Stage / Theatre

Listed in reverse chronological order

Michelangelo Drawing Blood (2013)

A music-theatre work in one act

for countertenor, bass recorder, theorbo, percussion (timpani, dulcimer and tubular bells) and viola da gamba

Pre-recorded: SATB choir; trombone ensemble (alto, 2 tenors, bass)

Duration: 75 minutes

Inspired by Michelangelo’s sketchbooks, sonnets and figure studies, Michelangelo Drawing Blood uses as a starting point the artist’s own concept of “releasing” a sculpture, and explores the process of creativity and creation.

Through a series of a dozen scenes – episodic, real and imagined – the work contrasts Michelangelo’s conception of creativity and divine vision with his own internal struggles.

First performed at Forum Theatre, Malvern on 22 March 2013 with James Hall (countertenor), László Rózsa (bass recorder), Jamie Akers (theorbo), Michael Clark (percussion), Ibrahim Aziz (viola da gamba), Aaron Jeffrey (dancer) and Stefano Foster (actor)

22.03.13MALVERNForum Theatre
27.03.13CARDIFFSherman Cymru
25.04.13LONDONSouthbank Centre, Purcell Room
26.04.13MANCHESTERRoyal Northern College of Music
27.04.13LIVERPOOLUnity Theatre
07.05.13CAMBRIDGEMumford Theatre
08.05.13SPALDINGSouth Holland Centre
09.05.13BIRMINGHAMmac (Midlands Arts Centre)
17.05.13BRECONTheatr Brycheiniog
14.06.13CHESTERMusic Festival
11.07.13CHELTENHAMMusic Festival
07 – 15.08.14EDINBURGHFringe Festival, Augustine Church

“Barber’s score uses Renaissance instruments – theorbo, bass recorder, and viola da gamba – alongside contemporary percussion. Setting extracts from the Catholic mass and from Michelangelo’s own writings (even including a shopping list), Barber creates a palindromic structure over a series of 17 scenes. The music is atmospheric: the clear tone of James Hall’ss countertenor solos have a haunting quality, while antiphonal effects created by pre-recorded material, combining voices with brass instruments, add to the spatial experience…The sculptural element of Alex Robertson’s designs are captured on a suspended bas-relief, on to which video images are projected, but it’s the music’s balance of muscularity and sensitivity that emerges most strongly.”
Rian Evans, The Guardian, 4 April 2013

“This extraordinary piece of music theatre, created by Sound Affairs, is almost in the nature of a seance, a hypnotic blend of music, dance and theatrical staging which uses cleverly arranged light structures in a compelling way. The general theme is based on the sketches Michelangelo drew up for the Battle of Cascina a fresco he never completed. Two dancers present the artist’s strivings as he dreams of the fresco, he will never bring into the light. Here male nudity is used throughout the evening to underline Michangelo’s adoration of the male body as a conduit to the mind of God. This is bravery of a kind I rarely meet with in the theatre.”
Richard Edmonds, Birmingham Post, 2 April 2013

Wales Arts Review

The Public Reviews

Irving’s Words (blog)

Further information, videos and photos here

Boulevard of Broken Dreams (2009)

For amplified string quartet: 2 vln, vla, vcl

Music for a ballet choreographed by Jean Abreu

Duration: 80 minutes

First performed by the Mavron Quartet at Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea on 12 February 2009 with Christiana Mavron (violin), Katy Rowe (violin), Benjamin Kaminski (viola), Lucy O’Connor (cello)

13.02.09GRANTHAMGuildhall Arts Centre
14.02.09SPALDINGSouth Holland Centre
16.02.09CAMBRIDGEThe Junction
18.02.09ABERYSTWYTHArts Centre
19.02.09MILFORD HAVENTorch Theatre
24.02.09ORMSKIRKRose Theatre
25.02.09CARDIFFSherman Cymru
27 – 28.02.09LONDONThe Place
04.03.09SALISBURYArts Centre
07.03.09BATHUniversity, ICIA
08.03.09GUILDFORDInternational Music Festival
10.03.09ALSAGERArts Centre
11.03.09MOLDClwyd Theatr Cymru
12.03.09MANCHESTERDancehouse Theatre

