Belfast Telegraph

St Anne's Cathedral organist calls time after 34 years

By Staff Reporter

The organist at St Anne's Cathedral is set to step down in August after 34 years of service.

Ian Barber's retirement has been received by the Belfast Cathedral board with both sadness and "a deep sense of gratitude".

The Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev John Mann, paid tribute to Ian and said the congregation has been spoilt by his playing.

He said 34 years as organist at the cathedral was a "staggering achievement".

"The organ of St Anne's Cathedral has had a relatively small number of regular players over the 110 years that it has been in existence," he said.

"When one adds to that fact the quality of his musicianship and the quiet modesty with which he displays it, it is hard to properly pay tribute to Ian's service to the Church of Ireland, St Anne's Cathedral and the musical life of the city of Belfast."

However, Dean Mann said that while Ian is planning to retire on August 31, he hopes he will still return for some one-off performances.

"We have some months yet to enjoy his sensitive accompaniments and both the robust and the poignant voluntaries with which we are spoilt week by week, but we hope, too, that he can be persuaded to make occasional guest appearances, even after his well-earned retirement," he said.

St Anne's Master of the Choristers, David Stevens, added his tribute, saying he was extremely grateful to Ian for all of his years of service to St Anne's, and particularly for his friendship and support.

"The music department has undergone a number of changes in the past few years, yet Ian's organ playing, generosity of time and friendly encouragement have been constant and very much appreciated," he said.

Ian was made an Associate of the Royal School of Church Music in October 2014 in recognition of his service at St Anne's Cathedral.

The son of a Church of Ireland clergyman, Ian grew up in Holywood and attended Campbell College in east Belfast as a boy.

He went on to win a scholarship to the Royal School of Church Music, before progressing to the Royal College of Music in London.

Upon graduating Ian was also made a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists (FRCO) with a choirmaster's diploma.

During his career he travelled to North America before moving to Canada where he played the organ in St Mark's Church in Ottawa.

After two years he went to the Bishop's University in Quebec to study for a Degree in Theology and Clergy Training.

When he qualified he moved to St Thomas' Church in St Catharine's, Ontario, as an organist.

When he returned to Northern Ireland, Ian took up the post of organist and choirmaster at St Columb's Cathedral in Londonderry.

He also taught at Victoria College and later Strathearn School in Belfast, where he was the head of music for some 21 years.

St Anne's Cathedral's new chamber organ was dedicated and named The Barber Organ in honour of Ian in September 2014.

Ian is married to Jean, who turns the music pages for him at services.

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