St Anne’s organist Ian set to retire after three decades

St Anne's Cathedral organist Ian Barber will retire this August after 34 years.
St Anne's Cathedral organist Ian Barber will retire this August after 34 years.
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A Co Down man who has been organist at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast for 34 years is set to retire later this year.

Ian Barber was appointed assistant organist at St Anne’s back in 1983, and in recognition of his long service, he was made an Associate of the Royal School of Church Music in October 2014.

Ian will retire on August 31 , and the Belfast Cathedral Board said the news was received with both sadness and a deep sense of gratitude.

The Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev John Mann said: “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.

“To be reminded that Ian has graced it for almost a third of that time is to recognise a staggering achievement in itself. 

“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.”

St Anne’s Master of the Choristers David Stevens said 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,” David said.

Son of a Church of Ireland clergyman, Ian grew up in Holywood and attended Campbell College. He cut his teeth on the organ in the parish of St Philip and St James, and won a scholarship to the Royal School of Church Music, progressing to the Royal College of Music in London.

Ian moved to Canada to play the organ in St Mark’s Church in Ottowa. After two years he went to the Bishops’ University in Quebec to take a degree in theology and clergy training and when he qualified he moved to St Thomas’ Church in St Catharine’s, Ontario, as an organist.

Returning to Northern Ireland, Ian took up the post of organist and Choirmaster at St Columb’s Cathedral in Londonderry.

Jonathan Gregory, then Director of Music at St Anne’s Cathedral, asked him to help out, and in 1983, with the blessing of Dean Sammy Crooks, Ian was appointed assistant organist.

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.