Jennifer Margaret Barker
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A Lassie's Love CDWaulking in the Glen

Email: jmbarker@udel.edu
Selection of Reviews 
(for more, please see other pages on this website)
Performances

"In her inimitable and charming way, Jennifer opted to speak about the pieces performed during the concert, and this created a most amiable and direct contact with an appreciative audience…Next came Jennifer Barker’s setting of a well-known Baudelaire poem, namely, Tout Entière, from the French Symbolist poet’s famous collection Les fleurs du mal. Jennifer’s writing is very much her own, in the sense that while influences are inevitably working on the creative mind, yet she has her own authoritative voice, one that comes across as clear and articulate, never overbearing yet sure of itself. She mixes what one could call traditional harmonies with more avant-garde ones, and her vocal writing gives full space to the singer to express himself. In fact, she is a natural. In Tod Fitzpatrick’s golden baritone, Barker found an excellent medium through which she could express Baudelaire’s ‘satanic’ verses, ones that have been labelled diabolical but lines which, closely regarded, are more full of pathos, pain, and unbearable irony, lines that because of the very quality of their doubt bring them close to the beatific vision. Fitzpatrick sang with full conviction, delivering lines of liquid beauty in a voice that never faltered, whatever the range whatever the sudden leaps. The dark vocal timbre was eminently suited to the powerful tones of Baudelaire’s lines and Barker’s writing was incisive and tender in equal measure. In pianist Marie-Christine Delbeau, both Fitzpatrick and Barker could rest assured of her superb competence and mastery, lending force and power to a gem of a piece...Jennifer Barker had another piece performed, this time The Enchanted Glen: no guessing here what she had in her mind and heart! Scottish born and bred, her extraordinary love of her beautiful country seeps through quite a few of her works; yet, what is perhaps most remarkable, apart from her extraordinary capabilities as a composer, is how she never allows her effusions to become sentimentalised. Hers are emotional pictures that do not date. What Wordsworth calls “emotion recollected in tranquillity” could well be attributed to Barker’s Scottish pieces. Like Vella’s piece, this is scored for clarinet and pianoforte. Fully exploiting the dynamic and tonal range of the clarinet, with the pianoforte coming out on its own quite a few times, the piece has a sort of magic about it that is never broken. Rhythmic variety and piquant harmonies created a gossamer fabric that trembled with light. Although distinctly contemporary, yet lyrical moments tempered the more robust harmonies and contrapuntal structures, fully confirming Barker as a composer of tremendous sensibility and intelligence."

Victoria International Arts Festival, Gozo, Malta, July 2018 - review of concert of Barker's compositions performed by Transcontinental

Full Review: http://www.viaf.org.mt/transcending-boundaries-with-transcontinental/

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"(Barker) eased her way into the concert by immediately forging a lovely, intimate rapport with the audience...; (Barker's) style immediately made its mark in the multi-coloured landscape of the musical texture, one replete with moments of lights and shade, exuberance and introspection, hope and wistfulness...; authenticity and honesty marked the composer’s idiom throughout...; the overall result was one of impeccable execution, with an implicit thread running through the piece...; a wonderfully atmospheric piece, denoting the gentle wind that rustles through crevices and the ferns, truly evocative and haunting..."

Victoria International Arts Festival, Gozo, Malta, July 2016 - review of concert of Barker's compositions performed by Caraid Trì

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"Jennifer Barker’s Naibh Beags (Nyvaigs) belongs to a “battle music” genre that dates back to the Renaissance. Most battle pieces try to evoke the “thrill” of warfare. Barker approaches her subject with a modern sensibility that’s more conscious of the horror of battle alluded to in her text: two verses from The Highlander, an 18th Century poem that the composer read in her native Scots accent.

Naibh Beags depicts the 11th- and 12th-Century battles between the Celts and the Norse that culminated with a battle in which the Norse withdrew for the last time and burned their dead on islands still called the Burnt Isles. Barker opens with subdued ominous drumming on snares and timpani, and builds toward the clash as she reads the first half of the text. In the middle section, she switches to pure music and captures the frenzy of battle with devices that include some striking writing for saxophone and ocarina. 

A soprano part combines syllables from Gaelic and Norwegian and evokes the fury and desperation of the combatants. The final section follows the madness with a beautiful floating melody for soprano, flute, and saxophone and a verse from the poem that describes the Norse retreat and the burning of the dead."

Broad Street Review, article by Tom Purdom, November 9th 2010 – review of Naibh Beags (Nyvaigs) performed by Orchestra 2001

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“…was extraordinarily moving. So was Jennifer Barker’s Blue Waters, a work for vibraphone commissioned by Corbett, and illuminated by dreamy images.”

The Scotsman, article by Kenneth Walton, July 31st 2009 – review of Blue Waters performed by Heather Corbett

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“The ensemble concluded the evening with a performance of Jennifer Barker’s ‘sair wrocht wi lilt’…that was anything but passive…Combining contemporary classical structure with material in the Scottish folk tradition, ‘sair wrocht wi lilt’ came blazingly alive, with lovely, aching melodies that evoked not only Barker’s homeland but Americana as well…Heavily percussive (…including the performers’ bodies as instruments), the piece turned literally into a dance when Bob Butryn set his clarinet down for a show-stopping, superbly executed tap dance. I was reminded of film director John Ford’s wonderful, country dance set pieces, and also of the fact that the “avant garde” need not be unapproachable…”.

