Sweet Swan

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sweet swan

Sweet Swan is a set of variations on a tune I wrote for a production of The Winter’s Tale by John Barton, to whom it is affectionately dedicated. Michael Williams played Autolycus, and one of his songs was set to the melody in question:

But shall I go mourn for that, my dear?
The pale moon shines by night:
And when I wander here and there,
I then do most go right.

Later in the play this tune was transformed into the music for the famous Monument Scene (Act V, scene iii) where Leontes (played by Ian McKellen) witnesses the apparent coming to life of the statue of his much wronged wife, Hermione:

Music; awake her: strike!
‘Tis time; descend; be stone no more;

My conceit in Sweet Swan is to have Shakespeare himself come back to life, and, leaving his lonely monument in the Bancroft Gardens, take a brief look around the town of his birth, before returning to his place as midnight strikes.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 GW

Sweet Swan


Guy Woolfenden


6 minutes

Year composed


Date of publication


First performance

Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, Sunday 7th May 2000
Musicians of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre
with Malcolm Storry & Alexandra Gilbreath (speakers)
conducted by Michel Tubbs, Stephen Warbeck, John Woolf & Guy Woolfenden


Royal Shakespeare Company


Chandos 9812 A Shakespeare Celebration
Musicians of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre
with Malcolm Storry & Harriet Walter (speakers)
conducted by Michel Tubbs, Stephen Warbeck, John Woolf & Guy Woolfenden

  • 979-0-57009-583-4 [Complete set]
  • 979-0-57009-584-1 [Full score]
No. of Pages in Score



Small Mixed Wind & Perc Ensemble

Full instrumentation
Full Instrumentation flute/piccolo (1)
clarinet in A (1)
bassoon (1)
horn 1 in F (1)
horn 2 in F (1)
trumpet 1 in B flat (1)
trumpet 2 in B flat (1)
trombone (1)
percussion 1 (1) Marimba, Timpani (3 drums)
percussion 2 (1) 2 Tom Toms, Suspended Cymbal,Side Drum, Triangle, Tubular Bell [A]
keyboards (1)

Press & Public Reviews

The Shakespeare celebrations finally came to an end on Sunday night with a concert which paid tribute to the words and works of the man, but also to the band of musicians charged with bringing them to life each night.

A Shakespeare Celebration at the Swan Theatre, put the Royal Shakespeare Company’s resident band centre stage with a pair of actors – Malcolm Storry and Alexander Gilbreath – in supporting roles. The concert featured specially commissioned works by ten composers, all inspired by scenes from five of Shakespeare’s plays and the programme offered a blend of textures including catchy tune, contemporary clatter and classically smooth.

A CD of the music and readings (featuring Harriet Walter and Malcolm Storry) is available from Chandos. Though not quite capturing the atmosphere of the concert, it is a souvenir of a superb evening – and for those who were not there a taste of what you missed!

Anne Tugwell, Stratford Herald

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