Paul Alan Barker, Composer


Compositions by Category
News, performances
Opera & Music Theatre
Chamber Music Theatre
Chamber Music
Vocal Music
Choral Music
Dance Scores
Listen to Music

In Memoriam: for those who fall in time of war

Brodsky Quartet and Joan Lluna

Cuando creíamos que todo estaba dicho llegaba la segunda parte para dejarnos pasmados en el colmo de las impresiones auditivas. El estreno en España del Quinteto para clarinete y cuarteto de cuerda, In Memoria: for those who fall in time war,  de Paul Barker caminaba en el filo de lo imposible, engarzando sutilmente registros extremos, transiciones anímicas, juegos de armónicos increíbles e indescriptibles sonidos filados. Una música de profunda dramaticidad sonora. Acompañada de una exquisita y simbólica.   representación gestual... Lástima que el espacio y la palabra se queden pobres para poder relatar aquí lo vivido y escuchado. Impresionante.


Elisa Ramos Martín, 18/06/05, para Tribuna de Salamanca

When we thought that everything had arrived the second part to left us startled in the overflow of the auditory impressions. The opening in Spain of the Quinteto for clarinete and quartet of strings, In Memory: for those who fall in time to war, of Paul Barker walked in the edge of the impossible thing, linking subtly extreme registries, psychic transitions, games of incredible overtones and undesribably cased out sounds. A music of deep sonorous dramatic quality. Accompanied by exquisite and a symbolic gestual representation... Pity that the space and the word remain too poor to be able to relate here how the thing lived and listened. Impressive.

Elisa Ramos Martín, 18/06/05,  Tribuna de Salamanca

a segunda parte la ocupó la escenificación de la obra de Paul Barker "In Memoriam: For Those Who Fall in Times of War", homenaje a los miembros del Cuarteto Sarajevo, caídos en la guerra, como tantos defensores del plural proyecto bosnio, arrasado por los limpiadores étnicos. Aquí el texto es la música, nada mejor para expresar la desazón humana. Con simples gestos cuarteto y clarinete reflexionan sobre el sufrimiento hasta el final en que, tras unas notas desazonadas del clarinete, deja el escenario vacío de música  y con el violonchelo caído delante del publico. Tanto cuarteto como clarinete estuvieron muy atinados en su doble función de músicos y actores y nos brindaron un espectáculo inquietante y que llama a la reflexión.

El público en el Audicón cada día es más numeroso y no es el habitual del Auditorio municipal. La apuesta es arriesgada pero va dando sus frutos, sin duda es un complemento necesario en la programación cultural de Zaragoza.


Juan Carlos Galtier. Heraldo de Aragón, 21 de junio de 2006.


The second part occupied the staging of the work  by Paul Barker "In Memoriam: For Those Who Fall in Times of War ", a tribute to the members of the Sarajevo Quartet, fallen in the war, like so many defenders of plural Bosnia, devastated by the ethnic cleansers. Here the text is music, nothing better to express the human frustration. With simple gestures quartet and clarinet reflect on the suffering until the end in which, after notes almost unhearable of clarinete, it leaves the music scene empty and with violoncello fallen in front of the audience. As much quartet as clarinete was very accurate in their double function of musicians and actors and offered a disquieting spectacle to us that calls for reflection.

The public in the hall every day is more numerous and is not the habitual one of the towms Audience. The risk is dangerous but it is giving his fruits, without a doubt it is a necessary compliment in the cultural programming of Zaragoza.

Juan Carlos Galtier. Heraldo de Aragón, 21 de junio de 2006.






























CD: Entre Palabras [Between Words] Quindecim QP 134

   In a completely different vein is the theatrical music of the...composer Paul Barker whose Canciones entre Palabras (Songs Between Words) and La cancion de Cabecera (The Pillow Song) receive their premiere recordings on an issue from Quindecim Recordings. I was unfamiliar with Barker's music before this recording, but am much impressed with his music that is full of unexpected rhythmic complexities and astringent timbres. Canciones entre Palabras is a collection of 14 a cappella songs (solo, duet and trio) employing vocalized syllables. The songs range in character from Zen-like stasis to manic parlando and demand virtuosic technique on the part of the performers. This is amply supplied by soprano Lourdes Ambriz, mezzo Maria Huesca, and baritone Benito Navarro. The radiant voice of Ambriz is also featured in the role of Sei Shonagan, the heroine of La cancion de Cabecera, Barker's opera based on an 11th-century Japanese autobiography of the life of an imperial concubine. The composer uses an accompaniment of only traditional temple bells, cymbals and tam-tams in an effort to approximate the aesthetic of Noh drama. His text-settings, however, are at times very florid and definitely un-Noh-like in character. The libretto, crafted by Barker and sung in English, alternates between solo sections for Sei Shonagan and choruses for a group of court gossips. La cancion de Cabecera is a truly spectacular work and one that should invite further exploration of the wide variety of contemporary music emanating from Central and South America.

