By Ben Jacks

The first thing I’ll always remember about Barry was his eyes. I first met him backstage at Perth concert hall when I was about 15 after hearing him play the Brahms trio. It was an inspiring performance, delivered in a very matter of fact way but with amazing control and fearlessness. 

Years later in Melbourne I met him again, and those intense eyes immediately grabbed me. He had a way of seeing through things and making his thoughts clear without saying very much. His control of the instrument was incredible. The ease with which he seemed to be able to go across registers, control dynamics at both ends of the spectrum and convey a musical line was amazing.

Barry was also an incredibly funny man. His wit was first rate; at times I’ll admit I laughed without quite understanding his joke and then hours later when the penny dropped I appreciated it all the more. 

As an Australian trailblazer he showed all musicians, not just horn players, what was possible with not only talent but determination. To scale the heights that he did is almost unimaginable today and yet he did it all.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to record an album with Barry conducting. I learned so many things. He taught me that preparing for a long recording is quite different from a solo concert and that maintaining a clear and pure musical line was the most important thing. His humour again was always on display during this process and many of jokes I cannot repeat in this forum!

I remember vividly one occasion during this week when we were enjoying a quiet beverage at the end of a long day. An acquaintance of mine walked past and stopped to say hello. I introduced Barry and was on the verge of giving a colorful introduction. He stopped me and said, “I used to be good at what I did a long time ago.” Even after all Barry had done, he remained a humble and generous soul and one I was lucky enough to count a friend.

Ben Jacks is Principal Horn of the Sydney Symphony, Orchestra Brass Co-ordinator at the Australian National Academy of Music, and a much sought-after soloist and chamber musician.


by Geoff Collinson:

tuckwell lin collinson
The author with Barry and his student Lin Jiang, Principal Horn of the Hong Kong Philharmonic.

I will always count myself a very lucky person to have spent so much time with Barry over the last 17 years. To hear firsthand stories of an incredible life and to gain insights into the person behind the onstage presence that I previously had only known from a distance will always be one of the most treasured experiences of my life. His life was music and horn was his voice. He has touched the lives of many people around the globe with his music and unique sound. That sound was formed from one concert he attended of the Vienna Philharmonic in Scotland when he was in his early twenties. Hearing their principal horn, Gottfried van Freiburg, stuck in his mind. Van Freiburg would never know that in the audience he was inspiring a young man who would go on to become a legend of our instrument. 

My greatest inspiration from my friend is the thought of a 19-year-old boy getting on a boat from Australia to the UK in 1949 with a horn in an old leather rucksack with not much else but a dream and a great musical gift. The rest, as they say, is history.

Geoff Collinson is the founder of the Melbourne International Festival of Brass, was head of the University of Melbourne brass department, and has served as principal horn and guest principal horn of major orchestras throughout Australia. 

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