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Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)

St Catherine’s College is saddened to receive the news of the death of Stephen Sondheim, aged 91.

A composer and lyricist, he is recognised as one of the most influential voices within musical theatre, with a career spanning seven decades. His productions included Into the Woods, A Little Night Music, and Sweeney Todd, and he also wrote the lyrics for West Side Story.

Sondheim’s work was recognised with many awards, including several Tonys, an Olivier, an Oscar, numerous Grammys and a Pulitzer Prize. Such is his influence, theatres in both London’s West End and in New York’s Broadway are named in his honour.

The inaugural Cameron Mackintosh Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre

In 1990, Stephen Sondheim was made the first Cameron Mackintosh Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre at St Catherine’s. He was made an Emeritus Fellow of the College upon completion of his one-year tenure.

During his Professorship, Sondheim worked with students to produce eight musicals. He held multiple workshops, hosted an informal ‘lecture’ series with well-known actors performing at that time on West-End stages and took the students to see live rehearsals of his latest production at the National Theatre.

The end of his year saw excerpts from each of the eight student productions being performed by leading theatre professionals; this was held at midday to allow the actors to return to London for that evening’s performances.

The visiting professorship was set up in 1990 by Cameron Mackintosh, with the aim of encouraging and promoting the study and practise of contemporary theatre at Oxford University. The College is honoured to host the visiting professorship each year, and were proud to have Stephen Sondheim as the first professor.

The College’s flag is flying at half mast in his honour, and thoughts of members of the College are with his family at this time.

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The Alan Tayler Lecture 2022