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GUY WOOLFENDEN born 12th July 1937

November 7 1949 – February 14 2016

Go to BIRMINGHAM SYMPHONIC WINDS to buy the collected wind works of Guy Woolfenden for £15.00

Guy Woolfenden, composer, conductor, broadcaster and formerly a hornplayer with Sadlers Wells Opera, is perhaps the most successful BASBWE commissioned composer, bringing his experience of theatre to the medium; he was for many years head of music at the Royal Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, with scores for every Shakespeare play to his credit. Two early BABWE commissions, Gallimaufry (1983) and IllyrianDances (1986) both draw on music he has written for the Shakespeare canon; the language is a pastiche of late English renaissance, looking back to both 16th century and the early 20th century, but with twists in the metrical structure and a harmonic piquancy which avoid the obvious. More direct are Deo Gracias (1985 G&M Brand) and S.P.Q.R. (1988). Browse through World-Wide-Woolfenden for a rich vein of charming music, pleasant to play and to listen to.

There are two recent and less well known scores; as with Gallimaufry and Illyrian Dances the music of Curtain Call is inspired by the composer’s long association with the Royal Shakespeare Company. There are three movements: Solemn March is an extended reworking of the coronation procession from The Revenger’s Tragedy by Cyril Tourneur and the 2nd movement Valse Triste has its origins in a plaintive theme from All’s Well that Ends Well, whilst the Finale started life as the curtain call for Richard III. Bohemian Dances was commissioned by Matthew George and the St Thomas Symphonic Wind Ensemble, St. Paul, Minnesota, and is derived from his music for A Winter’s Tale.

Birthday Treat (1998)

Birthday Treat was written to celebrate the 60th birthday of Guy’s dear friend Timothy Reynish, and this short piece is both celebratory and personal thanking him for his inestimable contribution to the wind band movement. Guy and Tim have been friends since their time in the horn section

of the National Youth Orchestra and the passing references to Richard Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel are intentional.

Curtain Call (1997)

Curtain Call was commissioned by Birmingham Symphonic Winds and received its first performance in March 13th 1997 conducted by Keith Allen. As with Gallimaufry and Illyrian Dances the music of Curtain Call is inspired by the composer’s long association with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

There are three movements: Solemn March is an extended reworking of the coronation procession from The Revenger’s Tragedy by Cyril Tourneur and the 2nd movement, Valse Triste, has its origins in a plaintive theme from All’s Well that Ends Well, whilst the Finale started life as the curtain call for Richard III.

Mockbeggar Variations (1991)

This work was composed to a commission from Berkshire County Music Service in Reading, whose headquarters were in Mockbeggar House – hence the title. It was first performed by the Berkshire County Youth Band on July 20th 1991 conducted by Robert Roscoe.

A short introduction leads to the theme which is split between several instruments, to be followed by five contrasting variations.

S.P.Q.R. (1988)

S.P.Q.R. was commissioned as part of the Warwickshire County Council centenary celebrations and the first performance was given by Warwickshire County Wind Band on September 18th 1988. The standard of the Roman legions often carried the letters S.P.Q.R: Senatus Populusque Romanus – The Senate and People of Rome.

Among the lasting monuments of the Roman occupation of Britain is the amazing system of roads that still exist across the country and S.P.Q.R. attempts to juxtapose and contrast the ancient and indissoluble links between rural and urban Warwickshire and the might of ancient Rome.

The opening movement, Fosse Way, bisects the county of Warwickshire from south-west to north-east with many major towns adjacent to this mighty thoroughfare, whilst the middle movement, Notturno, reflects on the River Avon becoming a tributary to the Tiber, and in the last movement, the Fosse Way joins the Via Appia: all roads lead to Rome!

Illyrian Dances (1986)

This suite of three dances was commissioned by the British Association of Symphonic Bands and Wind Ensembles and was given its first performance on September 26th 1986 during the annual BASBWE conference.

As with some other wind band pieces by Guy Woolfenden, the thematic material is adapted from music originally written for RSC productions. The precise location of Illyria was not important to Shakespeare; what excited him was the resonance of the word itself and the romance of all far away, make-believe places. The opening Rondeau has a rhythmic twist to its refrain, whilst the middle Aubade is a gentle dance with a hint of the dawn chorus and the final Gigue is a lively rondo. The work is dedicated to Timothy Reynish.

Deo Gracias (1985)

Deo Gracias was commissioned by R. Smith & Co., as an award to the highest placed band at the 1985 British National Wind Band Festival, which was Bolton Youth Concert Band which gave the first performance on March 31st 1986. The suite of three connected movements is based on music first written for Terry Hands’ 1975 RSC production of Henry V.

Coronation March has a broad flowing melody, sinister and heraldic in turns, whilst the Canon, in contrast, reflects a harmonious peace, leading to The King’s March with its optimistic rhythm and jaunty melody.

Gallimaufry (1983)

This suite was inspired by Shakespeare’s Henry IV plays and derived from music written for the RSC productions which opened the Barbican Theatre, London in June 1982.

It is dedicated to Trevor Nunn, then Artistic Director of the RSC, with grateful thanks for his suggestion that the music from these productions should be expanded and moulded into a form suitable for concert performance. Timothy Reynish and BASBWE commissioned the work, which was given its first performance by the Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra on September 24th 1983 conducted by the composer.

The work is continuous and the thematic material of each of the six sections closely related: Church and State – leadership; the establishment; temporal and ecclesiastical power.

Inn and Out – the Boar’s Head Tavern; the Stews; low-life revels.

Starts and Fits – Tavern brawl; Gadshill ambush; Pistol, “the swaggerer” evicted; Mistress Quickly’s “rescue”.

Father and Son – Relationship of King Henry and Falstaff to Prince Hal – real and surrogate parent.

Church and Status Quo – Falstaff rejected; Hal becomes King; order restored.

The Warwickshire Lads (1983)

This stirring march was composed for a RSC community project involving 200 local people joining the cast to enact a First World War story as a walkabout production. The piece was performed at each venue, taking in scenes on the river, bridges, fields and at the theatre.