National Portrait Gallery

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Born: Au­gust 12, 1838, York, Eng­land.

Died: Jan­ua­ry 28, 1896, Lon­don, Eng­land.

Buried: Nor­wood Ce­me­te­ry, Lon­don, Eng­land.

National Portrait Gallery

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Barnby was a com­pos­er, con­duc­tor and (like his fa­ther Tho­mas) an or­gan­ist. He en­tered the choir of York Min­ster at age se­ven, and was an or­gan­ist and choir­mas­ter at twelve.

In 1854 he went to Lon­don and en­tered the Roy­al Aca­de­my of Mu­sic, where he stu­died un­der Ci­pri­ani Pot­ter and Charles Lu­cas. In 1856, he com­pet­ed for the first Men­dels­sohn Schol­ar­ship.

When the ex­am­in­ations were ov­er, of the nine­teen ap­pli­cants, he was tied for first place with Ar­thur Sul­li­van. Af­ter a sec­ond test, Sul­li­van won.

Barnby was or­gan­ist at Mitch­am, St. Mi­chael’s, Queen­hithe, and St. James’ the Less, West­min­ster, be­fore he was ap­point­ed to St. An­drew’s, Wells Street, where he stayed 1863–71, es­tab­lish­ing the mu­sic­al re­pu­tation of the ser­vic­es.

From 1871–86 he was or­gan­ist at St. Anne’s, So­ho, where he in­sti­tut­ed the an­nu­al per­for­manc­es of Bach’s Pass­ion Mu­sic ac­cord­ing to St. John, with or­che­stral ac­com­pa­ni­ment.

In 1867, Messrs. No­vel­lo, to whom he had been mu­sic­al ad­vis­er since 1861, es­tab­lished Barn­by’s Choir, which gave ora­tor­io con­certs 1869–72, when it was am­al­ga­mat­ed with the choir formed and con­duct­ed by M. Gou­nod at the Roy­al Al­bert Hall, under the ti­tle of the Roy­al Al­bert Hall Cho­ral So­cie­ty (now the Roy­al Cho­ral So­cie­ty).

The same pub­lish­ing firm al­so gave da­ily con­certs in the Al­bert Hall, 1874–75, which Barn­by or­ches­trat­ed.

Barnby con­duct­ed the St. Mat­thew Pas­sion in West­min­ster Ab­bey in 1871. He was ap­point­ed pre­cen­tor of Eton in 1875, a post he kept un­til 1892, when he suc­ceed­ed Tho­mas Weist-Hill as prin­ci­pal of the Guild­hall School of Mu­sic.

In 1878, Barn­by mar­ried Ed­ith Ma­ry Sil­ver­thorne.

Also that year, he helped found the Lon­don Mu­si­cal So­cie­ty, be­com­ing its first di­rect­or and con­duc­tor. Un­der his ba­ton, the So­ci­ety pro­duced Dvor­ak’s Sta­bat Ma­ter for the first time in Eng­land.

In 1884, Barn­by con­duct­ed the first per­form­ance in Eng­land of Wag­ner’s Par­si­fal as a con­cert in the Al­bert Hall.

From 1886–68 he con­duct­ed re­hear­sals and co­ncerts of the Royal Aca­de­my of Mu­sic, of which he was a fel­low.

Barnby was knight­ed in 1892, and the same year con­duct­ed the Car­diff Fes­tiv­al. He con­duct­ed the fes­ti­val again in 1895.


Barnby’s com­po­si­tions in­clude an ora­tor­io (Re­be­kah, 1870), a psalm (The Lord Is King, Leeds Fes­ti­val, 1893), an enor­mous num­ber of ser­vic­es and an­thems, part songs and vo­cal so­lo, tri­os, etc.

He al­so wrote a ser­ies of Et­on Songs, 246 hymn tunes (pub­lished in one vol­ume in 1897), and ed­it­ed five hym­nals, the most im­port­ant of which was The Hym­na­ry (1872).

Biography cour­te­sy of Tho­mas and Ma­ry Barn­by Hedg­es.