Ari Barnes is one of the most thoughtful and generous spirits I’ve encountered among classical performers. And as someone recently bequeathed with the burden of being called “the best Canadian cellist of his generation” by Bramwell Tovey it would be understandable if he was more guarded with his time.
But despite a schedule that frequently includes multiple and diverse performing duties, catching up with colleagues and even some skateboarding, Ari is always ready to act as an ambassador not just for the appreciation of classical and new music, but for the idea of a broadly engaged citizenry that can participate at every level of cultural life. I met with Ari to do an interview for VR Media while he was here to perform with the Turning Point Ensemble and Heidi Krutzen as Couloir. On Remembrance Day we alighted to Green College at UBC for an improvised portrait session and followed up with coffee for the “formal” chat. This is a man who will bring his cello to a public plaza and perform Bach for anyone who happens by. That then leads to discussion of the notion of “the public good” and the design of public places. And I really enjoy his emphatic reference to written music as “the literature”. A far-ranging conversation always yields unexpected revelations.
The trouble with doing portraits of great musicians is that there are so many factors at play. Time, purpose (promotional or editorial etc.), and personal. And I’ve noticed two dramatic trends in classical music portraiture; a tendency towards playful, cute or clever images (often demanded by marketers to feed to the press) or an overly formal, egocentric, vanity-driven style. I suspect many of these images will be subject to deep regret in the future. So my preference is to find a quiet, reflective but powerful image that speaks to sensitivity and commitment. We never know if we’ve nailed it until some time has passed.
The VR Media interview will be published in December. Let’s see which images fit the interview content at the time! At the moment I’m favouring this one. But everything is subject to change.
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