Belfast Telegraph

Daniel Barkley's family bereft after sudden death of gifted composer aged 28

By Claire Williamson

The brother of a talented musician who died suddenly has said words cannot explain the "loss and pain" they feel as a family.

Daniel Barkley (28), from Carrickfergus, passed away earlier this month.

The young composer had been a PhD student at Queen's University in Belfast.

Sibling Michael (30) said he had lost his closest friend.

"Danny was a beautiful and fragile soul whose being, company, wit and - foremost - music brought happiness to so many," he said.

"He was quiet and friendly. The amount of messages I got of love and support and surprise that he had died showed how far-reached his friends were, everyone loved him.

"Dan was my closest friend and our family are all finding it really hard to cope with. It will take years, and you will never really move on, you just learn to live with the loss."

Danny had a vast catalogue of work and his compositions were performed around the world.

Michael said his interest in music was evident from a young age.

At one point, when he was recording an album of piano music, he would practise for 10 to 14 hours a day, and if he wasn't playing he would be composing for the same length of time.

"He's been writing music for a very long time, from his early teenage years. The only real thing in his life was music and tennis, they were his biggest things," he said.

"He had a phenomenal ear for harmony and he could hear anything and walk over to the piano and play it back to you.

"We would play games by making him play movie themes back, or things he had just heard on the radio."

He said his brother was most proud when his compositions were played by others.

"He was very fond of any time he got to have his music performed. He loved live performances of his music," he added.

Michael said his brother was his own toughest critic, despite being described as "one of the best contemporary composers".

Asked if he thought Danny was aware of how talented he was, Michael said: "I think he was and he wasn't. He's always been extremely hard on himself.

"People like that don't tend to know how talented they are or what they have currently achieved, it's always working towards the next thing."

He added that the support of Danny's friends had been a huge comfort to the family and was testament to his character.

He explained: "It helps immensely. Everyone has their own story of how they met Dan and how kind he was to them.

"He was never competitive on the music scene, where a lot are, but he would always help everyone and that kind of kindness you see an awfully big response to - because he was really selfless. They thought he was a gentle, beautiful person, which is true."

The family are awaiting a coroner's report to find out the cause of death.

They are also fundraising in his memory for charity MindWise, because he had suffered from mental health problems.

Michael said: "It's kind of like a gift from Dan, really."

He added: "We are all just learning to live with this, without Dan, and it's difficult, and I just wish we had more time together."

A concert by the Hard Rain Soloist Ensemble (HRSE) at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast on Friday will be dedicated to Danny and will feature performances of two of his works. HRSE composer and artistic director Greg Caffrey met Danny through workshops at Queen's and the Peter Rosser Composition Award, which he won twice.

He said: "Danny was no ordinary composer, no ordinary musician and no ordinary person.

"He was a prolific musician, as a glance at his Soundcloud page will testify. The many musicians and incredible ensembles he managed to garner performances from is mind-boggling, all the more so given that he was only 28 years old."

To donate in Danny's memory visit:

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