Who is Andrew Lloyd Webber?
Meet the musical theatre mogul responsible for some of our most smash-hit tunes who is also one of 12 composers writing music for King Charles's coronation
He has composed an anthem, 'Make a Joyful Noise', for the Coronation. He's also somewhat well known in the musical theatre world. But what else do we know about Andrew Lloyd Webber?
Who is Andrew Lloyd Webber?
The king of killer tunes, the man behind many smash-hit musicals, Andrew Lloyd Webber is arguably the world’s most successful living composer and impresario.
How old is Andrew Lloyd Webber?
The composer was born on 22 March 1948.
Who is his family?
His father was the composer and organist William Lloyd Webber, his mother was the violinist and pianist Jean Hermione Johnstone and his brother is the cellist Julian Lloyd Webber.
- Browse all of our Coronation articles: composers, performers, music and more
What do we know of his childhood?
Born in Kensington, Webber grew up in what he described as a bohemian household, which, in addition to his immediate family, comprised his grandmother, his ‘unrepeatable politically incorrect Aunti Vi’ (as he put it in his autobiography) and their lodger - the concert pianist John Lill. An unusual child, he developed an early fascination with theatre and Victorian architecture, and as a young child would build theatres out of play bricks, one of which had a revolving stage inspired by TV’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium.
And his musical background?
He started playing the violin and piano aged three, before taking up the French horn, and starting to write his own music aged six. Incidentally he also appeared on the Nursery World magazine with a violin at the age of five.
Read more of our Coronation composers series:
How did Andrew Lloyd Webber become a composer?
At 17, he started studying History at Magdalen College, Oxford, but, with his head full of music and theatre, he was less than conscientious and soon dropped out of university.
It didn’t matter: by this time he had already met Tim Rice, who would become his long-time writing partner. The pair wrote a ‘pop cantata’ that turned out to be the foundation of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Not long afterwards they made their first Broadway show, Jesus Christ Superstar. He has had a show on Broadway continuously since 1979.
We named Andrew Lloyd Webber one of the best musical theatre composers of all time
What are his most famous musicals?
With more than 20 musicals to his name, there are a few to choose from, but heading the list must surely be The Phantom of the Opera, which is Broadway’s longest-ever running production. Other titles that immediately come to mind are Evita, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar and Starlight Express.
Check out our Top 10 musicals by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Who is his wife?
The former equestrian sportswoman and top event rider Madeleine Gurdon, whom he married in 1991.
From 1971 to 1983 he was married to Sarah Hugill and from 1984 he was married to Sarah Brightman, a soprano for whom he wrote the role of Christine in The Phantom of the Opera.
Does Andrew Lloyd Webber have any children?
Yes, two with Sarah Hugill: Imogen and Nicholas – the latter sadly died of gastric cancer on 25 March 2023. He also has three children - Alastair, William and Isabella - with Madeleine Gurdon.
Has he met King Charles before?
Yes, he has met and visited with him on a number of occasions. Speaking to the Washington Post, Lloyd Webber said: 'The great thing about Charles is that he has a great love of really quite a lot of causes that are a little bit unfashionable. He cares very deeply about all sorts of quite interesting things.
'I mean, like, three or four years before lockdown, I got a call from him saying could I come around to meet him at Lancaster House quite urgently, because he’d had an idea. What it was that he was worried about was the fact that there wasn’t enough access for young people to go and learn how to play the church organ.'
What has Andrew Lloyd Webber composed for the Coronation?
He has composed an anthem with words slightly adapted from Psalm 98, scored for the Westminster Abbey choir and organ, the ceremonial brass and orchestra.
Hannah Nepilova is a regular contributor to BBC Music Magazine. She has also written for The Financial Times, The Times, The Strad, Gramophone, Opera Now, Opera, the BBC Proms and the Philharmonia, and runs The Cusp, an online magazine exploring the boundaries between art forms. Born to Czech parents, she has a strong interest in Czech music and culture.