Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sir Joseph Barnby

Joseph Barnby (born August 12, 1838) was another Victorian church musician and composer who started his career at an esrly age. At 7 he sang in the choir at York Minster, and at 12 he was already an organist and choirmaster. Later educated at the Royal College of Music, he went on to hold several organist and conductor positions in London. He was knighted in 1892 for his contributions to British music. His compositions include several anthems (one available at the Sibley Music Library site, settings of the evening canticles (one can be found at the Choral Public Domain Library), an oratorio (Rebekah) and a cantata (The Lord is King), as well as many secular partsongs.

He edited at least five hymnals, including The Hymnary (1872) and The Home and School Hymnal (1894). Naturally, many of his own hymn tunes found their way into these hymnals, but his tunes were very popular for nearly fifty years, appearing in nearly all the hymnals published in Britain and the US during that time. After his death in 1896, a collection of Barnby's 246 hymn tunes was published (the Cyber Hymnal lists only 58).

Here at the blog we have already heard his ST. ANSELM. His tune SARUM was for many years the preferred tune for For all the saints, appearing in many hymnals until SINE NOMINE by Ralph Vaughan Williams became more popular. The same thing happened to most of his tunes as the Victorians fell out of favor with hymnal editors in the mid- twentieth century. His only tune that remains in somewhat wide use is LAUDES DOMINI, for When morning gilds the skies.
This one also remains in some (maybe only Episcopal?) hymnals.

Now the day is over,
Night is drawing nigh,
Shadows of the evening
Steal across the sky.

Jesus, give the weary
Calm and sweet repose;
With thy tenderest blessing
May mine eyelids close.

Grant to little children
Visions bright of thee;
Guard the sailors tossing
On the deep, blue sea.

Through the long night watches
May thine angels spread
Their bright wings above me,
Watching round my bed.

When the morning wakens,
Then may I arise
Pure, and fresh, and sinless
In thy holy eyes.

Sabine Baring-Gould, 1867
Joseph Barnby, 1868

This is an somewhat unique tune in that the melody, usually important, is not all that interesting. This hymn really requires the participation of a choir, or at least a congregation that will sing the four-part harmony to have its full effect. Baring-Gould, author of the text, had written a tune of his own for it, called EUDOXIA, but it's Barnby's tune that prevailed.

This is another of those Victorian children's hymns that have come to be used in general worship, though it's borderline twee, with the "sailors tossing on the deep, blue sea." Another verse I left out (the original second):

Now the darkness gathers,
Stars begin to peep,
Birds, and beasts and flowers
Soon will be asleep.

Practically Walt Disney, with the sleeping flowers and the peeping stars.


Leland Bryant Ross said...

Alas, the index of The Home and School Hymnal is horribly misleading: it has links to what purport to be the numbers of the hymns but turn out to be the numbers of the pages. Do you know if there's any way to get the Google Books people to fix a problem like that??

Leland aka Haruo

C.W.S. said...

I don't really know how it all works at Google Books. They have a general info page at
but I'm not sure where this falls under.

Not sure how you could get them to flag hymnals in a special way when they are preparing an index page, since generally indexes do reference page numbers.

If you do use the links, at least you get closer to the right page.

Unknown said...

MERRIAL survives, in association with this text, outside TEC, btw. The 1985 LDS hymnal has two verses (identical to your first two except for "our" where you have "mine"). And ELCA has a modernized six-verse version, consisting of all your stanzas except the third, which is replaced (both in the 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship and in the 2006 Evangelical Lutheran Worship) by

Comfort every suff'rer
Watching late in pain;
Those who plan some evil
From their sin restrain.

and adding as verse six the Trinitarian doxology

Glory to the Father,
Glory to the Son,
And to you, blest Spirit,
While the ages run.

My wife, who spent some years in and around the LDS, says their radio broadcast of music from the Tabernacle or Temple or wherever they broadcast it from frequently ended with this song.

Leland aka Haruo
(but posting on his wife's account)

Unknown said...

Another Barnby tune that has some lasting currency is SANDRINGHAM, often called PERFECT LOVE or O PERFECT LOVE, after its original and canonical text. I see that the hymnal I grew up on, the Northern Baptists'/Disciples' Christian Worship (1941) has 13 hymns set to Barnby tunes. I haven't looked yet to see which ones, though I know SARUM/For All the Saints is one.

posting again as his wife

C.W.S. said...

Nice to hear that Barnby still has some tunes out there. My impression is that the major hymnals up to mid-century still retain a number of his tunes (1958Pilgrim Hymnal still has some) but the Luthersn SBH (1957) and Methodist (1964) have none. LBW (1978) actually does have a few, as well as some of the 70s/80s hymnals from Hope Publishing, so maybe he isn't quite so forgotten.

Leland Bryant Ross said...

I see that The Worshiping Church (Hope, 1990) has, in addition to LAUDES DOMINI and SANDRINGHAM with their canonical texts, six (SM) stanzas of Bonar's "Not what these hands have done" set to Barnby's ST. ANDREW. The Cyber Hymnal's version of the Bonar text strikes me as a mishmash, with the second (of five, SMD) stanza obviously modernized in ways that clash with the other stanzas.

The (1985) Seventh-Day Adventist Hymnal has, in addition to LAUDES DOMINI, SANDRINGHAM and MERRIAL with their proper texts, "We have not known Thee as we ought" set to ST. CHRYSOSTOM, "Just as I am, thine own to be" to DUNSTAN, which it calls JUST AS I AM, and "Lord of our life, and God of our salvation" to CLOISTERS.

The Cyber Hymnal gives Barnby's ADORO TE as an alternate tune for "We have not known Thee as we ought"; I believe this is sometimes still found as a tune for the Latin text "Adoro te devote" when sung by those who like to avoid chant.


Leland Bryant Ross said...

I just noticed that Great Songs of the Church (the 1986 hymnal of those mostly a cappella-singing Churches of Christ aligned with Abilene Christian University, whose press published it) gives Barnby's SARUM as the tune for Hail, gladdening Light, John Keble's translation of the ancient Greek evening hymn Φως Ιλαρόν, a text perhaps better known in Robert Bridge's version, O gladsome Light. I was gladdened to see SARUM revived with this text, which it seems well suited to. Gower's SUNDOWN, given in The Cyber Hymnal, is also a good tune for the text, but perhaps more dependent on organ accompaniment for its proper effect.

Btw, Great Songs of the Church also has MERRIAL with the canonical text, but calls it EVENING.