“Charlie Barber’s music was extraordinarily haunting, barbed, darkly beautiful and at times a little chilling.”
Graham Williams, Swansea Wvening Post, 16 February 2009

“The secret of the work’s success, aside from the evident invention of Abreu’s choreography, is the employment of live musicians and the commissioning of a new score from Charlie Barber. There are echoes of Beethoven’s slow movements in parts of his music, which inspire moments of heartening choreographic lyricism, as well as pockets of pelting rhythmic drive that charge the dance up with electric verve. The dancers themselves are tremendous, each attuned to Abreu’s distinctive choreographic manner, and the work itself is a gem.” Ian Palmer, magazine, April 2009

Further information, videos and photos here

BreakBeats (2006)

Music for a multimedia event with piano, percussion, DJ and breakdancers

Duration: c. 60 minutes

First performed at The Gate, Cardiff on 19 May 2005 with David Appleton (piano), Matthew West (percussion), DJ Jaffa

22.09.06CARDIFFThe Gate Arts Centre
23.09.06BLACKWOODMiners Institute
28.09.06PONTARDAWEArts Centre
30.09.06HOLYHEADUcheldre Centre
04.10.06ST ASAPHArts Centre
05.10.06ABERYSTWYTHArts Centre
10.10.06NEWTOWNTheatr Hafren
11.10.06LONDONThe Space
12.10.06TAUNTONThe Brewhouse
13.10.06DARTMOUTHThe Flavel
14.10.06FALMOUTHArts Centre
12.07.07LINCOLNTerry O’Toole Theatre

“Here was club culture slamming head-on to ‘art’ as my mother knows it, and finding itself the better for it. Set to a score by composer Charlie Barber it made great entertainment from the off. A belting slab of a performance.”
Ben James, Kruger Magazine, Issue 7

Further information and videos here

Shot in the Head (2000)

A musical photograph devised by Charlie Barber, David Hughes (director) and Sophia Lycouris (choreographer)

s sax, vib, vln, vcl, db

Duration: c. 60 minutes

Using a backdrop of silent horror movies, film noir, and archive footage, Shot in the Head takes an episodic journey through the darker moments of the twentieth century.Drawing parallels between the rise of fascism in the Berlin in the 1920’s, the McCarthyite USA of the fifties and the surveillance obsessed London of the 90’s, Shot in the Head looks at what has been lurking in the shadows of our living memories.

First performed at Chapter Theatre, Cardiff on 23 June 2000 with David Hughes (performer), Sophia Lycouris (dancer), Simon Stewart (soprano saxophone), Colin McCann (vibraphone), Jeff Moore (violin), Sharon McKinley (cello), Paula Gardiner (double bass)

23.06.00CARDIFFChapter Theatre
24.06.00CARDIFFChapter Theatre
28.06.00BRECONTheatr Brycheiniog
29.06.00ABERGAVENNYBorough Theatre
30.06.00FISHGUARDTheatr Gwaun

“With its joint themes of witnessing and evidence, Shot in the Head took us on a dark, death-filled trip from the streets and sewers of Harry Lime’s Vienna to the horrors of the Cromwell Street cellar, from the Bertolt Brecht’s examination during the Hollywood era of the McCarthy witchhunts to Albert Speer and others of Hitler’s staff. Disjointed in time, this was a trip of emotion not history. It was a truly multimedia performance. Charlie Barber’s score, performed live, successfully, sometimes disturbingly, evoked the spirit of place. His music took us by the hand into the backstreets of a decadent post-war Vienna and never really released us again.”
Sue Burnett, The Western Mail, 27 June 2000

Further information here

Conceived Sheraton Plaza (1991)

