Light Stories: cellist Matthew Barley unveils his latest cross-arts collaboration, alongside creating the Matthew Barley Arts Foundation.

Light Stories: cellist Matthew Barley unveils his latest cross-arts collaboration, alongside creating the Matthew Barley Arts Foundation.
Matthew Barley [Photo: Madeleine Farley]
Matthew Barley [Photo: Madeleine Farley]

When I first interviewed cellist Matthew Barley back in 2012 [see my interview], he was preparing for an amazing 100-venue tour of Britain for Britten 2013, combining Britten and Bach for solo cello, including specially commissioned visuals from Yeast Culture, with Barley controlling the animations himself via foot pedal!

Since then his interest in cross-arts projects has continued and in 2023 he established the Matthew Barley Arts Foundation (which has recently achieved charitable status). The Foundation aims to create high quality music and other art for performance and dissemination that is made in a way that always treats all people involved and adjacent to its creation with fairness and respect, with projects combining movement, sound, the digital visual realm and a range of repertoire and musical styles, providing a platform and training for the next generation of musicians, helping them to consider how they too might push boundaries.

Barley’s next project, to be launched in the Autumn, is a prime example. Light Stories, a new multidisciplinary collaboration with specially commissioned visuals from production company Yeast Culture, and on-screen dancer, Mavin Khoo, explores the transformative power of music to heal, console, and uplift.  There will be two performances as part of the Southbank Centre’s Contemporary Edit programme (28 September 2024), with subsequent performances including the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, as part of the Cardiff Music City Festival (3 October), and St George’s Bristol (11 October).

Light Stories weaves together music, projected imagery, and electronics to tell a very personal story of trauma and recovery; at the age of 16, Matthew Barley experienced a life-threatening psychotic episode caused by a drug overdose which left him scarred both physically and emotionally. Music became his lifeline.

The evening weaves together music by contemporary composers Anna Meredith, Joby Talbot, John Metcalfe, Giovanni Sollima, and Jan Bang, plus Barley’s own music alongside  and Bach’s Prelude from Suite No.6.

The project will extend beyond performance to include workshops with higher education institutions, where participants will engage in discussions on mental health and its connection to art, providing a safe and supportive space for creativity and expression. 

Matthew Barley’s Light Stories will be released by Signum Classics on 28 September.


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