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Clive Barnes, 1927-2008

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A funeral for Clive Barnes was held Monday, November 24, at 3:30 at the Riverside Chapel on Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan.

Here are some of my recollections of the emotional gathering:

This particular Chapel, I don’t know if there are others in the building, was long and narrow, with a color scheme very like that of the stucco palette to the colonnaded architecture - "The Corridor of Muses" - defining Theater/Rossi Street in St. Petersburg, site of the onetime imperal theater school, now Vaganova Academy: pale yellows and warm whites.

The coffin was pale wood that looked bleached but I think the finish is the result of treatment called “pickling.” A spray of white and yellow flowers, with “Beloved Husband” written on the bow’s ribbon, covered the lid. (The casket was closed.)

The room was quite full.

I didn’t know everybody, to be sure, but besides Clive’s immediate family included his widow Valerie Taylor Barnes, as well as his second wife Patricia, his daughter Maya and son Christopher, and his third wife Amy. Maya’s husband was there too as were her two children, Ben and Sara.

Valerie spoke only briefly to thank everyone for coming.

Father Tom Miller, an Episcopal priest spoke and directed the proceedings. He quipped that he was formerly with a church in Woodstock, site of Clive’s country place, where he often saw Clive, before adding: “Though not in church.” (Fr. Miller is now affiliated with Church of St. John the Divine here in Manhattan.) He noted that Clive used to say he was an Atheist but recently admitted to being an Agnostic, thus, in the priest’s words (I’m afraid I didn’t get his name) perhaps Clive was branching out in the area. He spoke much of Clive’s writing, calling him a poet and noting his impact and accomplishments.

Maya spoke, with much emotional difficulty, mostly about Clive’s mother, Frida, and bit too about his father, whom she noted did return to Clive’s mother after leaving her early on, when Clive was 12 or so, and spent a wonderful day with them all before he met his own sudden death.

Trish spoke, also with much emotion and difficulty, mostly of Clive’s dearest, oldest friend, British dance critic John Percival, who could not be in attendance because he was not himself very well right now.

Christopher spoke off the cuff to say that he felt that his dad hadn’t yet gone straight to heaven because he wanted to hover around everyone (and everywhere, theater-wise) for a good deal longer since he wasn’t at all ready to leave NYC and its cultural life.

A man whose name may or may not have been Ellis, who was Clive’s first? “copy boy” at the New York Times told of how fond he became of Clive as they worked together and how much attention Clive paid to Ellis own writing once he began to do some work of his own.

After the priest read an excerpt from a Psalm, he recited the Lord’s Prayer and invited David Vaughan to read a poem, by Ninette de Valois, which Valerie had chosen, and which seems has been read at some Royal Ballet-related funerals in the past, notably, someone thought, by Michael Somes at the service for Margot Fonteyn.

The text is given here:


Said the Child .....

“I love you ....

I shall love you as long as you live

And when you are dead

I shall love you as long as I live,

And when I am dead

I shall love you as long as God lives.”

When death passes by

There is a rebirth of love,

Recurring, unswerving,

Philosophically wrought.

What more can God ask

Of the faithful than this?

Ninette de Valois

Among those in attendance, in addition to any number of New York Post writers and editors, etc, were: Anna Kisselgoff, Jack Anderson, George Dorris, Richard Philp, Joan Acocella, Alastair Macaulay, Craig Wright, Georgina Parkinson, Roy Round, Robert Gottlieb, John Simon, Joe Franklin, Howard Kissel, Paul Szilard, Arthur Mitchell, Kelly Ryan, Susie Morgan, Leslie Getz, Don McDonagh, Oleg Briansky, Mirelle Briane, Robert Johnson, Kevin Krichlow, Marvin Hoshino, and any number of people I can’t now name.

Also, Fr. Miller noted when he asked if any had come with something prepared to say, he stressed that there would be a further memorial, when more people would be speaking. When any dates are set, I understand there might even be more than one, I'll post the information here.

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Barnes always looked like he expected the most wonderful thing in the world awaited him behind the curtain. Even on those awful nights he memorialized so well, I think it did.

I understand that Walter Terry had a similarly optimistic viewpoint when he was walking into the theater -- even if the first act was a total dud, supposedly he still believed that the second act could redeem all. A great quality in a critic.

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From today's Gia Kourlas article in Links, a singularly beautiful farewell to Mr. Barnes:


While it would be easy to recall some of the more insipid performances and festivals of the year, the most tragic event was the death of Clive Barnes in November at the age of 81. He lived a full life, but for all who had the pleasure to know him, it simply wasn’t long enough. A way to remember someone—especially a critic—is to appreciate something or someone they loved. The next time you’re at NYCB, pay attention to the luminous young talent Kathryn Morgan. As you watch her dance, think about Barnes. He adored her.

Whenever I see her again, I suspect I'll think of Clive. There could be no more beautiful monument.

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