Log In

Reset Password

It’s a wonderful world for pianist Tony Bari

First Prev 1 2 Next Last
Taking requests: Tony Bari, 73, grew up in an Italian family passionate about music. At he still performs three nights a week at Fourways Restaurant and Inn in Warwick, plus brunch there on Sundays (Photograph supplied)

Pianist Tony Bari likes to say he has not had a night off since moving to Bermuda in 1984.

Over the course of 40 years he has played in just about every hotel, restaurant and bar on the island, and has often been asked to perform at private events.

His current gig is playing three nights a week at Fourways Restaurant and Inn in Warwick, plus brunch there on Sundays.

“I am really lucky to be able to play there regularly,” the 73-year-old said. “It is a beautiful setting.”

Every night he takes requests for old standards like What a Wonderful World,I Did It My Way or Moon River.

He does not mind pulling out the old standards over, and over and over again.

“I love entertaining people,” he said.

When he sees elderly couples in the audience, he easily launches into music from the 1920s and 1930s.

“I have a wide repertoire,” he said. “I do Irving Berlin and Cole Porter. They sang great songs.”

When he is not doing his thing at Fourways, he plays the organ for St Anthony’s in Warwick or St Joseph’s in Sandys.

“The church pays me to hear the gospel,” he said. “That is quite a responsibility.”

Mr Bari grew up in Saugus, Massachusetts in an Italian family passionate about music.

“My mother, Anna, was a piano teacher, and also the CCD (catechism) teacher with the Catholic Church,” he said. “My father, Anthony, was a chemical engineer, but also a big band leader, playing in every mafia club in Boston. So where did I go every night, starting at age 12? I went with my father to hear the bands.”

He loved listening to them. There was never any doubt in the family that he was going to become a musician.

Rather than remind him to practice, his parents had to sometimes tell him to stop.

His mother, Anna, is now 97. Whenever he goes back to Boston, the family come from far and wide to hear him play the piano. They are still his biggest fans.

Absolutely no thoughts of retirement: Tony Bari loves entertaining people (Photograph supplied)

He started taking music lessons with teachers at the Berklee College of Music in Boston while he was still in middle school.

By the time he graduated high school, he had four years of lessons with them under his belt.

He also loved sports and won a baseball scholarship in high school.

“Then boom, my draft number came up,“ he said. ”I was on my way to Vietnam.“

At 18, he was eager to do his part for his country. After training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, he was ready to go to Vietnam. Then there was a lull in the fighting.

“The date that we were supposed to ship out kept getting pushed forward,” he said. “The American government was making plans to make a full withdrawal.”

To pass the time, the base held a talent show.

“Everyone in my battalion knew I played the piano so they made me enter,” Mr Bari remembered. “I played Summertime, and I won.”

He was quickly switched from infantry, to a position as the battalion Captain’s driver.

“He was so proud of his battalion for winning the talent show,” Mr Bari said. “He had me playing at the officers’ bar, and I had never fired a shot.”

Today, he is very grateful that he never made it to Vietnam.

Years later, he was playing the piano on ships travelling the world when he was assigned to a route docking in Vietnam.

“I felt very emotional the first time I stepped off the boat in Saigon,” he said. “I really felt a mixture of guilt, and also tremendous gratitude that I was alive.”

He first visited Bermuda while working as cruise director on the Holland America Line in 1978.

“Back then, the guys in the band went to three places in Bermuda, the tennis stadium, Little Venice and The Spot Restaurant,” he said.

In the winter they would sail to the Caribbean. “There were beautiful mountains and beaches there, but, back then, Bermuda had a lot less poverty.”

He met his first wife, a Bermudian, sailing the Caribbean. She was a crew member. They married and had two children.

As much as he loved life on cruise ships, he spent much of his first marriage sailing around Asia, while his wife was back in Bermuda. The long distance destroyed their marriage.

He divorced, and married his second wife Marlene 14 years ago.

“She sells fractional ownership for hotels such as Rosewood Tuckers Point and the Reefs,” he said. “She does very well. To get her clients to buy into Bermuda, she sends them to Fourways to hear me play. I serenade them with this beautiful, romantic music, and they buy.”

He joked that the only downside was that his wife did not give him a commission.

One of his first gigs on the island was playing the piano at The Carvery on Reid Street in Hamilton.

“It was located above The Red Carpet,” he said. “The first person I met when I played there was Gita Blakeney.”

They have performed together many times since.

For many years, he has helped music promoter and musician Wendell “Shine” Hayward organise International Jazz Day in Bermuda.

This year Mr Bari suggested they do something to honour famed jazz pianist Duke Ellington.

“It is his 125th birthday on April 29,” Mr Bari said. “The next thing I knew Shine called me up and said they would be honouring me also. I said, what?”

Mr Bari will be recognised for his contributions to local music on April 29 at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club in the Princess Room, as part of Tribute to Duke Ellington. Tickets are $150 each, available at www.bdatix.bm.

When Mr Bari is not performing, he loves playing golf or tennis.

“We have a camaraderie of mates, and we play together every Monday at Belmont Hills,” Mr Bari said. “Then we go to Divots and have lunch.”

He has absolutely no thoughts of retirement. “I will be dead on the piano,” he joked.

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published April 16, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated April 17, 2024 at 8:07 am)

It’s a wonderful world for pianist Tony Bari

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon