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Woolfenden, Guy (12th July 1937-15th April 2016)

He was a conductor and composer born Guy Anthony Woolfenden in Ipswich, Suffolk, England.  He came from a musical family where his father founded the Cambridge Music Shop in the 1960s.  He became a chorister at Westminster Abbey Choir School when young and in 1947, when he was 10 years old, he was a singer at the Royal Wedding of the future Queen Elizabeth II and Sir Phillip Mountbatten.  Four years later in 1951, when he had risen to being a senior chorister, he sang at the Festival of Britain.

He studied the French horn while a student at Croydon’s Whitgift School and went on to horn and conducting studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and music studies at Christ’s College at Cambridge University.  Continuing his horn studies with the horn player Aubrey Brain, he performed for a time at the Sadler’s Wells Opera.  He was Principal Conductor of the Cambridge University Opera Group in 1959 and a member of the British Students’ Orchestra in Vienna.

When the 1960s came around he started working in Stratford-upon-Avon at the newly founded Royal Shakespeare Company in 1961.  Two years later in 1963 he became Head of Music and remained in that position for the next 35 years.  He worked on the scores of more than 150 productions as a director and composer during his time there with him creating special instruments such as curved bronze horn and blown up crisp packets for The Wars of the Roses cycle of Shakespeare’s plays and using these kinds of instruments for many more over the years, having his score for the musical version of The Comedy of Errors winning the Olivier Award for Best New Musical and completing all of Shakespeare’s plays by 1991.

Outside of his work with the RSC he was the Principal Conductor for Morley College Symphony Orchestra for 10 years from 1968, for Liverpool Mozart Orchestra for 22 years from 1970 until 1992 and at University College, London for 2 years from 1977.  He became Artistic Director of the Cambridge Festival in 1986 and stayed for 5 years until 1991 and in 1995 was a founder director of the English Musical Festival which went on to be the Stratford on Avon Music Festival.  In 2010 he became the chairman of the National Concert Band Festival and remained there until 2013.

Alongside his more than 150 music scores for the RSC, he wrote film and TV scores for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Antony and Cleopatra and Work Is a Four-Letter Word and incidental music for several European theatre companies, the Australian Ballet and Scottish Opera.  He also wrote orchestral and chamber works and several pieces for concert wind bands.

Recordings his work appears on either as a conductor and/or composer include The Wandering Bassoon by Meyrick Alexander and Catherine Milledge, 1963-1973: The Abbey Rode Decade by Cilla Black, Walton: Henry V: As You Like It by English Serenata, Woolfenden: Gallimaufry by the Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra, British Clarinet Concertos by Royal Ballet Sinfonia and A Shakespeare Celebration by the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Musicians along with Just Say Yes: Sire’s Winter CD Music Sampler.

He also worked on BBC radio 3 as a radio presenter and for two years from 1994 to 1996 was the chairman of the quiz show Full Score.  Working for charitable causes, he was chairman of the Dennes Gilkes Memorial Fund for young actors and musicians.  The website Ariel Music was first set up to distribute Guy Woolfenden’s music.

In 2007 he was awarded the OBE for his services to music.

He died peacefully in April 2016 when he was 78 years old.