Music for a ballet choreographed by Andy Howitt

s sax, b sax, tpt, tbn, 3 perc, pno, 2 vln, vla, vcl, db

Duration: 50 minutes

Before his gaudy death in New York in 1953, and against the threat of the Cold War, Dylan Thomas met in a hotel room with Stravinsky to plan a radical opera set in a post nuclear society where a new genesis meant a fresh start for the last man and woman on earth.After the success of The Rake’s Progress opera (with W H Auden), Stravinsky was eager to work with Wales’ greatest poet, then basking in the success of Under Milk Wood.This project takes up the story and asks, what might have been?This musical drama explores the jagged chaos of Thomas’ last days: high ideals amid the low life of New York, bitter memories of a failed marriage in rural Wales, the mysterious unfinished Elegy, and a sudden, passionate, commitment to strike in a bold new direction.

First performed by Charlie Barber + Band at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff  on 15 November 1991
with James Mainwaring (soprano saxophone), Matthew Bailey (baritone saxophone), Jonathan Mainwaring (trumpet), Gwyn Daniels (trombone), Phil Girling (percussion), Andy Cookson (percussion), Jonathan Helm (percussion), John Jones (piano), Alison Francis (violin), Richard Treglown (vilin), Matthew Roberts (viola), Vicky Higginson (cello), Robin Hames (double bass)

15.11.91CARDIFFSherman Theatre
16.11.91CARDIFFSherman Theatre

Further information and photos here

The Duchess of Malfi (1990)

2 tpt, 2 tbn, s sax, a sax, t sax, b sax, timp, db

Duration: c. 40 minutes

Commissioned by Moving Being Theatre Company

Incidental music for the play by John Webster scored for an octet of brass and wind plus timpani and double bass.

First performed at St Stephen’s Theatre Space, Cardiff on 14 May 1990
with Jonathan Mainwaring (trumpet), Andrew Jones (trumpet), Gwyn Daniels (trombone), Pete Smith (trombone), James Mainwaring (soprano Saxophone), Nick Wilkinson (alto saxophone), Peter Stacey (tenor saxophone), Matthew Bailey (baritone saxophone), Andy Cookson (timpani), Davey Strachan (double bass)

14 – 15.05.90CARDIFFSt Stephen’s Theatre Space
17 – 19.05.90CARDIFFSt Stephen’s Theatre Space
28 – 30.05.90CARDIFFSt Stephen’s Theatre Space
07 – 09.06.90CARDIFFSt Stephen’s Theatre Space
11 – 13.06.90CARDIFFSt Stephen’s Theatre Space
21 – 23.06.90CARDIFFSt Stephen’s Theatre Space

“Ten musicians play brass sonorously, threateningly, lining up at the sides of the action.. Charlie Barber’s music is one of the triumphs”
David Adams, The Guardian 22 May 1990

Escenas (1986)

picc, ob, cl, bsn, 2 hn, 2 tpt, tbn; tba, 2 perc, vcl, db

Duration: 25 minutes

Commissioned by Caroline Lamb with funds provided by the Welsh Arts Council

Escenas (‘Scenes’) was originally commissioned by Caroline Lamb for Dance Wales in 1986. The piece consists of two vigorous outer sections built around a slower canonic middle section.

First performed by Dance Wales at Chapter Theatre, Cardiff on 4 March 1986

Revised version first performed by the New Arts Consort at St David’s Hall, Cardiff, 4 March 1989
with Barry Kelvin-Hall (piccolo), Michelle Bosley (oboe), Julian Holmes (clarinet), Liz Nicholsonson (bassoon), Gareth Williams (horn), David Williams (horn), Gareth Rees (trumpet), Ted John (trumpet), Ian Torr (trombone), Louise Hanslow (tuba), Philip Girling (percussion), Kevin Earley (percussion), Sharon McKinley (cello), Geraint Williams (double bass)

