Barton, Horace

b. Forest Gate, Essex, England, 20 May1872

d. Johannesburg, 17 December 1951


South African organist and composer of English birth. Horace Percival Barton received music lessons at the age of 5 from his older brother, William Barton, who was for 25 years a professor of harmony, counterpoint, orchestration and composition at the Guildhall School Music. His curriculum included piano, cello, theoretical subjects and composition, to which he eventually added organ, violin and cello. He also became a member of two choral societies, through which he gained considerable insight into the choral repertoire and the art of conducting. 


Barton was organist of St Mary’s Church in Moorfield in London in 1897, when he was notified that he had been appointed organist of St Augustine’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Port Elizabeth, on the recommendation of Alfred Hollins. He came to South Africa that same year, and shortly afterwards he was also appointed as a music teacher at St. Marist Brothers’ College in Uitenhage. Before long he was also performing and conducting. Encouraged by his success with the local operatic society, he revived the Port Elizabeth Philharmonic Society in 1905, and conducted many successful performances, his ambitious repertoire including Handel’s Messiah and Judas Maccabeus. 

In 1907, Barton was conducting a choir of over 200 members. He inaugurated a series of annual choral festivals at which British soloists came to sing with the choir. He was also an accomplished and successful accompanist. As an organist, he often played transcriptions of his own symphonic works. In 1915 he became the director of the Johannesburg Philharmonic Society, and was from 1923 to 1945 a piano lecturer at the Department of Music at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. 


With the advent of national broadcasting in South Africa in the 1930s, Barton was frequently invited to give radio recitals, in which he also played his own works. After 1945, failing eyesight compelled him to curtail his activities. He confined himself to teaching a few pupils, and devoted more of his time to composition. Barton was one the founder-members of the Society of South African Composers in 1945, and served as its chairman for three years. He died in Johannesburg in 1951. 




Valse fantasia, Op. 17 (1903) 

Symphonic variations on Sarie Marais (1932) 

Four miniatures (1938) 

Valse (no date) 

Pavane (no date) 

The jovial chase (n.d.) 

The ghostly tale (n.d.) 

Nocturne (n.d.) 

Symphonic variations on Reveille (n.d.) 

Symphonic variations on Swarte osse (n.d.) 

Symphonic variations on The Scamp (n.d.) 

Symphonic variations on Vegkop (n.d.) 

Symphonic variations on Etude (Anton Rubinstein, n.d.)


Chamber Music: 

Romance in A major, for violin and piano (1904) 

Trio in F minor, for violin, cello and piano (1937) 

Sonata, for cello and piano (1943) 

Jig, for cello and piano (1943) 

The robin, impromptu for cello and piano (1943) 

Prelude and fugal fantasia, for three cellos and piano (1945) 

Invocation, for cello and piano (n.d.) 

Sarabande, for cello and piano (n.d.) 

Hebrew song of supplication, for cello and piano (n.d.) 

Minuet, for 3 flutes and triangle (n.d.) 



An hour with thee (Sir Walton Scott), song (1901) 

The beautiful city of sleep (1902) 

Vegkop (Totius), song (n.d.) 

Daar’s nog die lang rooi wapad voor my (C.L. Leipoldt), song (n.d.) 

To blossoms (Herrick), song (1935) 

The singer (Rosa Nepgen), song (1935) 

Swarte osse (A.G,. Visser), song (1937) 

As saans (A.D. Keet) (n.d.) 

Reveille (E.D.van Weenen) song (1940) 

Morte D’Authur (Tennyson), for tenor, baritone, chorus and orchestra (1947) 

Memory come hither (Blake), four-part song (n.d.) 

The scamp (E. D. van Weenen), song (n.d.) 

Ave Maria, song with organ accompaniment (n.d.) 

Serenade (Longfellow), four-part song (n.d.) 

Kyk hoe goed en lieflik, psalm 133, three-part song. 

Die vlakte series Afrikaanse Liedere I, composed under the pseudonym Kleinjan (n.d.)



Sonata in G minor (before 1901) 

Valse brillante (before 1901) 

Valse caprice (before 1901) 

Rondo scherzando (before 1901) 

Romance in G major (before 1901) 

Polonaise in E minor (before 1901) 

Melody in A flat 


Golden Hours, six easy pieces suitable for child hands (before 1902) 

Floral emblems, six easy pieces suitable for child hands (six morceau faciles pour piano) 

Redowak, Op. 15 (1903) 

Pavane, Op. 16 (1903) 

Three cameos, Op. 20 (n.d.) 

Valse arabesque (1904) 

Waltz in B flat (n.d.)




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