Joyce Barker was born in Mooi Rivier, a small town in Natal. At the age of nineteen she started training for a professional career with Daisy Holmes in Durban. She won the Ernest Whitcutt Memorial Cup three years in succession and earned three different scholarships in support of her
musical education. One of these was awarded by the Royal Schools of Music. With that scholarship and another awarded by the NSAM (Natal Society for the Advancement of Music), she continued her vocal training in London for three years. She made her professional debut in the United Kingdom in 1954 at the Canterbury Festival where she sang the soprano part in Mendelssohn’s oratorio Elijah.
In 1956, she became the first winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Award and left the United Kingdom for Europe, where she studied with Maria Hittorff, Paula Köhler, Borishka Gereb, Mario and Katerina Baziola for voice production, and Edouardo Pedrazolli for opera. In 1959, she wone the Gold Medal at the International Concours de Chant, as well as several other awards during this period of her life.
Returning to the UK, she performed in several productions with Sadlers Wells and at the Royal Opera House which included major roles in Götterdämmerung and Die Walküre (Wagner), Mefistofele (Boito), and I Lombardi, Nabucco and Aida (Verdi). She also performed in Ireland for one season with roles in The Tales of Hoffmann (Offenbach), The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart), and La bohème (Puccini). During this period she also sang in Mahler’s Eighth Symphony and Nielsen’s Saul og David.
Barker returned to South Africa in 1963 where she continued her singing career in opera, oratorio and cantatas for the four provincial arts councils as well as in broadcast media. She made additional guest appearances at the Royal Opera House in the 1970s.
Joyce Barker died in Johannesburg on 23 May 1992.