Florida State University, which continued until the mid-1980s, when he moved to Washington D.C. to compose and teach. He is now retired from teaching.
Today, Clive is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to learn about the time Clive discovered someone had mixed up the pages of his score in the middle of a concert…
Who were your first favorite artists growing up?
When I was 10 years old, my parents took me to a movie about the life of the most famous violinist, Niccolò Paganini. Yehudi Menuhin played the soundtrack on behalf of the actor, Stewart Granger. I was so enthralled that I decided that I wanted to become a violinist. I started my lessons at the age of 11 (too late!). I was never good enough to be a concert artist, but I did qualify via the Royal Academy of Music as a violin teacher.
When did you realize you wanted to be a composer/conductor?
I was 12 years old when a fellow violin schoolmate invited me to the Royal Albert Hall in
London to hear a symphony written by his father. After listening to the performance and
watching the conductor, Walter Goehr, directing the London Symphony Orchestra, I decided that I wanted to become both a composer and conductor.
What was your most unusual performance, or the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?
My most unusual experience happened while conducting an original opera oratorio in three acts at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. A near catastrophe occurred in the third act. Someone had knocked my manuscript score off the podium! The person had tried to put the score together again in the right order. I didn’t find out about this until during the performance when I gave a huge conducting gesture, expecting the full orchestra to perform a major tutti. Instead, there was just a quiet solo entry on the organ. I quickly realized that I was on the wrong page! Fortunately, knowing my own music, I was very quickly able to find the right page and all was well. Phew!
What is your guilty pleasure?
English tea-time with crumpets and rich cakes. Beyond that, no comment!
If you could make a living at any job in the world, what would that job be?
Unless one is writing for films, composition is a very difficult way to make a living.
Mostly, it means living in a garret on meager royalties, usually not enough to keep the wolf from the door. So, for a living, I would choose to be a world famous conductor. Why not?
If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I was brought up in England, but I didn’t like the wet weather and dampness. I’ve lived in Miami. I was happy there and liked the warmth and sub-tropics. However, I don’t think I would want to move there again with the rising sea water. I’ve lived in Washington D.C. and Lynchburg VA. I really liked D.C. and the State of Virginia. If I stayed in the United States, Virginia would be my choice. However, when I was 20 years old, I lived in Munich Germany for five months studying music. I really liked it there, so it would be a top choice if it were not so far from the sea. I have decided that the Island of Corfu would be my winning choice as it is surrounded by the sea and has a warm and exotic climate. I love sailing, so presumably I could own my own boat there, finances permitting!
Redcliffe Garden Suite for Strings is now available on LEGENDS & LIGHT through Navona Records for streaming or purchase. Click here to explore this new album.