Christopher Lipscombe Barnes was one of the children of a Black Anglican clergyman, also Christopher Lipscombe Barnes, who died in 1889 at the Rectory at St Margaret’s Bay in Portland. Presumably relatives and church colleagues helped with the upbringing and education of the orphaned family, whose mother had died some time earlier. C L Barnes junior must have received a good musical education, in piano, organ and voice; when he first became known to the Jamaican public in the early years of the new century, he quickly earned the reputation of being an excellent pianist and organist. By 1906 he was organist at All Saints Church in Kingston, and was regularly fulfilling organ engagements at churches in other parts of the island.
In 1907, having barely survived the earthquake of January 14 when he had stepped out of the Post Office just before it collapsed, he was invited to join the Jamaica Choir on its second tour of the UK. The Choir, made up of Black Jamaicans and led by T Ellis Jackson, had received an enthusiastic welcome the previous year, and went on to two more years of successful touring in the British concert halls. Barnes performed with the Choir during 1907, but in 1908 used the opportunity of being in England to further his studies in music. In 1909 he received the diploma of Fellow of the Incorporated Guild of Church Musicians, and spent some time travelling and working in the UK. On his return he continued his career as pianist and organist, which continued into the 1950s. As well as making solo appearances, he also organized choral groups which travelled to various parts of the island giving concerts and appearing at church functions.
Many of Barnes’ solo performances, especially on the organ, were linked to the business he set up, to sell and repair organs and pianos, and to sell a wide variety of other merchandise connected with music. He had planned his business before he went to Britain, and in 1909 opened his store at 90 King Street, which he soon owned, later acquiring the neighbouring properties, 88 and 92 King Street. From his King Street base he imported a wide range of pianos, organs, other instruments, sheet music, gramophones, and later, keeping up-to-date, radios. He repaired, restored and installed organs in churches of all denominations all over the island. Into the 1930s his name was linked to a large percentage of such organ work, and almost inevitably he gave a recital or played for a service when the new or restored organ was dedicated. The long-running success of his business indicates that he was not only a fine musician, but also a very competent businessman. He continued to operate his business well into the 1950s.
In 1924 he attempted a run for a seat on the Kingston City Council on the ticket of the Jamaica Reform Club, but made a poor showing. After this he turned to other interests. In the 1930s he tried to acquire land in British Honduras for growing bananas, and became something of an expert on banana diseases. Later he acquired a house and land in Stony Hill, which were devastated by fire in 1952. He continued his business and musical activities until increasing age forced him to retire in the late 1950s.
Professor Barnes died on 1st January 1965 when his age was given as 88. The funeral mass at the Holy Cross Church was attended by more than a hundred people; among the officiating clergy were Frs Sydney Judah and Samuel Carter. He was survived by his wife and two daughters.