What sort of man was he?

Memorial service cover

A photo of Robert Bouffler on the front page of his memorial service booklet shows a broadly smiling, bearded biker, clad in biking leathers, a scull motif on his tee shirt, posing on his Suzuki motor bike. An enthusiastic biker, he rode it everywhere, with music and dinner-suit in the panniers!

Michael Nebe first met Robert when he was aged 20 in Holland. He described him as “extremely shy, with lively eyes and sharp critical intellect, whose contributions to the often heated and at times harsh discussions were concise and cutting remarks of astonishing persuasiveness.” He was accepted as a son and brother into Michael’s home in Germany, and often stayed there over Christmas, when he joined in the music making at home and in the family church, all very fondly remembered.

By all accounts Robert was totally engaging, and extremely modest, despite his considerable talent. His commitment was the same to all his pupils, from the youngest beginner to the most gifted. He accompanied them to their exams to give them confidence. He was generous with his time to a fault; some students would be waiting patiently for a home lesson, while Robert was enthusiastically overrunning a previous lesson!

His generosity also ran to throwing a garden party for friends and pupils every summer when the doors would be flung open, furniture put in the garden and a string quartet played Haydn on the lawn.

Robert Bouffler Recital
Purcell Room, 8th March 1985

Jenny Fowler recalls his many musical talents but others as well; he was a philosopher, particularly in the fields of aesthetics. Jenny paid tribute to his “ever present modesty that his friends were able to appreciate these prodigious talents without feeling overwhelmed by them. Quite the opposite: he was a marvelously supportive friend who seemed to have an uncanny ability to know exactly when a word of encouragement was most needed.”

Whilst modest about his own abilities, his total honesty made him sparing in his praise of others, but praise when it came was all the more valuable.

Aside from music and motorbikes, Robert did seem to embrace new innovations with the same open-mindedness that allowed him to appreciate twentieth century music. When Sue knew Robert, she was also developing skills in the business of music administration, and had just been elected secretary of the East Surrey Choral Society (where she still sings). When Robert needed help with a new brochure, mailing music societies, and looking for concert opportunities, she offered to help. His contribution was to buy a computer – quite a brave purchase in those early techie days. He called it “Mr Atari” and it remains unclear whether the time spent by Sue getting the thing to work, actually saved any time at all!