By the 1890s Clarke was recognized as one of the leading cornetists of the time. In 1891 or 1892 he became cornet soloist in the famous 22nd Regiment (US) Band under Patrick Gilmore. In April 1893, seven months after Gilmore's death, he played with that band under Victor Herbert, and then joined John Philip Sousa's Band, where he was first a cornet soloist and eventually an assistant director. He maintained his contact with Herbert until 1897 and with Sousa until 1917. Clarke returned to Canada, where he served 1918-23 as leader of the Anglo-Canadian Leather Company (later Anglo-Canadian Concert) Band of Huntsville, Ont, and then moved to Long Beach, Cal. There he conducted the Municipal Band until shortly before his death.
Clarke recorded most of his 50-odd solo cornet compositions, including Bride of the Waves (recorded five times, the earliest in 1904), Sounds from the Hudson (1904), Caprice Brilliante (1908), Southern Cross (1911), and Stars in a Velvety Sky (1911); his performances of these and four of his other works, together with one work each by Jules Levy and Victor Herbert, were re-issued ca 1979 on Crystal Records S450. A Swiss group, Le Virtuose romantique, has recorded his Cousins and Twilight Dreams (Harmonia Mundi France HMC-905209-CD).He also composed more than 50 marches and 10 overtures for band. He wrote three volumes of Studies for the Cornet: Elementary, Technical, and Characteristic (Huntsville 1909-15; rev ed New York 1934-6), Setting-Up Drills for Calisthenic Exercises, a short autobiography, How I Became a Cornetist (St Louis, Mo, 1934; repr 1973), and, 1927-30, a series of 24 autobiographical articles in the periodical Jacob's Orchestra and Band Monthly entitled 'A cornet playing pilgrim's progress'. Publishers of his compositions included Whaley Royce, C. Fischer, Witmark, Fillmore, and Belwin. As a soloist Clarke recorded for Berliner, Victor, Columbia, Brunswick, and other companies; he also conducted the Sousa Band for Edison (cylinders) and Victor. His recordings are listed in Roll Back the Years. Clarke's papers, scores and memorabilia are held at the Dept of Bands, U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Author Edward B. Moogk
Bridges, Glenn D. Pioneers in Brass (Detroit 1965, 1968, 1972)
Smith, Leigh Urban. 'Herbert L. Clarke: the successful progress of a cornet-playing pilgrim,' B MUS research paper, Carleton University 1977
Madeja, James Thomas. 'The life and work of Herbert L. Clarke (1867-1945),' D ED thesis, U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 1988
Links to Other Sites
Canadian Music Centre
Search the extensive CMC website for Canadian composer biographies and interviews, music scores, online newsletters, audio clips, podcasts, and more. Check out "CentreStreams" to listen to online archived recordings featuring outstanding Canadian composers.