23rd March 1921 - 20th November 2004
When I joined the Regional committee of the NFMS Yorkshire and Humberside in the mid-eighties Roger Bullivant had already been there for some time giving freely of his time and advice to the committee and to societies where he was Visitor. I became the Visitor for the Sheffield Bach Society and was able to go from time to time to sing in rehearsals with him. This was always hard work but enormous fun. Roger was not a teacher of notes: one of his strengths lay in the complete control he had during a concert performance. Singers and instrumentalists all knew that if you watched Roger, all entries, all cut-offs, all signals needed would be given and if things began to go adrift anywhere, he could pull it back on course.
I first met Roger in 1965 when he was forty-four and I was twenty-four, At a Bach Society dinner he was encouraging us all to be at the next Messiah performance to hear "all the latest twiddles". He was in his third year as conductor and was to go on contributing the latest twiddles with the choir until 2000. His continuo playing was a treat; always changing and adapting to the needs of soloists and driving his chosen speeds forward.
At his funeral, friends whose musical lives had been influenced by Roger, came from miles away. Alan Brown, Margaret McDonald and Jenny Leadbeater, who had worked so much with Roger, played and sang for him now and Canon Trevor Page, President of the Bach Society, spoke to us directly and with complete authority about the man we all knew. He thanked Roger for his musicality, his diversity, his encouragement of other musicians and his humour and his eccentricities. And we all smiled and nodded as we recognised facets that were familiar to us. Finally we heard the last piece that Roger recorded with his choir, the final chorale from the St. John Passion with its glimpse of the resurrection.
Towards the end of his life, Vicky Highet, a member of the Bach Society decided to help prolong Roger's participation in music and worked tirelessly to ferry him about so that he could carry on conducting and playing continuo. His final performance was for Simon Lindley last Good Friday in Leeds Parish Church. I was so glad I was there. Vicky was caring for a great scholar and musician who tried to ensure that nothing came between the composer and his audience. We miss him already.
Roy Carr - Printed in Making Music Yorkshire's Clarion