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Barbados Classical Music Festival – Another Great Year In Review

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It’s 5 years since it was first started and the “Barbados Classical Music Festival” seems very at home in Barbados. Inspired by Julian Bowen, the festival is far more that a spectacular series of world class performers.

This review of the event looks at how it started and the men who inspired it. It looks at the state of classical music in Barbados and in the Caribbean generally. How it has influenced the various music form of the region and how the regional music has influenced some current classical forms. Several samples from the finale are recorded and shared. The review also takes a personal look at the composers and their music. The musicians who interpret the work are all teachers and professors. Their comments and stories add life, context and understanding to the experience.

Julian Bowen greets sponsors and performers for the 2019 event

More Than Performances, It’s An Inspiration

Julian, who established the Julian Bowen School of Music and Creative Arts, sees the event as much more than a spectacular series of classical music performances. It’s also a way that young aspiring Barbados musicians can mingle with the world’s best and learn from them.

When not on stage the international symphony stars take time out to help with workshops and student master class recitals. This is a real privilege as Barbados does not have a national choir or professional orchestra. Students generally have to study overseas.

Music a Caribbean Heritage

Music is in the blood of Barbadians as it is for most Caribbean nationals. Young island boys and girls grow up with music in their soul. From the beat of African drums and the lyrical fusion of the multicultural Caribbean, comes great talent and a distinctive music. It has resulted in the rhythms of the Caribbean: Calypso, Socca, Dub, Spouge, Reggae and Soul music. Names like Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Jackie Opel, The Mighty Sparrow, The Merrymen, Des’ree, Rihanna and dozens of others, attest to the talent of the islands.

Trinidad took simple oil industry drums to make the steel-pans that have become a dominant form of music in the Caribbean. It is a precision instrument that has rendered some of the most beautiful classic recording. See Classic Steel. The modern pan is a chromatically pitched instrument that today is rendering works of the classical masters with a distinctive Caribbean flair. Pan is also alive and well in Barbados.

The classics have always been in the soul of the Caribbean but it took some time for the Barbados Classical Music Festival to arrive on our shores.

Classical Beginnings

Norman Reintamm Barbados Classical Music Festival
Norman Reintamm, Artistic Director BCMFestival

The Barbados Classical Music Festival had its classical beginnings with the collaboration of Norman Reintamm and Julian Bowens. Some 6 years ago Reintamm, while on holiday in Barbados got in contact with Julian and asked if he could help out with the Christmas music. Bowen’s immediately invited him to be associate organist and to give a small recital at St. Peter’s Church in Speightstown.

Festival 2019 Finale at The Barbados Museum & Historical Society

Johannas Brahms Piano Trio 1 B Major op.8

Festival Finale at Barbados Museum Walled Gardens

Johannes Brahms – Piano Trio 1 B Major op.8 ⠀
Paule Barsalou (violin) ⠀| Ken Gee (piano)⠀| Aare Tammesalu (cello)

This performace followed the novel work by Claude Debussy considered the first impressionist composer and a true innovator. In keeping with the tradition Brahms also is considered an innovator even though his music is highly structured. He is a master of the Classics that has inspired generations of musicians and composers.

The music for the finale represent some of his most romantic and troubled works. They included Allegro con Brio (After a Dream), scherzo, Adagio and Allegro. Paule Barsalou explain his struggle with love and put the music into a highly personal context. His mood and his music swings from passion and despair with his failed romance with Clara Schumann, Robert Schumanns’ wife. The relation was problematic for all. Clara remained true to Robert even after his death. The intense relationship did create some of the most poetic and fraught music of the time.

Claude DeBussy – 4 Hands on 1 Piano

Ken Gee and Norman Reintaman on Piano

Claude Debussy is one of the foremost Avant Garde composers. He experimented with form and function and was concern with the impression and emotion of music as much or more that detail. His four hands on the piono was one of the most startling composition of the time. It stands today as an appropriation to musician and composers everywhere.

The video is rather shaky as the iPhone 10 Plus was pushed over its limits of zoom. At 5 times focal length every motion is magnified 5 times.

Really have to have a tripod for this. It was very impromptu as I went to enjoy the evening and just could not help sharing it, even with the wrong camera. Julian Bowen was very gracious to let me use my iPhone and record the occasion!

Gabriel Faure – After a Dream

This video captures the mood and music By Gabriel Faure. Aare Tammesalu (cello), Paule Barsalou and Ken Gee (piano) deliver an emotional rendition of “After a Dream” that is sincerely sentimental and delicate.

Also presented on this occasion was Sicilienne, op. 78. with cello and piano, a beautiful combination. It was composed in 1893 as part of a theatrical production that failed. The music lives on as a testament to one of the foremost French composers of the 19 century.

Wikipedia writes that his music links the 19th century Romanticism with the modernism of the 20th century. You will find both forms reflected in these pieces.


This is a very personal review by Author and Photo/video journalist Ian R Clayton. Reviewing the occasion and sharing insights of the characters of the artists and the people behind the event.

You can see more of his people and lifestyle work at

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