04.03.86CARDIFFChapter Arts Centre
05.03.86CARDIFFChapter Arts Centre
06.03.86CARDIFFChapter Arts Centre
07.03.86CARDIFFChapter Arts Centre
08.03.86CARDIFFChapter Arts Centre
04.03.89CARDIFFSt David’s Hall

Escenas, for 13 players, explored brilliantly the possibilities of ornate and shapely melodic canons in a Latin American rhythmic context.”
Stephen Walsh, The Independent 6 March 1989

Two Way Mirror (1985)

Incidental music for theatre

scored for piano, strings and percussion

Duration: c. 25 minutes

A theatre piece based on the Profumo Affair and the trail of Stephen Ward. Incidental music scored for piano, strings and percussion with Lol Coxhill (soprano saxophone). Original text for the track Rumour Memorandum by Gareth Jones.
1 The House Party
2 Confidential Report
3 Rumour Memorandum
4 Television Eye
5 Mirror Music

Musicians for recording:
John Rayson, Domini Lipman, Philip Tomkin (violas); Alexandra Robinson (cello); Bill Graham-White (double bass); Dominic Hackett (percussion); Lol Coxhill (soprano saxophone); Charlie Barber (piano); Gareth Jones (narration)
Recorded at Loco Studios, Caerleon, Gwent in September 1985
Recording engineer: Roger Grey

Theatre work first performed by Appeal Products on 7 October 1985

07.10.85LEEDSTrinity & All Saints College
10.10.85READINGBulmershe College
30.10.85 EXETERUniversity
01 – 02.11.85FROMEMerlin Theatre
05.11.85WAKEFIELDArts Centre
07 – 08.11.85LEEDSPolytechnic, Creative Arts Centre
15 – 16.11.85BRADFORDTheatre in the Mill
21 – 23.11.85LONDONOval House
26.11.85TWICKENHAMWest End College of HE
27.11.85BRIGHTONZap Club
28 – 30.11.85LONDONBattersea Arts Centre
12 – 13.12.85NOTTINGHAMMidland Group

Punishment by Roses (1981)

A multimedia performance piece

ob, vcl, pno, perc

Duration: c. 25 minutes

A performance piece inspired by the life of Japanese writer and activist Yukio Mishima with video by Mike Stubbs

First performed by the New Arts Consort at Chapter Theatre, Cardiff on 20 August 1981
with Steve Watts (oboe), William Bruce (cello), Lucy Wilson (piano), Simon Limbrick (percussion)

20 – 22.08.81 CARDIFFChapter Theatre
25 – 29.08.81EDINBURGHChaplaincy Centre, Festival Fringe

“The music – played on percussion, piano, oboe and cello, and sometimes using piped bits of Wagner and others – heightens the action sometimes to a terrifying frenzy…a superb piece of work”
Western Mail, August 1981

“Described as a ‘musical theatre spectacle’ and subtitled A paean for Yukio Mishima this production stunningly evokes the life of the Japanese novelist. The haunting music is written by Charlie Barber for percussion, oboe, cello and piano, and its rich texture underscores the dance-mime of Dafydd Hughes and Glenn Davidson.”
Robbie Dinwoodie, The Scotsman, August 1981

Further information and photos here

Strayed Sequins (1978)

A music theatre spectacle

actor, ob, tpt, tbn, vln, pno, perc and tape

Duration: c. 25 minutes

The title is taken from a book on French writer Jean Genet by Richard N Coe where he discusses Genet’s use of mirror symbolism in the pursuit of the Absolute through descent and abjection: “He who falls far enough and fast enough – even if he starts from an aeroplane and finishes up crashing through the glass roof of a prison – still carries remnants of stars caught up in his clothing, like stray sequins on the tights of a falling trapeze artist.”

