The following Obituary appeared in the Sheffield Telegraph on 26th November 2004
One of Sheffield's best-known musicians, if not the best-known, Roger Bullivant, has died. Certainly the best-loved, he had been in declining health for a while, but passed away suddenly, just after 1am on Saturday morning, 20th November 2004.
He was born on March 23 1921 in Rugby where his father played the organ at the parish church, although he was discouraged from a career in music by his parents and was pushed towards classics. Roger remembered that at the age of four he heard his father playing the piano and instinctively knew what key each piece of music was written in. He didn't know how he knew, he just did.
His first music lessons, on the piano, were from his aunt and when he went to Rugby School he was known as a performer and composer - an area he was fairly active in before coming to Sheffield in the late 1940s. At Rugby, a schoolmaster wrote in an end-of-term report: "I hope music will not be allowed to interfere with his work". All the discouragement was to no avail.
Roger's first public appearance was playing a Beethoven piano concerto at the age of 15 after which he turned to the organ and, more especially the harpsichord, before going to New College, Oxford, to study advanced counterpoint and composition. After a hiatus as a radar mechanic in the RAF during the war, he eventually graduated with a BMus degree and came to Sheffield with an old-fashioned bike in 1949 to join the Department of Music teaching staff at Sheffield University.
Oxford was not finished with him. In 1960 he went back to receive a doctorate of philosophy for his thesis on The Fugal Technique of JS Bach, which gained him national recognition and led to a major study of the fugue which he published in book form in 1971. Entitled "Fugue" it remains the standard work on the subject.
Soon after he arrived in Sheffield, he became accompanist of the Sheffield Bach Society, established in 1950 on the occasion of the bicentenary of the composer's death, and in 1962 succeeded Norman Barnes as its conductor after which he entered local folklore.
One area that established him in it was the Bach Choir's annual performance of Handel's Messiah which took on cult status. Long before it became fashionable and then the norm, Roger was conducting it with brisk tempi and lively, infectious rhythm.
He was an infectious music-maker, whether it was in Bach or 20th century and contemporary English music. His favourite work was Medelssohn's Elijah and he excelled in Mozart and Schubert, although he didn't conduct them very often. He was no mean jazz pianist either, especially in Gershwin. Away from Bach, in which he reigned supreme, his musical tastes were extremely wide. Many years ago, late 1960/ early 1970s, I bumped into him at a decidedly avant-garde concert at the Edinburgh Festival which he was enjoying enormously - at least he said he was!
He was a warm, very funny man. On another occasion, I remember him cutting an anniversary cake as if he was pulling a railway signal control in a signal box with two hands. Railways and particularly signal boxes fascinated him.
His reputation as a musician extended beyond Sheffield, especially as an inventive and stylish harpsichord player in which capacity he played in a Yorkshire TV Messiah conducted by Charles Mackerras, later recording two other Handel works, Israel in Egypt (1970) and Saul (1972), with the same conductor for Deutsche Grammophon.
He was rooted in the life of Sheffield University where successive music students adored him. For 40 years and long after the university 'retired' him, he was resident in the Stephenson Hall of Residence.
In 1984 he was awarded the MBE and in 1999 an honorary doctorate of music from Sheffield University for services to music in Sheffield and the region.
Although his ambit was much wider, Roger will forever be associated with the Sheffield Bach Society, retiring as its conductor in June 2000. "We think the Heavenly choir will be having a bit of a shake-up now he has arrived, the word "short!" being barked occasionally when people hang on to a note longer than they should", says Jenny Leadbeater, a long-time member of the Bach Choir whose solo career was fostered by Roger.
"He will be much missed by many thousands of people for the pleasure he gave them in music. His dedication to his art was unparalleled" - a suitable epitaph.