© National Portrait Gallery

August 12, 1838, York, England.

January 28, 1896, London, England.

Norwood Cemetery, London, England.


Barnby was a composer, conductor and (like his father Thomas Barnby) 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 remained from 1863 to 1871, establishing the musical reputation of the services. From 1871 to 1886 he was organist of 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 from 1869 to 1872, 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 in 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.

  1. Abba
  2. Adoro Te
  3. Alverstoke
  4. Barnby
  5. Birkdale
  6. Burleigh
  7. Carlton
  8. Cheshunt College
  9. Children’s Praise
  10. Chimney Rock
  11. Chiselhurst
  12. Cloisters
  13. Crossing the Bar
  14. Crucis Umbra
  15. Diadema
  16. Dunstan
  17. Emmaus
  18. Eton
  19. Eton College
  20. Flensburg
  21. Galilean
  22. Genoa
  23. Golden Chain
  24. Good Shepherd
  25. Holy Trinity
  26. Horeb
  27. Irae
  28. Isaiah
  29. Jordan
  30. Joseph
  31. Joy and Light
  32. Kennebunkport
  33. Last Sleep, The
  34. Litlington Tower
  35. Laudes Domini
  36. Longwood
  37. Mansfield
  38. Merrial
  39. Monsell
  40. Nightfall
  41. Nomen Tersanctum
  42. O Voice
  43. Perfect Love
  44. Power
  45. Roseate Hues
  46. Sarum
  47. Sheltering Wing
  48. Sinai
  49. Soho
  50. St. Anselm
  51. St. Andrew
  52. St. Boniface
  53. St. Fabian
  54. St. Hilda
  55. St. Ignatius
  56. St. Olave
  57. St. Saviour
  58. Stand Up
  59. Stanley
  60. Story of the Shepherd
  61. Sunset
  62. Swanland
  63. Via Pacis
  64. Victim Divine
  65. We March to Victory
  66. Winter Cold
  67. Winterton
  68. Woodleigh