      (reviewed by William Grim, Sequenza 21, Thursday, February 02, 2006 )


The Canterville Ghost

(Musical Theatre, after the short story by Oscar Wilde, words and lyrics by Bridget Crowley)

     Great Lakes Lyric Opera presents The Canterville Ghost at the Southfield Centre for the Arts this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. British composer Paul Barker based this spooky opera on the Oscar Wilde tale of the same name, resulting in a wicked and witty musical drama that shares its songs with biting dialogue, both clever and droll, like the man who inspired it.

      A curse has been placed on Canterville Castle. In debt and tormented by a hideous headless ghost, Lord Canterville is left with few options to rid himself of his horrific legacy - either to palm off the hunk of bricks on some unsuspecting Americans or fulfil a curing prophecy:


When a golden girl shall win prayer

from out the lips of sin

when the barren almond bears

and a little child gives away its tears

then shall all the house be still

and peace come to Canterville.


      Originally written for piano and voice, the piece was rescored to include violins, cello and bass specifically for this performance by Barker, who flew in to oversee and direct his new additions. The score is an unnerving combination of a waterfall fairy tale mixed with bunches of jarringly harsh harmonies as if Brahms had cornered Debussy in a dark alley with ill intentions. Haunting vocal concordances wind through boughs of Wilde-ian wit over a bed of trilling violins, tiptoeing cellos and basses and a piano pounding down a twisting staircase.

     You can't help but fall in love with the troubled Canterville ghost, tortured by the American brats as he spirals to the end of his ghastly career. Bass-baritone Chris Grapentine's portrayal of the spirit is charismatic and entrancing, giving you a taste of being in the presence of Wilde himself. And listen for coloratura soprano Sheila Gautreaux as the housekeeper Mrs. Umney; her delicate voice is a delightful framework for the piece.

There's something for everyone in this wonderfully successful sensation combination that creeps through your spine as you giggle, a perfect family affair.

      (by Anita Schmaltz, 10/24/2001, Metro Times, Detroit)


She: Naturally Dangerous

Frances M. Lynch

Gable End Theatre, Hoy, The Orkney Islands

Wednesday, October, 15,2003


Frances M. Lynch, though, is quite a lady. By sheer force of personality and artistic and technical wizardry (should that be witch­craft?) she seized our attention and held us in the palm of her hand through what was at times not an easy journey, if tempered by wit, irony and self-effacing humour. Patronised (matronised?) we were not, even when she told us that we were now a contemporary music audience. She went straight into ‘The Cathedral of Trees', by Judith Bingham, a singer herself, an arrestingly contemporary piece which nevertheless displayed a recognisable and restrained emo­tional palette. The emotions in Paul Barker's ‘Songs between Words' (i.e. no words) were less restrained, varying from gentle to funny to terrifying, and this was a dramatic tour deforce, all built on the way we never quite seem to understand our partners.

      (PRK, The Orcadian, October 2003)


La Malinche


In an age when few composers can still succeed in writing truly original music, Mr Barker who directed this performance has achieved something truly remarkable. Within a score that is satisfying for both singers and listener, he has struck a distinctive new note, exploring many unusual timbres. [La Malinche]



How refreshing to hear a new opera that is about music, based on elaborate, demanding and satisfying writing for a chorus of ten (excellently prepared and executed), and on genuine ability to write for the voice...nothing but praise for Barker's conducting....[ La Malinche]



The Marriages Between Zones 3,4 & 5


Mr Barker commands that most elusive and important quality needed for music of the stage - forward movement - indeed, I wager that we shall be hearing more from Paul, Barker. [The Marriages Between Zones 3,4 & 5]



His musical language hovers in an attractive zone somewhere between tonality and atonality; his vocal lines are testing as they are rewarding, and his writing for chamber orchestra is consistently inventive.

[The Marriages Between Zones 3,4 & 5]



The Pillow Song demonstrated once again the remarkably individual gifts of the composer (who also played oriental instruments as a one-person accompaniment)...[The Pillow Song]



A composer of true originality, he avoids easy solutions on the one hand and fashionable obscurantism on the other....The whole work, of about 30 minutes, would seem a gift to television and meanwhile merits major festival performances. [The Pillow Song]



...Three Songs for Sylvia spent shivers of excitement down the spine. ..It is a little known work, perhaps, but one which certainly appeared to excite the audience last night. Had the orchestra included this in its vast repertoire of recordings, I would certainly be going out of my way to purchase a copy as soon as possible.

THE OXFORD MAIL [Three Songs for Sylvia]


But the highlight of the evening was her (Ann Liebeck) rendering of Paul Barker's Three Songs for Sylvia. She captured beautifully the moments of high drama, passion lyricism and sinister apprehension in the settings of these poems in a free recitative style. There were grand melodic leaps by both soloist and orchestra and some fine harmonic effects from the strings. These were gripping works, over all too soon. [Three Songs for Sylvia]



Avant-garde composers would have us believe they are perfectly capable of writing mainstream pieces when they want to. There is at least one who can, as was illustrated by last night's performance of Three Songs for Sylvia at Southwell Minster. There were ecstatic melismas for the singer within an elegantly flowing vocal line, the thoughts and feelings expressed being taken up and crystallised in glorious writing for strings.[Three Songs for Sylvia]


Enter content here