Between The Notes was formed in 1997 by cellist Matthew Barley for three inaugural performances at the Lichfield International Festival.
The unique strength of the group lies in the diverse musical experiences of the different members: from international solo concerts, composing commissions, improvisation, orchestral training, creative workshop leading, contemporary music, to jazz, Latin, Indian classical and rock music, the members have had experience at very high levels.
The group is experimental and adventurous, and has worked with many different musicians, as well as actors, comedians, dancers and visual artists. One of the most important aspects of the group’s work is improvisation, which is present in all concerts; in 2002 BTN undertook an improvisation marathon at London’s South Bank Centre, playing non-stop for nearly 12 hours with a host of exciting guests from the jazz world including Julian Joseph, Marque Gilmore, Nikki Yeoh, Paul Clarvis and Cleveland Watkiss.
Concerts and projects abroad have taken the group to Germany, Belgium, Spain, Norway, Croatia, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Australia, which have included free improvisations, pieces written by the group, and commissions from a number of British composers including Fraser Trainer and Dave Maric.
BTN also specialise in creative collaborations with teenagers, both specialist musicians, and untrained musicians – the most spectacular of these was with over 1,000 performers at the National Basketball Stadium in Cyprus, to celebrate Cyprus becoming a member the European Union. In 2005 BTN undertook a project for the BBC that began with four regional projects based on Fraser Trainer’s Knots, with violinist Viktoria Mullova, and culminated with a performance in the Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms with teenagers of a piece written collaboratively in the days before the concert. It was the first time that work of this kind had been given such a high profile platform, and was described by many as a highlight of the whole season. Their first CD recording was released in July 2005 on the Black Box label, and will be followed in 2007 by a recording of improvisations.
In 2006 the group will undertake a major project in Cologne to celebrate 20 years of the Philharmonic Hall, with the Gurzenich Orchestra, based around a commission for Fraser Trainer to write a concerto for BTN and orchestra; record a CD of improvised music in conjunction with the BBC Music Magazine, and make several UK festival appearances.
Between The Notes at the BBC Proms, 30th August 2005
“Invisible Lines is the most exciting piece I have seen at the Proms for a long time. The exuberance and sheer joy of their performance was a delight. A wide range of influences were clearly audible, melding together into a new take on the Big Band sound. Very encouraging for the future of music in the UK”.
Proms concertgoer. August 2005.
“The other new work featured young musicians….who developed the work with boundary-crossing group Between The Notes. Its dynamism, combined with striking commitment from the players and an undoubted feel-good factor, carried it to success.”
George Hall, Guardian, 2nd August 2005
“More arresting was another new work, Invisible Lines …presented with impressive, utterly professional discipline.”
Stephen Pettitt, The Evening Standard, 1st August 2005
CD Knots (Black Box BBM 1095, released July 2005) with Viktoria Mullova, violin
“The idea is to combine the immediacy of pop and jazz with the classical interest in structural complexity. It works well in a piece like Tangerine Dream…cello and soprano saxophone soar over a hypnotic pulse; Trainer’s increasingly frantic piano improvisation feels like the natural release of pent-up tension, and there is a satisfying dramatic trajectory. Lucky is also good, with its skittish, shifting tempos and a crystalline sax solo by Peter Whyman. The best moments come when the band is given space to open out. I hope there will be more such moments in future.” Rob Witts, classicalsource.com August 2005,“The ensemble “Between The Notes” grabs this likeable, hot-foot excursion – music that kicks out with the tips of its toes – and turns into aural ballet. Central to the enterprise are quick reflexes of the cellist-director Matthew Barley and, especially, the violinist Viktoria Mullova, who dances her way through “Knots” and “Love Action”.”
**** Rob Cowan, Independent 6 December 2005
“As is expected a vast array of emotions are portrayed in what is a massively turbulent work, with a massively improvised feel to the music, with an occasional glimmer of both jazz and folk qualities.
Dominated by the opening guitar and keyboard riffs, which recur in different formats, the main feature of this work is the substantial section of improvisation for which this group are known.
…the band themselves are an incredibly tight unit and complement each other with considerable success. An intimate and clear recorded sound makes this disc an eclectic triumph that is definitely worth a listen.”
Adam Binks Music Web International Classical CD reviews, January 2006