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Arthur James Barth 1850 - 1905

When Arthur James Barth died on 19 February 1905, of sudden heart failure, the announcement of his death created a profound impression on the congregation of Knox Church, where he had been organist for over 20 years. The last piece he played in the church the previous Sunday had been Mendelssohn's 'O For the Wings of a Dove'. Barth was born in London in 1850, the son of a German tailor. He began teaching at the age of 17, and in 1868 he was elected an Associate of the London Academy of Music. He became professor and examiner at the academy and was a teacher at several other large schools. He was organist at several London churches, including Christ Church. Kensington. Barth performed as a piano concerto soloist in the Royal Albert Hall and was involved with a series of concerts in connection with the International Exhibition of 1873. In 1876 Barth married Ellen Thompson and in 1881 the couple moved to Dunedin in order to join Mrs Barth's relations. In Dunedin Barth quickly made a reputation as a teacher which spread around the country. He had many very successful pupils. In 1884, when the new organ was complete, he was appointed as the first organist at Knox Church. As a conductor he was associated with the Dunedin Choral Society and the Dunedin Liedertafel. Barth was a talented composer, and of his many works at least 20 were published. Arthur Barth had seven children. Three of his daughters (Beatrice, Ruby, and Irene) were also gifted musicians. They became prominent teachers in Dunedin and together ran the Barth School of Music.

Southern Queen (August 1895)
Triad (September 1896)
New Zealand Illustrated Magazine (August 1900)
Cyclopedia of New Zealand (1905)
Otago Daily Times, 20 February 1905

David Murray

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