Barnby, Joseph (DNB01)

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BARNBY, Sir JOSEPH (1838–1896), composer and conductor, son of Thomas Barnby, an organist, was born at York on 12 Aug. 1838. At the age of seven he became a chorister in the minster, as six of his brothers had been before him. He began to teach music at the age of ten, and was an organist and choirmaster at twelve. At sixteen he entered the Royal Academy of Music as a student, and (in 1856) was narrowly defeated by (Sir) Arthur Sullivan [q. v. Suppl.] in the competition for the first Mendelssohn scholarship. After holding the organistship of Mitcham church for a short time Barnby returned to his native city, where for four years he taught music. He then definitely settled in London, where he successively held the following appointments as organist and choirmaster : St. Michael's, Queenhithe (30l per annum); St. James the Less, Westminster; St. Andrew's, Wells Street (1863-71); St. Anne's, Soho (1871-1886). The services at St. Andrew's brought him a great reputation by reason of their high standard of interpretation and the modern character of the music rendered there, especially that of Gounod, with which Barnby was much in sympathy. Mr. Edward Lloyd was a member of the choir. At St. Anne's, Soho, Barnby introduced the less-known Passion music (St. John) by J. S. Bach, which was performed with orchestral accompaniment, then quite a novelty in a parish church.

In 1861 Barnby became musical adviser to Messrs. Novello, which appointment he held till 1876, At the instigation of Messrs. Novello 'Mr. Joseph Barnby's choir' was formed under his conductorship in 1867, the first concert being given at St. James's Hall on 23 May. From 1869 concerts were given under the designation 'Oratorio Concerts,' at which the low pitch {diapason normal) was introduced, and several great works were revived and admirably performed, e.g. Handel's 'Jephtha,' Beethoven's great mass in D, and Bach's 'St. Matthew Passion.' At the end of 1872 the choir was amalgamated with that conducted by M. Gounod, and, as the Royal Albert Hall Choral Society (now Royal Choral Society), began to give concerts on 12 Feb. 1873. For the remaining twenty-three years of his life Barnby conducted this society with conspicuous ability, and proved to be a choral conductor of the highest attainment. Wagner's 'Parsifal,' in a concert-room version, was produced by the society, under Barnby, on 10 Nov. 1884, and repeated on 15 Nov. Another of his important conducting achievements was a performance with full orchestra and chorus—memorable in the history of church music in this country—of Bach's 'St. Matthew Passion' in Westminster Abbey, while Stanley was dean, on Maundy Thursday, 6 April 1871. He also conducted the daily concerts given by Messrs. Novello in the lioyal Albert Hall, 1874–5, the London Musical Society, 1878–86 (which produced Dvorak's 'Stabat Mater' on 10 March 1883), the Royal Academy of Music weekly rehearsals and concerts, 1886–8, and the Cardiff musical festivals of 1892 and 1895.

Barnby was appointed precentor of Eton—i.e. organist and music master to Eton College—in 1875, which office he held until 1892, when he became the second principal of the Guildhall School of Music in succession to Thomas Weist-Hill [q. v.]; this post he retained till his death, which took place suddenly at his residence, 20 St. George's Square, Pimlico, on 28 Jan. 1896. His remains, after a special funeral service in St. Paul's Cathedral, were interred in Norwood cemetery. A bronze bust by Hampton, subscribed for by members of the Royal Choral Society, is in the corridor of the Royal Albert Hall.

Barnby was knighted on 5 Aug. 1892, and was a fellow of the Royal Academy of Music. His compositions, which were almost exclusively vocal and mostly written for the church, include 'Rebekah' (a cantata), 1870, and 'The Lord is King' (Psalm 97), Leeds music festival, 1883. He composed forty-six anthems; several services (that in E he wrote at the age of seventeen); thirteen carols; offertory sentences; thirty-two four-part songs (his setting of Tennyson's 'Sweet and low,' first performed by Henry Leslie's choir on 14 Jan. 1863, has attained an extraordinary popularity); nineteen songs, and a series of Eton songs: five vocal trios; two pieces for organ and two for pianoforte. Barnby was a prolific composer of hymn-tunes, many of which have come into general use in English-speaking countries. These, to the number of 246, were published in one volume in 1897, He edited the music section of the 'Hymnary' (1872), the 'Congregational Mission Hymnal' (1890), the 'Congregational Sunday School Hymnal' (1891), and 'The Home and School Hymnal' (1893). He was one of the editors of the 'Cathedral Psalter' (1873).

[Musical Herald, May 1892 (p. 131), and March 1896 (p. 74); Musical Times, February and March 1896 (pp. 80, 153); James D. Brown and S. S. Stratton's British Musical Biography; Novello's Catalogue; Burke's Peerage &c. 1895.]

F. G. E.