Matthew Barley/Cellist

Music is the hidden arithmetical exercise of a mind unconscious that it is calculating.


The Safe Haven of the Stage

I find increasingly that being on stage is like a sanctuary. It feels strange but is palpable. Last week I was playing with Julian Joseph at the Bonn BeethovenFest in one of the best chamber halls around – the BeethovenHaus (next to where  Ludwig was born). We played a programme of Brazilian songs peppered with Julian’s own classic compositions and some improvisations. And I felt so incredibly happy throughout – I wonder if it is simply the joy of being in the moment, which, if you’re playing music properly, is the only place you can be.

And this week I’ve been in Madrid playing Brett Dean’s extraordinary score to Jiri Kylian’s equally profound ballet, and as the first notes of the electronic accompaniment to my on-stage solo cello begin to sound it is as though I sink into a dream world, that is, I suppose, art. It is a world that gives such strength, meaning and beauty that is sustains you back into ‘real’ life. It truly inspires. All the problems of trying to get cellos on aeroplanes, of being given a hotel room smaller than a hamster cage with a window that doesn’t open looking out on to a concrete wall (managed to get upgraded to a suite! Joy!), and of having taxi drivers interrogate you (I must have answered the question about how long I’ve been playing the cello 1000s of times – I really understand why Van Morrison has on his rider that his driver must be able to speak English, but must not do so unless addressed!).

And this is why live performance is so wonderful – this kind of experience is so much harder to get with recorded music. It’s why we must always be working to get the message across that live music is a necessity, not a luxury.


  • Love you of writing these contrasting pieces – the agony and the ecstasy! I wish I had the nerve to smile sweetly or growl and say Do I look like a terrorist? as they’re searching through my sandwiches and earplugs.
    Was dancing at Thessaloniki Womex about a week ago, and had that exquisite trance dance experience that makes all the hassle evaporate..
    Glad I’ve found your blog – maybe it will help me get to one of your gigs at some point…Glad you’re here on the planet being so fabulous.

  • I’m really hoping to play a gig in the Peak Cavern next year…so maybe then! xxxx

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.