Michael Barlow – an appreciation

The Trustees of the Robert Bouffler Music Trust were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Michael Barlow in August 2020. In conveying our sympathies to those close to him, the Trustees wanted to express our appreciation of everything he has done for us and the Trust.

For well over a decade, Michael has been the Music Adviser to the Trust. In fact, he was much more than what that role suggests. True, he attended Trustee meetings and advised the Trustees on any music-related matters, bringing his lifetime of experience in the world of classical music to our discussions affecting the young musicians associated with the Trust. But, much more than that, he would bring his wise counsel to bear on all issues facing the Trust, and so he was always a valued member of the Bouffler team.

Aside from his role at our committee meetings, his energy and willingness to support the performance aspect of the Trust’s activities was invaluable and remarkable – and all this in addition to his many other duties. When a Bouffler young musicians concert was being planned by the Trustees, our first question was whether Michael was available and willing to accompany our performers. This task was more challenging than many gave credit for. Some young musicians may have been playing in public for the first time, and Michael always showed great patience and he provided inspiring support to these youngsters. On many occasions he would visit them at home to rehearse – appreciating the less daunting environment of their home. This also had the effect of achieving high standards of musicianship. High standards were important to Michael, but he always balanced this desire with ensuring music-making was always enjoyable. Some of these youngsters, now grown up, will always appreciate Michael’s support. Other musicians were more experienced, but again, Michael was able to adapt his approach to get the best out of their performance. Sometimes, the accompanying piano part was more difficult than the instrument being accompanied! I remember an Italian virtuoso piece at Foyle Riding where Michael had practised at home all week!

Michael himself also provided opportunities for our young musicians to perform. For a number of years, he arranged for a mini-concert to be tagged onto the end of the Oxted & Limpsfield Music Society’s AGM. The support for the musicians would be as described above, but in addition to that, he would also compere the concert, introducing the musicians and the pieces they played. The experience of performing for these young people cannot be underestimated. To perform to an audience is essential to the confidence and self-esteem of young musicians, and Michael knew and embraced those principles.

There were other opportunities that came Michael’s way, which led to invitations for our youngsters to perform. Youth+Music concerts were arranged in Oxted, and music afternoons at Foyle Riding were a delight. At these events, Michael was always to be seen, checking the correct scores (and performers!) were ready and in the right place. These events always went off seamlessly, and when Michael’s role was acknowledged, a modest smile and nod was all he allowed himself.

The Bouffler Trust was invited to present concerts as part of the Bluehouse Festival, and again Michael could be relied upon always to support the events and accompany, so that they were always successful, both musically and financially.

It’s hard to imagine a Bouffler event without Michael. He brought that wonderful combination of high standards and enjoyment in music-making to many many young people, and his legacy will last many years.

Viv Edwards
August 2020