David Barlow Papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This collection comprises a large number of the musical manuscripts of David Barlow, but is not a complete collection of Barlow's works. The initial deposit consists of over a hundred items which cover the musical genres of : orchestral, opera, choral, solo vocal, songs, solo works, instrumental and chamber music. His musical influences included biblical and literary interests and the collection includes Barlow's church operas David and Bathsheba and Judas Iscariot and his children's opera The selfish giant.

Unfortunately not even the works themselves held in the initial deposit should be seen as complete, as some do not include full scores. An attempt to rectify this was made by Kenneth Mobbs who made copies of Barlow's important works held at the British Music Information Centre and deposited these in the library in 1991, although obviously there is some duplication of material. Also in 1991, Stuart Bowyer gave some early manuscripts (mainly short works and sketches) and copies of recordings of Barlow's music and interviews. These comprise ten reel to reel tapes at present, but will be copied onto an alternative format shortly. Included in this deposit are some early works and sketches by Barlow in manuscript form.

The collection does not include any personal papers and although not complete, should be seen as the most definitive collection of Barlow's works available.

Administrative / Biographical History

The composer David Barlow was born in Rothwell, Northamptonshire in 1927. His father Lance Barlow owned a small factory and his mother, Elsie (ne Butlin), was the musical influence in the family, being an organist and singer. Barlow, who was composing music from an early age, was educated at Kettering Grammar School and Emmanuel College, Cambridge where he received an MA in Music in 1949.

Between 1949 and 1950 he studied under Gordon Jacob at the Royal College of Music, winning the Cobbett Chamber Music Prize with his String Trio : Phantasy in E minor. He later studied under Nadia Boulanger at Fountainbleu, regularly attending her summer schools during the 1960's. In 1951 he was appointed lecturer of music at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (then King's College) and in 1968 he was appointed senior lecturer. In 1969 he was Composer of the Year at the Newcastle Festival.

He composed and taught throughout his life and had a close collaboration with the Northern Sinfonia from its inception in 1958 and wrote music specifically for the orchestra, or for individual members. There were two main phases to his musical work. Until 1960 he composed in the late Romantic English tradition, but after a few dry years his composition became more inspired by lyrical tradition, culminating in 1969 with two of his best known works; the opera David and Bathsheba and the String quartet. He wrote two further operas in the last years of his life, works which give an indication of where his musical interests may have advanced. He died in 1975.


Cataloguing of the collection was not completed when the material was deposited in 1982 and only a brief handlist was created. The arrangement of material is not chronological and does not reflect any particular order. Further work to arrange the collection will be done in due course.

Conditions Governing Access

Access is open to bona fide researchers; appointment in advance and proof of identity required.

Acquisition Information

The collection was brought together by a group of interested friends after David Barlow's death; namely Kenneth Mobbs, Diana Dickinson and Percy Lovell. They were initially deposited in the University Library in 1982 by Diana Dickinson and were gifted to the library in 1984 by Barlow's parents. A further deposit was made by Kenneth Mobbs and Stuart Bowyer in 1991.


Description complied by Helen Arkwright, Manuscripts and Archives Librarian, February 2002.

Other Finding Aids

Brief handlist completed in 1982 by Diana Dickinson.

A more detailed list was created in 2002 which also includes the additions gifted in1991.

Copy of handlists available in Enright Reading Room ref. : DB

Conditions Governing Use


The library can provide photocopies (to a limit of 30 at any one time) for educational and private research purposes, provided the condition of the document does not prevent copying. Alternatively, photographic or digital images can be produced for educational and private research purposes. Please contact the Special Collections Librarian for further advice (email: lib-specenq@ncl.ac.uk)


Permission to make published use of any material from Special Collections must be sought in writing from the Special Collections Librarian (email: lib-specenq@ncl.ac.uk) and from the copyright owner if appropriate. The library will assist where possible with the identification of copyright owners, but the responsibility to obtain copyright clearance rests with the user.


No known publications using the papers.

Additional Information

British Music Information Centre :

Full scores of seventy-two works sent by David Barlow. Some of these were copied by Kenneth Mobbs and deposited at the University Library in 1991.

Northern Sinfonia Library, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne :

Various works performed by the Northern Sinfonia.

These were copied by Kenneth Mobbs and deposited at the University Library in 1991.