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

Bouffler/Rotary Concert October 2019

The Trust were delighted to be invited by the Rotary Club of Oxted & Limpsfield to present a joint concert by young local musicians at the United Reformed Church in Oxted on Saturday 12th October 2019.

It proved to be a great success, both musically and financially, and the variety of performers were enthusiastically received by an appreciative audience.

Heather and Fern started the concert with the ever popular Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, then showing their versatility in Andres’s La Ragazza.  Freya then played the Theme from Schindler’s List with great sensitivity.  Daisy showed a range of techniques in contrasting pieces; Leroy Anderson’s Trumpeter’s Lullaby, and the first movement of Neruda’s Trumpet Concerto. 

After suitable refreshments, the audience enjoyed Seb, who played not one but two virtuoso pieces on violin.  His sister Hannah was unwell and couldn’t play, hence Seb stepped in with great spirit and technique, accompanied by his Mum, Sarah.

Chloe, making her performing debut, played beautifully in Gluck’s Che Faro senza on flute.  Matty took over the piano from accompanist Michael Barlow (to whom thanks and appreciation are recorded).  Matty played Rachmaninov’s Elegie from Morceaux de Fantasie, showing a huge range of dynamics and sensitivity.  Matty followed this with his own arrangement of I Got Rhythm by Gershwin, to the delight of the audience.  Finally, Chloe took centre stage and displayed her range of skills, sensitivity and musical presence in her three pieces.  They were Negum improvisation by Bach, 1st movement of Mozart’s violin concerto, and Praeludium and Allegro by Kreisler. 

A most satisfying evening.  The Trust is most grateful to John Bowers, for organising so much ahead of and on the evening,  Carol Stark for introducing and compering the evening so seamlessly, and to members of Rotary who supported the event.