About Barry Guy
Barry Guy is an innovative double bass player and composer whose creative diversity in the fields of Jazz improvisation, solo recitals, chamber and orchestral performance is the outcome both of an unusually varied training and a zest for experimentation, underpinned by a dedication to the double bass and the ideal of musical communication.
Between the early Seventies and mid Nineties Barry Guy held principal bass position in various orchestras including The Orchestra of St.John’s Smith Square, City of London Sinfonia, Monteverdi Orchestra, The Academy of Ancient Music, Kent Opera and The London Classical Players. During these years he was also active in the European Improvised Scene.
He is founder and Artistic Director of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra for which he has written several extended works with recordings of the following: Ode (Incus 1972 and re-released on Intakt 1996), Stringer (FMP 1980), Polyhymnia on Zurich Concerts (Intakt 1988), Harmos (Intakt 1989), Double Trouble (Intakt 1990), Theoria (Intakt 1992) with the Swiss pianist Irène Schweizer as soloist, Portraits (Intakt 1994), Three Pieces for Orchestra (Intakt 1997), Double Trouble II (Intakt 1998) and Radio Rondo also with Irène Schweizer (Intakt 2009).
His concert works have been widely performed and his skilful and inventive writing has resulted in an exceptional series of compositions: to name just a few - Flagwalk (1983), The Eye of Silence (1988), Look Up! (1990), After the Rain (1992), Bird Gong Game (1992), “Un coup de Dés” for the Hilliard Ensemble (1994), Fallingwater (1996), Redshift (1998), Remembered Earth (1999), Nasca Lines (2001), Inachis (2002), Folio (2002), Anaklasis (2003), “Aglais” (2004), “Lysandra” (2005), “Convergence” (2006), “Horizontal Blue” (2008) “Incidental Music to Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas” 2010. “Time Passing” 2012.
String Quartet III (with soprano voice) won the Radcliffe Music award in 1983.
Look Up! was honoured with the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Chamber-Scale Composition 1991–1992. Guy's compositions usually reflect a personal liaison with musicians and ensembles he writes for. As such, the commissions arrive from chamber orchestras, chamber groups and soloists interested in contemporary musical performance with a special commitment to communicate with the audience. Guy's works therefore have a sense of freshness without recourse to ideological excesses or scores that baffle players to the extent that performing becomes a trial.
The scores however are virtuosic and often present innovative sonorities and extended instrumental techniques and as a performer himself he is ideally placed to assess these possibilities.
Barry Guy continues to give solo recitals throughout Europe as well as continuing associations with colleagues involved in improvised, baroque and contemporary music.
His current regular ensembles are the Homburger/Guy duo, the Parker/Guy/Lytton trio, TARFALA (with Mats Gustafsson and Raymond Strid), two new trios : BEYOND with Jürg Wickihalder (sax) and Lucas Niggli, (perc.) and “FREE RADICALS” with Peter Evans (tpt) and Agusti Fernandez (piano) as well as various piano trios: AURORA (with Agusti Fernandez and Ramon Lopez) HEXEN (with Paul Plimley and Lucas Niggli) and the longstanding trio with Marilyn Crispell and Paul Lytton.
The idea to perform baroque solo works in the context of free improvised music and newly commissioned pieces sparked off the Homburger/Guy Duo and together Maya Homburger and Barry Guy have given concerts in many major Jazz, New Music and Baroque Music Festivals all over Europe and in Canada.
The Barry Guy New Orchestra (BGNO), formed in 2000, features in festivals as a project ensemble, and Barry Guy as a director/composer is often invited to work with large ensembles using his own extensive library of composed works or to give lectures and workshops on his various graphic scores. All three BGNO albums Inscape-Tableaux, Oort-Entropy, Amphi for baroque violin and big band, and Radio Rondo are recipients of the Choc de l’Année award in France.
In 2006 he was featured composer at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (UK).
From 2011 - 2017 he was the artistic director of his own festival in Ireland “The Barrow River Arts Festival” which combined old, new and improvised music together with poetry and visual art.
Barry Guy’s latest venture is the “Blue Shroud Band” founded in 2014 to perform his most recent composition based on Picasso’s painting “Guernica” with texts by the Irish poet Kerry Hardie. The ensemble features fourteen internationally acclaimed soloists and improvisers.
In 2016 Barry Guy was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Middlesex , London and also appointed Visiting Professor to the Rhythmic Conservatory in Copenhagen.
Since 2006, Barry Guy and his wife Maya Homburger live in Switzerland where they have staged many premières with their various ensembles and also regularly present improvised music concerts and baroque programmes. Barry has also given masterclasses at various musical institutions including the well known Lucerne Academy of Music and the Jazz Department in Bern, and recently one of his major works for strings and voices had its première in the prestigious concert hall Tonhalle Zürich. They also run their own CD label Maya Recordings.
“Folio” his work for strings, baroque violin, violin and improvising bass was released on ECM, “Time Passing…” with the Camerata Zürich and the vocal soloists Anja Pöche, Savina Yannatou and Matthew Brook on the Maya Recordings Label.
In 2019 he completed a commission for the KRONOS String Quartet as part of their series “50 for the Future”.
His solo works for violin, played by Maya Homburger, can be heard, framed by the Sonatas and Partitas by J.S. Bach, on three solo violin CDs released on the Maya Recordings Label.