Dr. Roger Bullivant

Dr Roger Bullivant, MBE, MA, BMus, DPhil [Oxon]; Hon D Mus [Sheffield]

23 March 1921 – 20 November 2004

23 March 2021 marks the centenary of the birth in Rugby of legendary musician Dr Roger Bullivant. With it comes the chance of a significant evaluation of his remarkable contribution to music in so many of its manifestations – not least in the county of broad acres where for half a century he laboured so unstintingly and effectually within its musical, cultural and educational vineyards.

Roger BullivantKnown to a vast number as a lecturer and teacher as well as countless more as a conductor and harpsichordist, Roger’s remarkable achievements on the wider musical canvas were no less acclaimed by music makers and concert audiences. His intense, yet comparatively compact, tome on Fugue in Hutchinson’s University Library series was a best seller and is still in heavy demand world-wide today; by dint of clarity of explanation of one of music’s very greatest complexities, he brought ready understanding to many serious students of music in respect of one of the greatest mysteries of the art.

The detailed study of Fugue in all its manifestations had been at the heart of his thesis for the Oxford Doctorate of Philosophy and his ready success in leading so many to a greater understanding of a significant musical entity places thousands for ever in his debt. Read the Vice Chancellor’s address on the occasion of the conferment of his Doctorate of Music.

Roger was in “on the ground floor” of the endeavours at Sheffield University that led to the foundation of Sheffield Bach Society in 1950 and continues today with the ongoing efforts of Sheffield Bach Choir as the legacy of that great scheme. The frequent presentations of that trinity of choral masterworks the St Matthew and St John Passions and the Mass in B minor has been a hallmark of triennial Bach Choir endeavour for seventy years. This regular canon, alongside a highly enterprising affiliation with contemporary music and a number of significant premieres by works of leading British composers, has not found other traditions neglected and the calendar has involved all the leading composers since the Baroque period (and some from earlier) in tandem with numerous works from creative spirits well- and lesser-known.

Dr Bullivant died in November 2004, and in February 2005 a memorial service was held in his honour at Sheffield Anglican Cathedral, attended by numerous musicians, academics, family and friends. Read the address given at the service by the Sheffield Bach Society’s current Music Director, Dr. Simon Lindley.

In March 2021 Dr. Bullivant was remembered in prayers at Doncaster Minster (formerly St George’s Parish Church), New College Oxford, Hertford College Oxford, Rugby School, Sheffield Cathedral, St Mark’s Church Broomhill Sheffield, Leeds Minster (formerly Leeds Parish Church), Worcester Cathedral, and a number of other significant churches with which he had connections.

Earlier in the year there was a notification of the Centenary in “Music Journal” of the Incorporated Society of Musicians in London, where Roger served for many years on the national governance structure as “Pennine” Regional Council member as well as “Making Music” (formerly the National Federation of Music Societies)

The Sheffield Bach Society’s plans for a special event to celebrate the centenary were somewhat curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic, the commencement of which was remembered on this same day, 23 March 2021. The choir hope to remedy this later in 2021.

It seems fitting on this occasion to share Roger’s arrangement of ‘Happy Birthday’ in the style of J. S. Bach. This was sent to current Music Director Dr. Simon Lindley, by long-standing Bach choir member John Kilpatrick in March 2021. Bach choir members report it as great fun to sing – but rather more difficult than the original version! Check it out here and see whether you agree

Links to further information