Bernard Rose (musician)

For other people with the same name, see Bernard Rose (disambiguation).

Bernard William George Rose, OBE, (9 May 1916 21 November 1996) was a British organist, soldier, composer, and academic.

A graduate of St Catharine's College, Cambridge, 1935–1939, studying under Hubert Middleton and Edward Joseph Dent, he started his academic career at Queen's College, Oxford, 1939–1940 and 1945–1957, before being appointed Informator Choristarum (organist and master of the choristers) at Magdalen College, 1957–1981: Vice President of Magdalen College, Oxford, 1973–1975. Emeritus Fellow 1981–1996. He was in his later years president of the Royal College of Organists 1974–1976. His Preces and Responses, for use in the Anglican service of evensong, are very widely performed. In 1952 he conducted the premiere of An Oxford Elegy by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

A chorister at Salisbury Cathedral from 1925 to 1931, Bernard Rose studied the organ under Sir Walter Galpin Alcock, and was appointed as an assistant organist at the cathedral aged just 15. He continued to study the organ under Sir Walter when he became a student at the Royal College of Music from 1933 to 1935. He won the organ scholarship to St Catharine's College over Edward Heath. As Rose began his position as a tutor in music, organist of The Queen's College, Oxford, and conductor of the Eglesfield Music Society, the Second World War was declared. He volunteered and was seen by an army selection board and called up in September 1940, when he underwent training. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry on 26 January 1941.[1] He saw action in the North African and Italian campaigns as a "Desert Rat" with the 4th County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters), and took part in the D-day landings on 6 June 1944. Captured on 13 June 1944 during the Battle of Villers-Bocage in Normandy, he was to spend the remainder of the war at Oflag 79, a German POW camp near Brunswick, Lower Saxony, until the Ninth United States Army released him and his colleagues on 12 April 1945. He left the army with the rank of captain.

Resuming his academic teaching he was to become a sought-after tutor with particular emphasis on harmony and counterpoint, and a noted choir trainer. His pupils included Kenneth Leighton, Dudley Moore, Harry Christophers of The Sixteen and his son, Gregory Rose. His special study of the choral music of Thomas Tomkins was published in Musica Deo Sacra; another major work was his editing of Handel's oratorio Susanna (Kassel 1967). Former choristers inspired by his leadership include Daniel Sandford, John La Bouchardière and Jonathan Powell.

For ten years from 1957 he was president of the City of Oxford Silver Band, which he also conducted[2][3]

He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 1980 New Year Honours, "For Services to Music".[4] His wife Molly Rose, who survived him, saw service as an air pilot in the Air Transport Auxiliary during the Second World War, and has featured in a number of seminars and T.V. programmes concerning the role of women pilots delivering aircraft to the front line.

Magdalen College Oxford have a number of compositions and letters in their archive at

To commemorate the centenary of Rose's birth, More Archive Recordings (1960-76) The Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford is now available at See also an article from the Oxford Times dated 7th October 2015 with some background information about this CD see

Selected original works

Slow, slow fresh fount (Ben Johnson)
Symphony in A minor
Praise ye the Lord (Psalm 149)
Lord, I have loved the habitation (Psalm 126)
Preces and Responses
According to his promise (St Peter)
Evening Canticles (3 sets)
Our blessed lady's lullaby (Richard Verstegan)
Three Introits
Catharine (Oratorio)
Missa vocae choristarum
Chimes (for organ)
Feast Song for Saint Cecilia (Gregory Rose)
Three Addison Anthems
O Praise God in his holiness (Psalm 150)
Surely thou hast tasted (St Peter)
Lift up your heads (Psalm 24)
Tongue and Air (John Fuller)
Seven Epitaphs (Sir Walter Raleigh)
Praise ye the Lord (Psalm 113)
Almighty God, who art the Giver of all Wisdom (Samuel Johnson)
Carol: The Christ Child (G.K.Chesterton)
A Magdalen Mass
Upon Westminster Bridge (Wordsworth)
If I could tell you (W.H.Auden)

Publishers: Novello, Oxford, Addington Press, Minster Music, EECM, Cathedral Music, HHA


  1. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35115. p. 1724. 21 March 1941. Retrieved 11 March 2010.
  2. "Bernard Rose (Obituary)". The Independent. 3 December 1996. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
  3. Bernard Rose (1962) City of Oxford Silver Band, Foreword to the 75th Anniversary Souvenir Booklet.
  4. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 48059. p. 293. 7 January 1980. Retrieved 11 March 2010.

External links

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