Harry Barlow

Havergal Brian

Selected and annotated by Malcolm MacDonald

The final item in August’s column is self-explanatory, touching and revealing: Brian's ‘genius for the bass tuba’ was surely founded on contact with players such as these.

I was sorry to read of the death of Harry Barlow, the well known bass tuba player. As long ago as 1906 I heard the late Dr. Richter, while talking of the personnel of the Halle Orchestra, refer to Barlow as the finest tuba player in all Europe. He was sure to be found in the London Symphony Orchestra, or in the Covent Garden Opera orchestra, when Richter was conducting. Barlow's genius lay in focussing the tone-colour of his tuba into the three trombones, and making it sound a real trombone bass: this is impossible to the ordinary tuba player. Those who heard him play in Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream overture, must have wondered at his skill in reproducing on the bass tuba actual sounds of the now obsolete ophicleide in the few notes associated with the Ass in that work. Barlow was a native of Besses-o'-th'-Barn, and was possessed of a fine sense of humour, which undoubtedly helped him along life's way. Whilst fulfilling his orchestral duties he found time to adjudicate at many brass band competitions in the north, and was at one time conductor of the well known Irwell Springs Band, and the more popular Besses-o'-th'-Barn band. Like the late Jesse Stamp, the well known trombonist, Barlow had more recently been playing in the BBC orchestra; it is curious that he should have died so soon after his fellow-Lancastrian.

Musical opinion, August 1932, p. 901