Guy Woolfenden – obituary

Guy Woolfenden, who has died at the age of 78, was head of musical production at the Royal Shakespeare Company for 35 years, composing over 150 musical scores for the company. Notably, he wrote scores for all 37 of the Shakespeare plays, some of them several times over.

Not long after joining the RSC, Woolfenden wrote the score for Peter Hall’s nine hour production of War of the Roses, having only six weeks to do so. His music for The Comedy of Errors won an Olivier award for best new British musical in 1977.

Woolfenden had a wide-ranging career as composer, conductor and festival director outside the RSC. In collaboration with the choreographer Andre Prokovsky, he composed and arranged scores for two three-act works, Anna Karenina and The Three Musketeers, for Australian Ballet. As a conductor, he worked with many British symphony orchestras as well as Scottish Opera and the Chelsea Opera Group.

In 1982, he was asked if he could write a work for the newly formed British Association of Symphonic Bands and Wind Ensembles. The result was Gallimaufry, which was to be the first of 15 major wind band pieces.

He was artistic director of the Cambridge Festival (1986–91), and chairman of Full Score, the popular Radio 3 music quiz show, from 1994 to 1996. He was appointed OBE in 2007.

Woolfenden was educated at Westminster Abbey choir school and went on to study music at Christ’s College, Cambridge, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London.

Speaking of Shakespeare in 2002, Woolfenden said: “I would like to say what a huge debt of gratitude I personally owe to William Shakespeare, and the theatre that so proudly bears his name. Working with those magical plays has definitely made me a better musician than I would have been, and enriched my life in more ways than I can say. Ende gut, alles gut”.

He is survived by his wife Jane Aldrick and their three sons.