Roger Francis Taylor Bullivant MBE, MA, BMus, DPhil(Oxon), HonDMus



Cover of Roger's famous textbookRoger at the OctagonRoger, taken by Sheffield Star Photographer

Roger died peacefully on 20th November 2004 in the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield. Formerly of the University of Sheffield Music Department, he was recognised as a brilliant harpsichord player and conductor.

He had been the Conductor of Sheffield Bach Society for 38 years, and of Doncaster Choral Society for some 17 years. He also conducted concerts for various other organisations, as well as for the University of Sheffield. As a harpsichord player he travelled far and wide, and was particularly well known in the Leeds area, as he played for Simon Lindley on many an occasion.

He will be sorely missed by the many whose lives he touched.

On this page we record some reminiscences of the Roger we knew; as a marvellous musician, as a teacher, as a railway enthusiast (the background colour of this page is "Midland Red"), as a bon viveur, as the life and soul of the party and, most of all, as a friend.

If you would like to read some Obituaries about Roger, please click on the links:
Clarion (Making Music Yorkshire Region publication)
The Yorkshire Post
Sheffield Telegraph

If you were unable to attend the Memorial Service for Roger, held on 3rd February 2005 at 2.30 p.m., you might like to read the Eulogy given by Dr. Simon Lindley of Leeds Parish Church.
Click here for this.

You can also read the Eulogy given by Professor Peter Hill of the University of Sheffield. Click here for this.


Roger Bullivant: a student's memories

"I read music at Sheffield between 1966 and 1969 - one of a larger year group than had hitherto been usual in the Music Department, then at the corner of Northumberland Road.

With more than a touch of irony we called him Bully: the only member of staff of the department to be given a nick-name. The adjective 'bullivantine' was also used from time to time. And he alone was a source of endless, affectionate fascination for the group: we talked about him, drew his profile, imitated his mannerisms, and never quite got the 'hmm' to perfection. Two catch-phrases which were particular features of his counterpoint lectures became part of our daily conversation. One was 'Preserve the theme, down to the last semiquaver'. The other came into its own one evening after a concert, when some of us went back to the department with Roger, probably for some sort of party: I don't now recall. But what I do remember was that standing in front of the locked door, he reached into his pocket and said 'I've got various keys here' to which the immediate, unison response was 'but not funny keys'.

No-one else rode a bike in Sheffield in those days, so the familiar figure in fawn mac and Midland red scarf on the bike he'd brought from Oxford was something of a spectacle. Phillip Lord told us about the time he'd ridden into the (old) tramlines and fallen off. But the accident didn't lessen his boyish enthusiasm for trams - or buses or trains for that matter. One or two of us even tried to learn Morse Code in an (unsuccessful) attempt to understand the messages he always tapped out when giving a harpsichord 'A' to the orchestra at Bach Society concerts. And when Basil Deane persuaded him to play the piano solo in Beethoven's Choral Fantasia, we were amused to discover that he'd figured the piano score. His musical notation, with which he covered the lecture-room blackboard, was naturally almost indistinguishable from that of J S Bach.

In my third year, some of us decided to go to the Bach Society Annual Dinner, and clubbed together to buy a bottle of wine to share. When we got to our table we discovered that Eileen Denman, taking pity on the poor impecunious students, had given us another bottle, so the evening went extremely well. I last saw them both just after he'd been given his honorary D. Mus., and not long before Eileen died. It was good to look at photographs and reminisce about the old days. I remember them both with great affection, and am profoundly grateful to them, for music, encouragement, and friendship."

Penny Granger


"About 30 years ago, a party of about 20 members of the Bach Choir, which included Judith and me undertook a Carol Singing tour of the Northern General Hospital, presumably with the objective of giving a bit of Christmas cheer to the inmates.

We were asked to bring, or were provided with copies of The Oxford Book of Carols.

The carols we sang as I remember them were:- Gems of Day, Es ist ein' ros' entsprungen, How brightly beams (Bach harmony), In Dulci Jubilo (last verse Bach harmony), Now the green blade riseth, O Little One sweet (last verse Bach harmony), People, look east, and Quem pastores laudavere. I don't recall copies of Sweelinck's Hodiae being present. We were certainly never asked to sing Silent Night, for which many thanks. If anyone recalls this event and has any corrections/additions, please make them. (What a memory!!! - Webmaster)

I don't know if Roger will have made it to any sort of heaven, but I'm pretty sure he will be found on Parnassus, although I'm not sure whether as an Apollonian or a Dionysian! Perhaps something of both. "

Derek Hollingsworth


From a "humble member of the audience"

"I just want to record my grateful thanks for some wonderful concerts. Roger was as much part of the entertainment for us as any of the performers! Thank you for bringing a little more culture to Doncaster."

L Chesterman


"I remember arriving as a new member of staff at the University and knowing no-one. My husband was still behind in Birmingham, finishing his PhD. We were living in Penistone, not Sheffield itself. As a student there had been so many clubs and societies one could join to meet people. For a member of staff there seemed to be nothing.

But no - there WAS the rather grandly named University Choral Society. I had been a member of the Choral Soc at Birmingham University, and this seemed the answer. The rehearsals (led by Roger B) gave me my first opportunity to meet people other than Departmental colleagues - and gave me a 'grounding' at Sheffield when I was feeling very lost. I will remember him with great affection - and not only for this. "

Carolyn Shelbourn, Department of Law, University of Sheffield


"B minor Mass rehearsal, 197- something: Roger kept asking us to repeat part of the Sanctus. Then he asked for only the 1st soprano and 2nd bass parts. ...

"Hmmm, I'm sure Bach would have corrected those consecutive octaves if he'd ever had a chance to perform the work."

Roger always gave the impression of being in daily contact with JSB (by email?). According to stuff on the web, JSB did in fact perform the Sanctus many times. Perhaps at this particular point (those who've sung it after throwing out time will understand), he wanted to show he wasn't really the Good Lord.

Regards - A hooligan (...ain't you lot got no home to go to?...)"

Christopher R. Lee (from France) - who isn't, and wasn't, really a hooligan. Some of us remember him well and hope he and his family are thriving.


"One of my fondest memories of 'Bully' was his endearing habit of perching his glasses on the end of his nose and beaming all round before starting to conduct. As a very young (and nervous!) member of the University Orchestra in my first year of reading music at Sheffield in 1968, I'm sure many members of the orchestra, like me, found this a very reassuring start to a concert."

Nina Platts (Music graduate 1971)


"I joined Sheffield Bach Society in 1971. As soon as I took part in my first Bach Choir concert, I began to realise that Roger was a very special conductor, as I experienced for the first time that unique Bullivant magic which he never failed to generate in performance.

Many years, and countless performances later, I would like to thank Roger for the magic he brought into my life and that of many others. I am certainly not the first to note the remarkable way Roger combined outstanding academic scholarship with the expertise of a practical performing musician. As an ordinary choir member, I stand in awe and admiration of his academic learning. But the wonderful thing about Roger as a performing musician is that so many of us could share in those inspirational performances, in the joy, the emotion, the exhileration and the fulfilment.

As conductor and harpsichordist, he took us with him into that special realm he entered whenever he was performing.

Thank you Roger. It is an honour and a privilege to be able to call myself a friend. "

Vicky Highet


"Dear Roger, I am sorry that I can't be there tomorrow (at the Memorial Service) to celebrate with your friends and colleagues. The life you gave to the Bachoir, and the inspiration of your musicianship in our concerts, are what stay with me now. And, I guess, always will.

Thank you for you."

Liz Arnesen. 2/2/05