Signal to Noise’ Journal, issue #48, winter 2008, - review of sair wrocht wi lilt performed by Relâche

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“Orr then went on to play a much more modern work by Jennifer Margaret Barker. It…took full advantage of the basically percussive nature of the modern piano. There were echoes of Carl Orff, Shostakovich, Copland, and even Mahler, to be heard throughout the piece. But in the end, it was clearly Barker’s own.” 

Youngstown Vindicator, article by Jerry Stephens, February 23rd 2007 - review of Geenyoch Ballant performed by Kevin Robert Orr



CD Recordings

Scottish-American composer Jennifer Margaret Barker presumably constitutes the “Almost” part of this otherwise
“All-American” album, and her work for clarinet and piano “...to the pale green sea of evening...” paints the interlaced
city and seascapes of two Mediterranean islands in vivid sonic contrasts. Trading rippling piano figurations with chaotic street sounds, she seeks to recreate the experience of glimpsing the placid sea between buildings on a crowded street. Barker’s evocations of the Mediterranean translate on the clarinet to ebbing sustained tones...the soft ends of these gradual crescendo-diminuendo shapes...produces an interesting sonic effect akin to watching something far away – far offshore, perhaps – slowly come into focus....Overall, this album presents works that are innovative and likeable, and it is satisfying to hear Nichols breathe life into this music that he elicited through thoughtful commissions. I recommend this disc for anyone seeking to program novel and worthwhile repertoire.

The Clarinet, December 2020 - Graeme Johnson - review of Almost All-American CD

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"...to the pale green sea of evening...(2015) is a gem hidden in the middle of this album. Composed by Jennifer Margaret Barker, Professor of Composition at the University of Delaware, this one-movement work is especially captivating. The opening alternates between an almost-tonal melody over a dreamy piano ostinato and a sudden and surprising atonal alteration that is reminiscent (of) Missy Mazzoli's Magic with Everyday Objects. A second section is jaunty and equally filled with surprising turns of harmony and gesture. Nichols and (Barker) work particularly well together at interpreting each of these disparate characters. Listening to this track, it is easy to get a sense of the musical connection the two performers have developed. Their joy in playing together is infectious.

Almost All-American is an enjoyable album that shows off a nice variety of contemporary works featuring the clarinet...Stephenson's Sonata and Barker's to the pale green sea of evening are especially great pieces and skillfully performed. This album will do a great service as a benchmark for interpretation in future performances. It was a pleasure to be introduced to all the works that Nichols included here - his commitment to commissioning and recording new works is commendable."

NACWPI Journal, Winter 2019-2020 - Dr. Blake McGee - review of Almost All-American CD

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"The most haunting is Scottish-American Jennifer Margaret Barker's ...to the pale green sea of evening..., a lovely invocation of the Mediterranean colours and moods of Malta and Gozo."

Gramophone - December 2019 - review of Almost All-American CD

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"...to the pale green sea of evening... by Scottish-American composer and pianist Jennifer Margaret Barker was premiered in Ghent, Belgium, in 2015. Barker found inspiration on the islands of Malta and Gozo, whose bright colours are reflected in the music." 

pizzicato - Remy Franck, Luxembourg, November 2019 - review of Almost All-American CD

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​"..., the interesting Na Tri Peathraichean, a musical description of the Scottish mountains called the 'three sisters of Glencoe', evocative and virtuosic at the same time;..."

Kathodik (Italy) - Luciano Feliciani, June 2018 - review of Living Music CD

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"Jennifer Margaret Barker's impressive. 'Na Tri Peathraichean' means 'The Three Sisters ... of Glencoe,' in Scottish Gaelic, and each piece is meant to evoke one of the three mountains in the title. Dade captures perfectly the feeling of wild mountain places, her runs and escalating lines performed with precision and passion as if they were waterfalls or running stags. Pianist, John Novacek, compliments Dade beautifully throughout the work. The second moment, commences with Dade mirroring a flowing river. Piano and flute sinuously entwine, providing a vivid landscape of colors and textures. The third movement begins with the majestic introduction by Novacek. Dade and Novacek are both regal and sensitive, beautifully capturing Barker's richly evocative music." 

The Flute View - Viviana Guzman, June 5th 2018 - review of Living Music CD

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"Born in Scotland, but spending part of life in the States, Jennifer Margaret Barker has created a very large portfolio of music, Na Tri Peathraichean (The Three Sisters) being a musical response to three mountain ridges in her native country. Completed in 2000 and scored for flute and piano, it is the most extended score on the disc, the style belonging to the mainstream tonal modernity and is very attractive. It seems to have engendered the disc's most inspired performance from Alice Dade, the inherent colours so beautifully captured with John Novacek as a sensitive piano partner. Beauty is also the hallmark of...this is an invaluable disc of new woodwind music."

​Naxos Records - David Denton of 'David's Review Corner', February 2018 - review of Living Music CD

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