Sullivan: Arthur. Sheet Music and Biography

By | May 11, 2021

Sullivan Sheet Music

Black and White Photograph of Arthur Sullivan in 1888
Arthur Sullivan
13 May 1842 – 22 Nov 1900

Sir Arthur Sullivan (born 13 May 1842) was an English composer. He is famous for his unique partnership composing operettas with Sir W.S. Gilbert including the Pirates of Penzance.

We have a selection of arrangements of A Policemans Lot from the Pirates of Penzance on


Arthur’s father was an Irish musician who became the bandmaster at the Royal Military College. Arthur joined the choir of Chapel Royal and became a soloist. He went on to achieve the Mendelssohn Scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music, London. His main teacher was John Goss. Goss was once a student of Thomas Attwood who himself was a pupil of Mozart. Sullivan’s scholarship was extended from one to four years. This enabled him to study at Leipzig Conservatory in Germany for two years. The Conservatory waivered his final years’ fees. Sullivan’s graduation piece was The Tempest. Its performance in Crystal Palace a year later in 1862 was an overnight success and Sullivan became immediately famous!


Sullivan earned a living teaching, as a church organist and writing hymns. He continued to do additional work during his operetta successes which included a time conducting Leeds Triennial Musical Festival and writing choral works. These works include Martyr of Antioch, and the cantata The Golden Legend (1886) which was second only in success to Handel’s Messiah!

His first collaboration with W.S. Gilbert was Thespis in 1871, which met with little success. Five years later Richard D’Oyly Carte encouraged Gilbert and Sullivan to reunite resulting in their first success with Trial by Jury. Carte then put together the Comic Company contracting the two gentlemen to produce operettas. They produced twelve full-length ones! They built on each of their successes from The Sourcerer to H.M.S. Pinafore, then the Pirates of Penzance. In 1871 they moved production to Carte’s newly built Savoy theatre. Their operettas there including Iolanthe, The Mikado, and Gondoliers became known as the ‘Savoy Operas’. Gilbert left the trio In 1891 after a disagreement, they did re-unite but didn’t achieve their previous successes.

Throughout his career, Sullivan was often called upon by Royalty including Queen Victoria. He received his knighthood in 1883.

Sullivan partnered with like-minded Basil Hood and produced The Rose of Persia which proved very successful. Whilst working on his second opera his health deteriorated and he died on 22 November.

A quirky little story featuring Sullivan occurs when his stockbroker filed for bankruptcy in 1882. Sullivan consequently took his dog as an asset in lieu of payment. When the dog died Sullivan had grown so attached to him that he had him stuffed and put in a glass case …

Pirates of Penzance: A Policemans Lot

A Policeman’s Lot (is not a happy one) is from the operetta The Pirates of Penzance composed by Arthur Sullivan and the lyrics created by William Schwenck Gilbert.

This comic opera tells the story of Frederic, a young man in his 21st year who is released from his apprenticeship to a band of Pirates. However, he is bound to them until his 21st birthday.  Frederic realises that having been born on 29th February his actual 21st birthday is not for another 63 years. His sense of duty obligates him to the pirates.  Fortunately, he meets Mabel the Major – General Stanley’s daughter who faithfully agrees to wait for him.

The operetta was instantly successful when it opened in New York on 31 December 1879 running for 3 months.  It debuted in London on 3 April 1880 hosting 363 performances. Today it is still a very popular opera.

Sullivan Sheet Music Downloads and Further Reading

On we have over ten arrangements of Sullivan’s sheet music including various instrumental versions of Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance: A Policemans Lot all in PDF format.

For further reading on this composer why not take a look at Wikipedia and The Arthur Sullivan Society.

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