First performed by the New Arts Consort at  Sherman Arena Theatre, Cardiff on 14 June 1978
with Caroline Lamb (actor), Caroline Lynch-Blosse (oboe), Huw James (trumpet), John Mills (trombone), Mark Thomas (violin), Kelvin Leslie (piano), Peter Cobb (percussion)

14.06.78CARDIFFSherman Theatre, Arena
30.08.78CARDIFFChapter Arts Centre
02.09.78BUILTH WELLSWyeside Arts Centre
11.04.80CARDIFFChapter Arts Centre
12.04.80CARDIFFChapter Arts Centre
16.04.80HARLECHTheatr Ardudwy
17.04.80BUILTH WELLSWyeside Arts Centre

“Barber is a composer with considerable dramatic flair: his quasi-religious dance sequence Strayed Sequins is both powerful and disturbing”
Mark Norris, Classical Music, May 1980

“Barber’s Strayed Sequins takes its title from Genet and is a piece of music theatre for sextet, tape and conductor in three movements…This is a powerfully emotive piece of work, showing the influence of Lindsay Kemp on the dance role of the conductor, choreographed and beautifully danced by Caroline Lamb.”
Philip Needham, Audience magazine, July 1978

Further information and photos here

Live It Up, Mr Hades (1977)

A theatre cabaret

cl, pno (harmonium), perc

Duration: c. 60 minutes

An Absurd circus entertainment based on short stories by Gogol, Kafka and Dostoyevsky.

Music by Charlie Barber; Lyrics by Robin Lyons

First performed by Red Light Theatre at Chapter Theatre, Cardiff on 21 September 1977
with Robin Lyons (clarinet), Gavin Hibbs (piano and harmonium), Cliff Prior (percussion)

21 – 24.09.77CARDIFFChapter Theatre
18 – 19.10.77CARDIFFSherman Arena Theatre

“The theatre seating is arranged on stage so as to create an intimate cabaret atmosphere…The action takes place in and around a circus ring, which in turn becomes a cage, office, street, café – each change motivated by Charlie Barber’s excellent music, the percussive and emotive quality of which provided the cohesive factor…”
Keith Woods, Audience magazine October 1977

“It is a circus-style entertainment, based on short stories by Kafka, Gogol and Dostoievsky. In other words, it presents a nightmarish world set deep within the most subjective recesses of the imagination…The caricatures and the stories, however, give only part of the picture, the rest being provided by Charlie Barber’s effective musical score…Mr Barber’s strong keyboard work together with lyricist Robin Lyon’s clarinet played a major role in binding the show’s episodes together.”
Tim Brassell, Western Mail, 19 October 1977

Blood of Orpheus (1977)

A music theatre cabaret in nine tableaux; music and text by Charlie Barber

2 actor/singers, t sax, tpt, tbn, pno, perc, vln, db

Duration: c. 25 minutes

Based on drawings and texts by French poet and film-maker Jean Cocteau, Blood of Orpheus is a dream in which images, snatches of sound, songs and tableaux vivant combine to create a surreal spectacle de nuit.

First performed by Red Light Theatre at the Sherman Arena Theatre, Cardiff on 11 March 1977

11.03.77CARDIFFSherman Arena Theatre
08 – 09.04.77CARDIFFChapter Theatre

Frank V (1975)

opera in two acts; libretto by Friedrich Dürrenmatt

picc, tba, vln, pno (+ harm), 2 perc
Steve Saunders (picc, tuba), Rod Dorothy (violin), Charlie Barber (piano and harmonium), Roger Gray (percussion)

Duration: 120 minutes

Commissioned by Theatr Yr Ymylon with funds provided by the Welsh Arts Council
First performed at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff on 18 October 1976

18 – 23.10.76CARDIFFSherman Theatre
26.10.76SWANSEAArts Theatre
28.10.76LAMPETERUniversity College
29.10.76LLANDRINDOD WELLS Albert Hall
31.10.76 BANGORTheatr Gwynedd
01 – 03.11.76ABERYSTWYTHTheatr y Werin
04 – 06.11.76MOLDTheatr Clwyd

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