Norman Barnes sang as a chorister at Exeter Cathedral with his two older brothers, beginning a life-long association with music. At Magdalen College School in Oxford, Norman sang in the choir before going on to St Peter’s, Oxford, as organ scholar, from 1935-9.
During the war he served with the Royal Signals in Egypt, Ceylon and in India, where he met up with old school friend John Austin for an impromptu performance of Handel: ‘We went into the town of Ranchi, found the English church, and in it a termite infested organ and two vocal scores of Messiah! From the street we plucked a native to blow the organ and spent the morning singing and playing!‘
Norman Barnes was a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, winning the Limpus Prize in 1947. He was Director of Music at King Edward VII School in Sheffield until 1976, and organist of St John’s Ranmoor between 1949 and 1976.
The Sheffield Bach Society was founded in 1950, with the Bishop of Sheffield being chosen as Chairman and Professor Deas Honorary Director. Mr Norman Barnes, music master at King Edward VII School, was to form and conduct a choir to help the Society’s aim “to commemorate the great J.S. Bach’s bicentenary [and] to foster interest in his music”. Norman conducted the choir from 1950 to 1961.
In retirement Mr Barnes continued his involvement with music, archiving the musical heritage of his various appointments.
Norman Barnes died in Sheffield on 2nd April 2000.