Death of Darrol Barry - a composer known through the brass band world

Death of Darrol Barry - a composer known through the brass band world

The death has been announced of the composer Darrol Barry, who passed away on 3rd June in The Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, Muscat, Oman.

Born in Salford in 1956, Darrol Barry joined the local school brass band aged 14 on tuba — a surprise to both his parents and himself, as he wanted to play cornet.

Whilst I never actually met Darrol I am pleased to know that we exchanged and shared a few emails together. I would often play many of his compositions on my weekly Sunday Bandstand radio show. Sometimes I would be preparing a show and occasionally the title of a piece would be a little bit of a mystery. I would email him to ask for the story behind his chosen title for that particular piece. He always replied and would explain the story from the thread to the needle which would be then be part of my programme commentary about the piece. 

For a little over a year we were trying to arrange when his busy schedule would allow him to have time for me to put together his musical life for one of my brass band stories. Sadly, owing to his busy schedule and various projects of my own we never actually managed to fit the time in to do it.


Musical talent

His talent for music soon became apparent however (he also went on to play baritone and euphonium) and his interest in composition and arranging was encouraged by the conductor of Windsor Band, Jack Clayton, and his school music teacher.

He left school to become an apprentice joiner but continued arranging for brass bands, teaching himself harmony and counterpoint.

In 1978 he enrolled at Salford University on the pioneering LTCL course in Band Musicianship under Roy Newsome, Goff Richards and Geoff Whitham, before moving to London to study at the Royal College of Music in London with Joseph Horowitz, where he gained his Certificate in Advanced Study in Musical Composition.

Professional career

His professional career soon took off as a respected freelance composer and arranger working for many of the major publishing houses such as Studio Music, Wright & Round, Bernaerts Music and Obrasso.

He returned to teach degree courses at Salford University, Barnsley College and Accrington & Rossendale College before taking up the role as Composer & Arranger in Residence for The Royal Guard of Oman in 2002.

It was a role (and country) he loved; writing for wide variety of different mediums (including two symphonies). He joked that he could find himself composing for bagpipes one minute and a full symphony orchestra the next.

Brass band world

His compositional output meant that he never lost his connection to the brass band world, although he also conducted a number of North West bands such as Radcliffe, Tyldesley, Gorton, Walkden and Longridge, winning titles at Pontins (Southport), Burtonwood and Preston before he left for Oman.

He also adjudicated at the Third Section National Finals, Regional Championships, National Youth Championships and the French Open.

His fine array of compositions included works for all levels — from youth to Championship Section, both test-pieces and concert repertoire. 'Gemini' was used at the All England Masters International Championship in 2011, whilst his popular 'A Salford Sinfonietta' was used as a set-work for the 1994 Second Section Regional Championships.

Five works of his works were used as the test-pieces at the National Finals in the Second, Third and Fourth Sections, whilst in 2011 the Butlins Mineworkers Championship choose five of his works for their Championship Festival.


His dry sense of humour and warm personality made him a very popular and highly regarded musician and friend. His music touched thousands of listeners and performers across the world and he will be sadly missed by all who knew him and had the good fortune to be in his company.

A family spokesperson told 4BR: "Darrol's wife Rachael would like to thank everyone for the good wishes they have received from all corners of the musical globe whilst he has been ill and also on his passing. The family are incredibly humbled by the love shown for him."

Details of his funeral will be announced in due course.

(Courtesy of


Darrol's passing is a great loss to his family and close friends. He will be a great loss to brass banding around the world, I doubt if there is a brass band anywhere in the world that does not have any music in its library written by Darrol Barry. 

Darrol has left a musical legacy that will continue to be enjoyed both by brass band musicians and audiences alike for many years. My programme this Sunday will feature many examples of Darrol's wonderful music.  

RIP Darrol

Chris Helme




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