James Barnes (b. 1949) is an American composer of primarily works for wind band.  Born in Oklahoma, he studied and continues to teach at the University of Kansas.  His compositions for band have been played all over the world, including in three separate recordings by the renowned Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra.  He is a two-time winner of the prestigious Ostwald award for new band compositions.

Barnes provides the following note in the score to his 1984 Yorkshire Ballad:

Composed in the summer of 1984, James Barnes’s Yorkshire Ballad was premiered at the Kansas Bandmasters Association Convention in Huthcinson, Kansas, by the late Claude T. Smith, who was serving as the guest conductor for the Kansan Intercollegiate Band.  Since being published in 1985, it has become one of the composer’s most popular works.  It has been arranged for full orchestra and string orchestra by the composer, for marimba and piano by Linda Maxey, for flute choir by Arthur Ephross, and for trombone or tuba/euphonium ensemble by Jon Bohls.

The composer writes that “over the years, many conductors and teachers have called me to ask about the work, and whether the tune itself is in fact a folksong.  Yorkshire Ballad is not a folksong, but it is written in that style.  I composed this little piece so that younger players would have the opportunity to play a piece that is more or less in the style of Percy Grainger’s Irish Tune from County Derry.  Even Grainger’s easier works are too difficult for most youngsters to do them musical justice, so I thought I would write a little piece that might emote of the feelings and colors of Grainger’s wonderful music, but, at the same time, was technically much more accessible to the younger player.”

“People always ask me what I was trying to portray when I wrote Yorkshire Ballad.  All I can say is that I was thinking of the beautiful, green Yorkshire Dales of northern England; the rolling hills and the endless stretch of beautiful pasturelands that my wife and I loved so much when, a year before, we had driven through this most marvelous spot in the world.”

The usual links:

James Barnes on Wikipedia.

Nice long-ish article on Barnes at Suite101.  It happens to have been published on his 60th birthday!

And some video, starting with the band version, from the Tokyo Kosei recordings:

And, for a little something extra, the trombone choir version:

Levi Nichol at Kansas State University prepared a very useful teaching guide (.doc) for Yorkshire Ballad.