Walter Barnes

Conductor : Walter Barnes (1907-1941)

Walter Barnes

In the year 1906 six young men of Penzance, who had formed themselves into a society called “The Clefs”, decided to form an orchestra.  The elected conductor was Walter Barnes, whose qualifications – to quote his own words – “were colossal ignorance of everything appertaining to the conducting of an orchestra”.  However, they got together their orchestra and gave their first concert on Sunday, April 7th, 1907, in St. John’s Hall.  The concert was welcomed as a “Signal Success”.  Those were the small beginnings from which the present orchestra grew.

Although he was a talented violinist, Walter played the violin at only one concert given by the orchestra – this was in celebration of their 30th anniversary in March 1937.  His son and daughter also played in the orchestra for many years.

Walter’s last concert was in November 1941.  He died early in 1942.  He had been grooming J. Morgan Hosking to ‘follow in his footsteps’ as conductor, but he was away on war service.  So, R.J. Maddern Williams took up the baton and kept the orchestra going during the remaining years of war.

In a history of the first fifty years, the following was written: “If we accept his humorous description of himself when he first became conductor, we must acknowledge that, if he had metaphorically raised his stature high as a conductor, he had certainly raised his Orchestra with him.  Only a man full of music, a man of strong personality and unflagging energy and enthusiasm could have welded together an amateur Orchestra, and drawn from them the quality of playing that he undoubtedly did draw…  He was a great man and he did a great work.” 

In 1931, Walter Barnes - Pen Ylow (Chief of Music) - was made a bard of the Cornish Gorseth for services to music in Cornwall.

Walter Barnes, Conductor : portrait by Stanhope Forbes.

Founder members of the Orchestra: The Clefs

Conductor : Walter Barnes (1907-1941) - last concert peformed 1941, died 1942

To the Barnes family tree: and more about Walter

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