Sir Joseph Barnby (1838-1896), English musical composer and conductor, son of Thomas Barnby, an organist, was born at York on the 12th of August 1838. He was a chorister at York minster from the age of seven, was educated at the Royal Academy of Music under Cipriani Potter and Charles Lucas, and was appointed in 1862 organist of St Andrew's, Wells Street, London, where he raised the services to a high degree of excellence. He was conductor of "Barnby's Choir" from 1864, and in 1871 was appointed, in succession to Gounod, conductor of the Albert Hall Choral Society, a post he held till his death. In 1875 he was precentor and director of music at Eton, and in 1892 became principal of the Guildhall School of Music, receiving the honour of knighthood in July of that year. His works include an oratorio Rebekah, Ps. xcvii., many services and anthems, and two hundred and forty-six hymn-tunes (published in 1897 in one volume), as well as some part-songs (among them the popular "Sweet and Low"), and some pieces for the organ. As a conductor he possessed the qualities as well as the defects of the typical north-countryman; if he was wanting in the higher kind of imagination or ideality, he infused into those who sang under him something of his own rectitude and precision.
He was largely instrumental in stimulating the love for Gounod's sacred music among the less educated part of the London public, although he displayed little practical sympathy with opera. On the other hand, he organized a remarkable concert performance of Parsifal at the Albert Hall in London in 1884. He conducted the Cardiff Festivals of 1892 and 1895. He died in London on the 28th of January 1896, and after a special service in St Paul's cathedral was buried in Norwood Cemetery.