Above: Minster Choir East, York, England
Image Source = Library of Congress
SIR JOSEPH BARNBY (AUGUST 12, 1838-JANUARY 28, 1896)
Anglican Church Musician and Composer
Each of us, in order to achieve his or her potential, needs the desire to accomplish it, the proper work ethic, and the opportunities to apply the desire and the work ethic. Sir Joseph Barnby was quite fortunate, for he had all three.
Barnby, born at York, England, joined the York Minster choir at age seven. He began to teach three years later and to work as an organist at age twelve. He became the master of his school at age fifteen. The alumnus of the Royal Academy of Music had a distinguished career in music, mostly in church settings. His church choirs in London parishes, the best such ensembles in that city. performed the Passions of Johann Sebastian Bach annually. Barnby conducted the first performances of Richard Wagner‘s Parsifal and Antonin Dvorak‘s Stabat Mater in England. And Barnby served as musical advisor to Novello, Ewer and Company from 1861 to 1876. The firm founded a choir for him to lead. He worked as Director of Music at Eton College from 1875 to 1892, conducted the Royal Choral Society, and became (in 1892) the Principal of the Guildhall School of Music. His knighthood (in 1892) was merited yet rare for choral directors.
Barnby was a prolific composer. Robert Guy McCutchan wrote of the saint in the 1937 companion volume to the U.S. Methodist Hymnal of 1935. Barnby, McCutchan wrote, was
…one of the most prolific, if not the greatest of the late nineteenth-century group of hymn-tune writers.
Barnby composed an oratio (Rebekah), solo pieces, service music, anthems for choirs, and 246 hymn tunes. Perhaps the best-known hymn tune he composed was Laudes Domini, the traditional tune for “When Morning Gilds the Skies.”
Barnby also edited five hymnals, the most renowned of which is the 1872 Anglican Hymnary, a High Church volume. If you, O reader, desire to find a copy of that book, follow this link, where you will find it available in various formats.
The positive legacy of Sir Joseph Barnby lingers, fortunately.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
NOVEMBER 26, 2012 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN BERCHMANS, ROMAN CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN
THE FEAST OF ISAAC WATTS, HYMN WRITER
Eternal God, light of the world and Creator of all that is good and lovely:
We bless your name for inspiring Joseph Barnby and all those who
with words and images have filled us with desire and love for you;
through Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Chronicles 29:14b-19
2 Corinthians 3:1-3
John 21:15-17, 24-25
–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 728
Revised on November 21, 2016