Judith Weir CBE is a British composer and Master of the Queen’s Music.
Weir started her career as an oboe player, performing with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and taking composition lessons with John Tavener during her school holidays. She attended Cambridge University and spent several years working in schools and adult education in rural southern England. She then returned to Scotland to work as a teacher at Glasgow University and RSAMD.
During 1990s she was resident composer with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and wrote several works for orchestra and chorus (including ‘Forest ‘and ‘We are Shadows’) and was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra (‘Music Untangled’ and ‘Natural History’), the Minnesota Orchestra (‘The Welcome Arrival of Rain’) and Carnegie Hall (‘woman.life.song’, a song cycle written for the celebrated soprano Jessye Norman).
Since the 1990s she has been based in London, and was artistic director of the Spitalfields Festival for six years. In December 2007, HM The Queen and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies presented her with the Queen’s Medal for Music.
Although she has achieved international recognition for her orchestral and chamber works, Weir is best known for her operas and theatrical works. She is the composer and librettist of four operas: ‘A Night at the Chinese Opera’, ‘The Vanishing Bridegroom’, ‘Blond Eckbert’ and ‘Miss Fortune’.
In January 2008, over fifty of her works were performed during ‘Telling The Tale’, a three-day retrospective of her music, hosted by the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican Centre, London. In 2014 she was appointed Master of The Queen’s Music in succession to Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and in May 2015, Weir won The Ivors Classical Music Award at the Ivor Novello Awards. The first public performance of Weir’s arrangement of ‘God Save the Queen’ was performed at the reburial of King Richard III at Leicester Cathedral on 26 March 2015.
Judith Weir’s interests in narrative, folklore and theatre are expressed in a wide range of musical invention. Her compositions often draw on sources from medieval history, as well as the traditional stories and music of her parents’ homeland, Scotland. Weir’s musical language has a highly distilled folkloric style with cantabile voices similar to that of Britten without becoming retrospective. It is relatively conservative being neither avant-garde nor experimental, with a knack for making simple musical ideas appear freshly mysterious.
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