Diving into improvisation


In Helsinki Music Centre Camerata hall, instruments are tuned but – for now, for a moment - put aside. Cellist, improvisation specialist Matthew Barley begins his masterclass session with twelve Sibelius Academy students with physical trust excercises – to create a safe atmosphere for the participants, he says.

- In improvising, it is very important to learn to let go – to feel safe. Otherwise you can’t be creative! This might be a little bit harder for a classical instrumentalist, but it is equally as hard to start playing Bach without previous practise or experience than for a classical instrumentalist to start improvising. 

Barley found the world of improvisation approximately 15 years ago and has since studied the subject throughougly. For him, improvisation is not connected to any specific musical genre or style but is best begun on a blank canvas, on the skills and personalities of musicians at hand.

- When teaching improvisation I always try to carefully look at the musicians as individuals – to take in account their skills and backgrounds, he says.

This week, Barley has been working with the Sibelius Academy students on a master class. He was asked for a visit by professor Réka Szilvay after his presentation at Helsinki Festival in 2013. Barley and the Sibelius Academy students have been practising together hours daily and this cooperation will be finalized on January 23rd by a concert that is going to take a whole new approach to Bach. What can the audience expect to experience in this concert?

- My favourite question, Barley smiles. - I don’t know yet – it remains to be seen. Expect the unexpected! In general, I always enjoy working with young people, that keeps you also young at heart since they don’t usually think like we do. And I also get ideas from the students all the time.

What the group has found in music during the master class remains a mystery you just have to come and solve by listening on the spot!


Master class final concert "Freedom of Bach", Friday January 23th at 7 P.M.


Otto Antikainen, violin
Kasmir Uusitupa, violin
Janne Jääskeläinen, violin
Emil Peltola, violin
Elisa Järvelä, violin
Linda Suolahti, violin
Annariina Jokela, viola
Tim Hansson, viola
Matthew Barley, cello
Pauliina Haustein, cello
Iida-Vilhelmiina Laine, cello
Karl-Johann Lattikas, percussion