The music of Brooklyn-based composer James Barry has been described as “immediately engaging and distinctly American” (Holyoke Civic Orchestra), “an emotional rollercoaster” (The Keystone), “truly moving” (NYTheatre.com), and, well, “quirky” (Feast of Music). “An opera with belly laughs… joyous,” raved The New York Times of SMASHED. A recipient of the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters his opera, orchestra, ballet, dance, theater, and chamber music scores are heard across the country each season.
“[SMASHED: The Carrie Nation Story] has been making some big noise in NYC” (Opera Pulse). “An opera with belly laughs” raved The New York Times. “[A] party of a show” (NYTheaterNow), “a hilarious slapstick-style opera” (Feast of Music), and “a heck of a lot of fun” (Hi! Drama). Commissioned by Opera on Tap for their Roadworks Series, and written with librettist Timothy Braun, SMASHED had its premiere at the HERE Arts Center, directed by Jenny Lee Mitchell, featuring Krista Wozniak as Carrie Nation. The opera was selected for the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival, and went on to be one of 16 shows from the festival invited to participate in the FringeNYC Encore Series at the SoHo Playhouse theater. Past productions include a fully immersive production at Freddy’s Bar in Brooklyn, a reading of Carrie’s Aria on the New York Opera Alliance showcase at (le) poisson rouge, and a flash mob preview performance on the OPERAtion Brooklyn showcase.
Highlights from the past few seasons: incidental and dance music for Eros & Psyche, a new comedy by Donna Spector, directed and choreographed by Shela Xoregos; the string quartet premiere of HUSTLE by Anti-Social Music; performances of SNASPHOT by the Lafayette and Owensboro Symphony Orchestras; SHORT STORIES opens saxophonist Todd Yukumoto’s new album, Nocturnal; EXPANSION premiered on the Dayton Ballet’s New Music for New Dance project; staged reading of scenes from SUCKER were featured on American Opera Project’s Opera Grows in Brooklyn showcase; an arrangement of Always On My Mind for OPERA ELVIS: A Lament for the King; songs for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s play Porcelain & Pink, and incidental and dance music for Shipwrecked, by Adam Kraar both produced by the Xoregos Performing Company.
Orchestra and band versions of SNAPSHOT, “a picture-perfect melody… surround[ed]… with colorful harmonies” (The Republican), continue to be programmed each season since its premiere by the Tallahassee Symphony Youth Orchestra: the Jacksonville, Lafayette, Oak Ridge and Owensboro Symphony Orchestras, the Holyoke Civic Symphony, Tennessee Tech University Orchestra, Sacramento Youth Symphony, Vermont Youth Philharmonia, Northeastern and Kutztown University Concert Bands and the Florida State University Symphonic Band among others.
James has been the recipient of numerous awards, prizes, and commissions: the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, ASCAP, Meet The Composer, the American Music Center, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, the Chicago Ensemble, Auros Group for New Music, the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra’s Fresh Ink, the SCI/ASCAP Student Composition Commission, The Commission Project, Opera on Tap’s Roadworks Series, Boston Metro Opera-International Contempo Festival, CASE Arts Group, and CelloSpeak among others.
Other notable performances include: the Society for New Music, Sirius String Quartet, Esterhazy Quartet, soprano Rachel Cobb, Reizen Ensemble, Le Nuove Musiche, Forecast Music, Iktus Percussion Quartet, Brandon High School Orchestra, Heartland Community Flute Choir, Make Music New York Festival, MusicX at CCM, North American Saxophone Alliance Conference, National Flute Association National Conference, College Music Society National Conference, SCI conferences, CASMI and the Florida Flute Fair.
James was born in Newport, RI and grew up in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. For five seasons he produced contemporary music concerts in New York City as artistic and managing director of Forecast Music.