Matthew Barley tackles his past and reveals journey of hope with Light Stories world premiere and album release 

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Matthew Barley. Photo by Madeleine Farley.

Saturday 28 September, 5.30 & 9.30 pm, Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall

Thursday 3 October, 7.45 pm, Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Cardiff Music City Festival

Friday 11 October, TBC, St George’s Bristol

More performances to be announced

Light Stories on Signum Classics released on 28 September  

British cellist Matthew Barley announces Light Stories, a new multidisciplinary collaboration with specially commissioned visuals from production company Yeast Culture, and on-screen dancer, Mavin Khoo, exploring the transformative power of music to heal, console, and uplift. The project will see two performances as part of the Southbank Centre’s Contemporary Edit programmewhich champions boundary-pushing work by 21st century composers and artists, alongside major voices of the 20th century (28 September), with subsequent performances including the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, as part of the Cardiff Music City Festival (3 October), and St George’s Bristol (11 October).

A deeply personal journey, Light Stories weaves together music, projected imagery, and electronics to narrate Matthew’s teenage story of trauma and recovery. At the age of 16, Matthew experienced a life-threatening psychotic episode caused by a drug overdose which left him scarred both physically and emotionally. Music became his lifeline, guiding him through a journey of healing and self-discovery.

Inspired by the ‘Voyage and Return’ plot from Christopher Booker’s exploration of timeless narrative archetypes, the 70-minute programme highlights resilience and growth in the face of adversity. Matthew curates a soundtrack, comprising 15 chapters, featuring music from composers such as Anna MeredithJoby TalbotJohn Metcalfe, and Bach, alongside his own new compositions. These pieces are seamlessly connected by improvisations and electronics, creating a theatrical experience that immerses the audience.

Innovative film-makers Yeast Culture provide projected images that will surround Matthew and serve as a visual counterpoint to the music, evoking the darkness of trauma and its transformation into clarity and understanding. Celebrated contemporary dancer Mavin Khoo (Akram Khan Dance Company), will provide a filmed, human element on screen.

Matthew’s Light Stories project will extend beyond performance to include workshops with higher education institutions, where participants will engage in discussions on mental health and its connection to art, providing a safe and supportive space for creativity and expression. With co-leader Emma Bonnici, participants will also explore the physical and emotional connections between body and voice. They will learn new musical skills, navigate discussions on various topics related to music and mental health, and prepare a piece for an informal performance.

Matthew Barley’s album Light Stories will be released on 28 September on Signum Classics. The album will be a mix of his new compositions from the live show, with a selection of multi-tracked classical works that have been especially meaningful in his life.

More performances of Light Stories to be announced.