Duo Milot-Bareil Find Harmony On Stage and Off

If the grandfather of violinist Antoine Bareil could see him now, the musician is confident that he would be proud of what his grandson has accomplished with his musical career.

A graduate of the Conservatoire de musique de Trois-Rivières in Quebec, Bareil was the recipient of two Wilfrid-Pelletier scholarships before moving on to spend two years studying at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg, Austria.

Bareil would go on to work with a number of notable artists including Wynton Marsalis, Vadim Repine, and Mstislav Rostropovitch while also making a name for himself as one half of the Duo Milot-Bareil, an acclaimed musical partnership with his wife, Valérie Milot.

Although Bareil can’t exactly explain his late grandfather’s fascination with the violin or insistence that his first-born grandson take up the instrument, he finds a great deal of comfort in knowing that he would have made him happy.

“My mother’s father had apparently always harboured a wish that his first-born grandson play the violin, which ended up falling to me,” Bareil says. “Because of that, my mother had me studying the instrument at a very early age, going so far as to purchase the different sizes of violins that would serve me as I grew up before I was even born. To think this is what I am doing as a career now, it truly is remarkable to see the places where life brings you.”

Asked why his grandfather was so taken with the violin, Bareil says he kept that information to himself, but Antoine saw firsthand the emotional impact that his learning the instrument had upon his grandfather.

“My grandfather was Ukrainian and was a very secret type of person who didn’t tend to speak too often,” Antoine says. “I never really knew why the instrument resonated with him so deeply. What I do know is that I began playing the violin at age six and that anytime I played for him, even though I hadn’t mastered the instrument by any means, he would become rather emotional, go into his room and simply close the door behind him. I think it was difficult for him to hide his emotions. There is little doubt that if he somehow knew that his desire to see me take up the instrument brought me where I am today, he would be very proud.”

When it came to learning to play the violin, it wasn’t always the smoothest of sailing for Bareil. He jokes that being a violinist in high school probably didn’t really make him cool among his peers. But by the time he realized that he could opt out of playing the instrument if he so desired, he says that quitting was no longer an option.

“I didn’t have the guts to quit,” he says. “(But), in retrospect, I am so very glad I didn’t.”

Had Bareil given up the violin, chances are he never would have met his wife. Although they had initially crossed paths overseas, it wasn’t until they were back home in Quebec that an opportunity to collaborate musically with Valérie, a celebrated harpist in her own right, became a reality.

Milot’s style has been dubbed “refined” by critics. Like her husband, she was also a recipient of the Wilfrid-Pelletier bursary, completing her study in New York with world-renowned harpist Rita Costanzi. Milot has a number of awards to her credit, including the prestigious Prix d’Europe, making her the first harpist in almost a century to receive the honour.

Bareil says that while love and musicianship do not always make for a perfect relationship, he and his wife have found harmony both on and off the concert stage.

“Valérie and I share a lot of the same ideas when it comes to music but also when it comes to things that are not musical. It really is such a blessing to be able to have music as a totally different dimension to our relationship.”

Together, Duo Milot-Bareil have collaborated on a number of critically acclaimed recordings including Old Friends: A Classical Tribute to Simon & Garfunkel and Around Christmas.

The duo’s approach to classical music is both unique and refreshing. While some see the genre as being for the culturally experienced, discerning music fan, the duo have made it a commitment to approach classical music in a way that both experienced and novice fans can appreciate.

“We love taking the time to speak with the audience and explain the significance behind certain songs or share with them specific stories about the instruments,” Bareil says. “I think that being open with the crowd and sharing with them the origins of the material that we are performing ultimately makes the music far more accessible. Some often see classical music as elitist; however, those are the stereotypes we are looking to dispel when we perform.

“We want to help bring the genre back to its roots and play the music for the right reasons: to have fun and help others discover that the world of classical music can be an exciting one.”

What: Duo Milot-Bareil
When: Friday Feb. 6, 7:30 p.m.
Where: First Church of the Nazarene, 21 Fieldcrest Dr., Moncton