Artist Q&A: Matthew Berrill, The Commons

On the 29th March, a historic day for Europe, some of Britain and Ireland's finest improvising musicians come together for The Commons, a collective statement by improvising musicians of Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland that, despite potential sea changes politically, music will always flow freely across any borders, and belongs ultimately to no-one. Rather, it is us who belong to it.

The Commons was spearheaded by saxophonist Nick Roth in collaboration with other artists including Galway-based saxophonist Matthew Berrill and Welsh pianist Huw Warren. We spoke to Matthew about the links in music across Britain and Ireland, and how essential travel is for music and culture.

Q. Can you tell us a bit about how the idea for The Commons developed?

From a chat with Nick Roth after he suggested getting musicians from and based in these countries. 

Q. What connections do you see musically and creatively between the countries represented in this concert; England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland?
The folk tradition in Ireland and Scotland have many connections and share many similar traits. Many musicians from Ulster and in particular Donegal have settled in Scotland. Due to work opportunities/family links etc. I'm not so informed about the Welsh or English traditions, but am looking forward to learning more through this collaboration.

Q. Have there been any really seminal moments in your musical life that were dependent on working with musicians from across Europe?

Yes. Countless. I studied jazz performance in the Royal Conservatory in Den Haag and met musicians from all across Europe and further afield aswell. I learnt my 'trade' alongside my fellow Dutch, German, Spanish, French, English, Belgian, Irish, Italian, Czech, Slovakian and Polish students. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Music brings people together, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, religion. I was able to study in the EU for next to nothing. Free movement and educational links have been beneficial to so many like me.

Q.  It seems like the entire musical/creative community in the UK and Ireland are crying out that being unable to tour freely will flatten their livelihoods. How do you think Brexit restrictions will impact musicians in the UK and in Europe? Is there any chance politicians will start to listen?

Travel, and the freedom to come and go, is a vital part of musician's lives. It's something that we take for granted, and rightly so. It could be disastrous if a Brexit goes ahead or if a no-deal Brexit happens. Things seem to be changing by the hour though. It's hard to see how things will end up. The current political landscape in the UK is depressing...

Q. We’re also already seeing issues of originally European musicians, many of whom have their whole live in the UK, being denied settled status, because of income brackets etc. How do you think this will affect the musical landscape within the UK?

It will have terrible consequences. The whole social landscape could change for the worse.
Music, Art, Food, Education (I could go on...) all enjoy the wealth of experience brought by those from throughout the EU, and of course Worldwide... Shared experience is integral to all our lives. 


Thanks Matthew!

Nick Roth, Huw Warren, Neil Yates, Matthew Berrill, Maria Lamburn, Kieran Mcleod, Dave Redmond, and Zoot Warren perform as The Commons, on Friday 29th March, Doors 9:30pm at Arthur's Blues 'n' Jazz Club, Thomas Street, Dublin.
Tickets HERE

– posted