A renowned Norfolk musician who released his last album while living with advanced cancer has died aged 71.
Roger Mayor lived an itinerant life until he settled in Norfolk and put down roots there.
He was born in 1951 on the Wirral.
His father, John Mayor, was the founding principal of St David’s College, which he opened with Roger’s mother, Pam, in 1965.
Roger was the eldest of five children, with siblings Rosemary, Sue, Katy and Ali.
The piano played a very important role in Roger’s life from the age of six.
He had his early education at Kingsmead School in nearby Hoylake, where his father was assistant headmaster.
From there Roger went to Wrekin College in Shropshire in 1965 where he received a quality musical education including piano and organ lessons.
Occasionally he was freed from school to play for Christian events, and particularly memorable for him was the opportunity to play the piano, aged 17, for the British Youth for Christ rally. at Birmingham Town Hall, with an audience of some 1,500 people. people.
An exchange scholarship to the United States led him to spend a year on Long Island in New York playing the chapel organ and soaking up the culture with regular visits to Carnegie Hall.
His talent for improvisation on the piano being spotted by the chaplain, he quickly began to give concerts with a fellow student who sang.
Returning to the UK in 1970, Roger began a music course at Goldsmiths College, University of London.
Other highlights of the 1970s included a year of study at Capernwray Bible School near the Lake District, a two-year period of teacher training at the University of London’s Trent Park campus, the start of a teaching career in London and a concert tour as a pianist for singer Sheila Walsh with evangelist Eric Delve and songwriter Graham Kendrick.
In 1977 he was appointed as the Church of England’s first minister of music by the Vicar of St Mary’s Church in Upton, near Birkenhead.
Following his success there, he took up the post of Director of Music at Hildenborough Hall, a Kent-based retreat and conference centre.
Here he conducted courses for church musicians, both contemporary and traditional.
He then set up the first Christian Music Summer School, appointing a group of well-known musicians and leaders to join his team.
One of them was Professor Noel Tredinnick, Director of Music at All Souls at Langham Place, London.
Their friendship led to a number of commissions over the years to compose for the famed All Souls Orchestra.
In 1981, during one of Prom Praise’s very first concerts, Roger premiered his Fantasia on Hyfrydol for piano and orchestra, where he performed the solo piano part and Noel conducted it.
It was performed to a packed crowd in All Souls Church and took a Welsh hymn as its theme.
The climax is said to have “raised the roof” with the audience singing the final anthem.
After moving to Strumpshaw he befriended a number of musicians who went on to form the group Bella Musica, performing at several In His Presence concerts around the county.
His greatest composition was Julian’s Oratorio, written over a period of four years to a libretto by Norfolk author Sarah Passingham.
This text was based on Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich, and Roger produced a recording of it in Norwich Cathedral in 2001, followed by a performance in 2005.
Following a diagnosis of advanced prostate cancer in 2011, Roger remained creative and found a satisfying role as a keyboardist on the worship team at TLC Church in Drayton.
It was there that Roger and his wife of 20 years, Penny, met Matt and Vanessa May, whose vocals appeared on several Roger albums.
After living with advanced prostate cancer for the past decade, Roger suffered metastatic spinal cord compression, with the cancer spreading widely in his spine. This left him paralyzed below the waist and affected the use of his right hand, meaning he couldn’t use his feet to pedal.
Roger’s legacy will live on for many years to come, especially through the albums he produced and in particular his latest album “Closer”, a beautiful work he desperately wanted to finish before he got too sick.
After its release, he said, “Although I lived with cancer for a few years, this album was recorded and produced under the pressure of recently receiving a terminal prognosis. I am so grateful to God for giving me the strength and deep inner peace to complete it.
The release of the album marked the final chapter in his four decades of Christian music ministry leading worship at major national events, composing, arranging and producing. It was the sixteenth CD that Roger released.
Outside of his career, Roger’s other great loves were cars, especially classic cars, and boats, and he made regular trips to the Norfolk Broads and the coast.
Roger leaves behind his wife and family, including his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.