Concert Yoga with Matthew Barley

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 October, 2014, 5:37pm
UPDATED : Monday, 27 October, 2014, 5:37pm

Concert Yoga with Matthew Barley

Hong Kong Sinfonietta


Reviewed: October 24, 7pm

Here is a classical music concert with a difference, one that is infused with a one-hour yoga session. The idea first came about two years ago, when the Hong Kong Sinfonietta invited British cellist Matthew Barley to perform live during a yoga session held at ArtisTree and the soloist leapt at the chance.

They made perfect partners; both believe in broadening the appeal of classical music by promoting the art form beyond concert halls. It also helps that Barley used to practise yoga until an injury almost cost his career.

Last Friday and yesterday, the musician reunited with instructor Anri Shiga from Pure Yoga to lead a session of yin-style yoga; a practice that focuses on holding each pose for three to five minutes to stretch and relax deep tissues and fascia between joints. Unlike power yoga, movement is kept to a minimum.

The cello sound - soft, yet deep and rich - lends itself very well to this style of practice, as it helps relax the mind. And with Barley's fluent and lyrical improvisation, partly inspired by baroque composer J.S. Bach, the audience was able to settle into the static poses while keeping their breathing under control.

The continual flow of music also made the session feel shorter than it was. After what seemed to be just three or four poses, it was time for savasana (otherwise known as the "corpse pose", in which practitioners lie on the floor with arms and legs spread out).

Bach's Cello Suite No 1 in G major was probably a little too uptempo for this concluding yoga pose, as the mind and body were already set to surrender to the day's tension. But it certainly didn't get in the way of our relaxation, as snoring was audible.

Shiga's sequence was well structured and effective. She offered alternative positions for those who were less flexible. Barley played from the heart, and his performance (on an acoustic cello) not only complemented the practice, it also demonstrated the ethereal nature of making music.