Guy Woolfenden composed more than 150 scores for the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he was Head of Music for 37 years. He wrote music for film, radio, television and for the concert hall, and composed three musicals and a children’s opera. His musical version of The Comedy of Errors, written with Trevor Nunn for the RSC, won the lvor Novello and Society of West End Theatre Awards for the best British musical.
Guy completed the Shakespeare canon with his score for the 1991 production of Two Gentlemen of Verona and has composed music for every Shakespeare play in productions with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Among the highlights of his long and productive career with the RSC were scores for Peter Hall’s legendary history cycle The Wars of the Roses, Trevor Nunn’s 1972 Roman season, the award-winning musical version of The Comedy of Errors and Nunn’s productions of Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2, which opened the Barbican Theatre in 1982. With Terry Hands, Guy collaborated on celebrated productions of Henry V, Merry Wives of Windsor and the complete History cycle. Other notable productions for which Guy wrote the music include Hamlet with Kenneth Branagh, directed by Adrian Noble, and Bill Alexander’s productions of Richard III and The Merchant of Venice, with Anthony Sher.
Guy Woolfenden’s theatre credits also encompass a large number of non-Shakespeare productions including Greek theatre, Jacobean, Restoration, and nineteenth and early twentieth century classics. He also composed scores for many contemporary plays.
Outside the RSC, Guy wrote music for Terry Hands’ productions at the Comedie-Française, Paris, (Richard III, Pericles, La Nuit des Rois and Le Cid), for the Teatro Stabile, Genoa (Donne attente alle donne), for Den National Scene in Bergen, Norway, (Vikingene), and for the Norwegian National Theatre, Oslo (Lystige Koner i Windsor, Ibsen’s Kongsemnerne for the lnternational Ibsen Festival, and Chekov’s The Seagull).
In collaboration with choreographer André Prokovsky, he arranged and composed music for two three-act ballets commissioned by Australian Ballet, Anna Karenina and The Three Musketeers, which he subsequently conducted in productions with The Australian Ballet, The Royal Ballet of Flanders, Hong Kong Ballet Company and Asami Maki Ballet, Tokyo. Guy conducted the acclaimed Russian première of Anna Karenina with the Kirov Ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg.
As a conductor, Guy worked with many of the major British symphony orchestras. His operatic work included three productions with Scottish Opera and, in London, the first British productions of Nielsen’s Saul og David, Tchaikovsky’s The Maid of Orleans and Liszt’s Don Sanche. Guy conducted Verdi’s Falstaff, Simon Boccanegra and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin with Chelsea Opera Group.
With the enormous success of his wind music, including Gallimaufry and Illyrian Dances, much of it based on music originally composed for the theatre, Guy enjoyed many opportunities to conduct, coach and adjudicate ensembles all over the world. Guy’s French Impressions, inspired by paintings of Seurat, was commissioned by the Metropolitan Wind Symphony of Boston, Massachusetts and has been commercially recorded on the Klavier label. Bohemian Dances was commissioned by the University of St Thomas, St Paul, Minneapolis and received its first performance and was recorded there in May 2005. Claremont Canzona was commissioned by Cheadle Hulme School as part of its sesquicentenary celebrations and received its first performance at the RNCM, Manchester in March 2006. Sounds and Sweet Airs – A Shakespeare Journey, for soloists, chorus and orchestra received its first performance in October 2006, and his Divertimento for Band was given its first performance at the Conference of the World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles in Killarney in July 2007. More recent works include Reflections: Serenade No 2 for wind dectet and Penumbra for solo flute.
For BBC Radio 3 Guy presented programmes about The Beggar’s Opera, Walton’s Façade, and a programme about the composer Roberto Gerhard. He chaired the popular Radio 3 music quiz Full Score for three years.
Guy Woolfenden was the first Artistic Director of the Cambridge Festival from 1986-1991, was awarded a Fellowship of the Birmingham Conservatoire for his services to music in the Midlands in 1990, was an Honorary Member of the London College of Music, a past President of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, and an Honorary Associate Artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company since 1968. He was chairman of the Denne Gilkes Memorial Fund from 1985-2013, a charity founded to help young musicians and actors, and was awarded an OBE in the 2007 New Year’s Honours list for services to music.