Matthew Barley/Cellist

Music is the universal language of mankind.

Longfellow

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.