Papers of composer Bernard Barrell

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Bernard Barrell's music manuscripts, op. 1 - 137 (op. 4, 28, 111 and 128 missing). With the music manuscripts are other papers concerning the works such as composer's notes, correspondence about commissions and performances, and programmes and reviews mostly for first performances.

Files of letters, press cuttings, programmes, leaflets and catalogues from or about composers and other persons. These files of papers collected by Barrell are arranged alphabetically by surname of correspondent or of composer about whom the items relate. The correspondence includes letters from William Alwyn, Richard Tony Arnell, Peter Aston, Arthur Bliss, Carey Blyton, Geoffrey Bush, Alan Bush, James Butt, Arthur Butterworth, Adrian Cruft, Peter Crump, Ruth Gipps, John Golland, Colin Hand, Imogen Holst, Elizabeth Maconchy, David Morgan, Thomas Pitfield, Bernard Stevens, Freda Swain, William Wordsworth, and Thomas Wilson. The programmes include a number for concerts in East Suffolk including Woodbridge School, Woodbridge Choral Society and concerts in Ipswich, as well as for Arthur Jacob concerts and for NEMO concerts which were founded and directed by Freda Swain.

15 photographs of Bernard and Joyce Barrell, including images of Bernard 1934-1989, Bernard and Joyce's wedding 1945, Bernard at Farnham Festival 1963, Joyce playing 1965, Ist Ipswich Group S.Y.M. 1966, and The Linden School of Music presentation evening 1988.

Printed music including by Bernard Barrell Intrada, Four Studies for strings op. 8, and Sarabande; and by Joyce Barrell Ukranian Sketches, op.32. Also music manuscripts for Imogen Holst's Joyce's Divertimento (photocopy) and Woodbridge Suite (string parts only); Waterloo Leave, a ballad opera by Clifford Bax with music by Martin Shaw; Echo a ballet by Steuart Allin (outsize) and manuscripts by James Butt.

Administrative / Biographical History

Born in Sudbury, Suffolk, Bernard Barrell lived, apart from his years of war service, almost entirely in the county of his birth. Bernard held various music teaching posts, including appointments in a number of Ipswich schools, at Hollesley Bay Borstal, with the Workers' Educational Association and the Suffolk Rural Music School. He conducted the Woodbridge Orchestral Society for many years, was an adjudicator for the British Federation of Musical Festivals as well as serving as the East Anglian representative for the Composers' Guild.

Many of Bernard's works reflected his work in education and pieces for small orchestra suitable for young players and indeed for older amateur musicians occur throughout his compositions. His symphonic movement From the Waveney Valley Op.129 was commissioned by and composed for the Pulham Village Orchestra in 1993. The orchestra's conductor, Margery Baker, wrote for their newsletter, 'His writing was always tailored to the groups for which he wrote, sufficiently challenging; highlighting real talent while ensuring nothing was impossible.' In addition to providing such music, Bernard was also supportive in other ways and was President of the Wymondham Youth Orchestra.

The East Anglian landscape is often represented in Bernard's music and reflected in some of the titles: East Anglian Holiday Overture, overture Suffolk Celebration, and A Norfolk Sketchbook and A Suffolk Notebook each containing seven piano pieces. Dunwich Op.92 sets a poem by Victor Allen for choir and orchestra whilst Southwold Railway Centenary Pieces Op.88 for piano was composed to celebrate the centenary of the railway in 1979.

Symphony for Strings Op.62 is especially evocative of the East Anglian landscape. Although played in one continuous movement, it is in three linked sections, quick-slow-quick. In his own programme note Bernard wrote '…much of the work reflects the atmosphere of the lonely, mysterious marshes, wide open skies, wind-swept heathlands, sea mists, and the sense of space and light of the East Anglian coast.'

Conditions Governing Access

Open for consultation. Please email enquiries@brittenpears.org to arrange an appointment to visit the reading room or for further queries.

Acquisition Information

Deposited by Bernard Barrell's widow in 2005.

Related Material

In Britten-Pears Foundation archive: photocopies of correspondence from Bernard Barrell to William Alwyn.