Dame Judith Weir DBE HonFRSE (born 11 May 1954[1]) is a British composer serving as Master of the King's Music. Appointed in 2014 by Queen Elizabeth II, Weir is the first woman to hold this office.[2]

Dame Judith Weir

Born (1954-05-11) 11 May 1954 (age 69)
Cambridge, England, UK
  • Composer
WorksList of compositions
21st Master of the King's Music
Assumed office
22 July 2014
MonarchsElizabeth II
Charles III
Preceded byPeter Maxwell Davies

Life and career edit

Weir was born in Cambridge, England, to Scottish parents. She studied with John Tavener while at the North London Collegiate School[3] and subsequently with Robin Holloway at King's College, Cambridge, graduating in 1976. Her music often draws on sources from medieval history, as well as the traditional stories and music of her parents' homeland, Scotland. Although she has achieved international recognition for her orchestral and chamber works, Weir is best known for her operas and theatrical works. From 1995 to 2000, she was Artistic Director of the Spitalfields Festival in London. She held the post of Composer in Association for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra from 1995 to 1998.

Weir was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1995 Birthday Honours for services to music.[4] She received the Lincoln Center's Stoeger Prize in 1997, the South Bank Show music award in 2001 and the Incorporated Society of Musicians' Distinguished Musician Award in 2010. In 2007, she was the third recipient of the Queen's Medal for Music. She was a visiting distinguished research professor in composition at Cardiff University from 2006 to 2009.

On 30 June 2014, The Guardian stated that her appointment as Master of the Queen's Music,[5] succeeding Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (whose term of office expired in March 2014), would be announced;[6] this was officially confirmed on 21 July.[7] She was appointed for a decade.[8] In May 2015, Weir won The Ivors Classical Music Award at the Ivor Novello Awards.[9]

Weir is a member of the Incorporated Society of Musicians.[10] In 2018 she was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh[11] and was made an Honorary Fellow of Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2023.[12]

She was promoted Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2024 New Year Honours for services to music.[13]

Music edit

Weir's musical language is fairly conservative, with a "knack of making simple musical ideas appear freshly mysterious".[14] Her first stage work, The Black Spider, is a one-act opera that was premiered in Canterbury in 1985, loosely based on the short novel of the same name by Jeremias Gotthelf. She has subsequently written one more "micro-opera", three full-length operas, and an opera for television. In 1987, her first half-length opera, A Night at the Chinese Opera, was premiered at Kent Opera. This was followed by a further three full-length operas: The Vanishing Bridegroom (1990); Blond Eckbert (1994, commissioned by English National Opera[15]); and Miss Fortune (Achterbahn) (2011). Her opera Armida, an opera for television, was premiered on Channel Four in the United Kingdom in 2005. The work was made in co-operation with Margaret Williams.[16] Weir's commissioned works most notably include We are Shadows (1999) for Simon Rattle and woman.life.song (2000) for Jessye Norman. In January 2008, Weir was the focus of the BBC's annual composer weekend at the Barbican Centre in London. The four days of programmes ended with a first performance of her new commission, CONCRETE, a choral motet. The subject of this piece was inspired by the Barbican building itself – she describes it as 'an imaginary excavation of the Barbican Centre, burrowing through 2,500 years of historical rubble'.[17]

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. She was commissioned to compose an a cappella work for the state funeral of Elizabeth II on 19 September 2022, and wrote a setting of Psalm 42, "Like as the hart".[18]

In 2023, Weir was one of twelve composers asked to write a new piece for the coronation of Charles III and Camilla.[19] Her composition for orchestra, Brighter Visions Shine Afar, was performed before the ceremony began.[20]

List of compositions edit

Opera and music theatre edit

Other compositions edit

  • Music for 247 Strings (1981, violin, piano)
  • Thread! (1981, narrator, chamber ensemble)
  • Scotch Minstrelsy (1982, tenor or soprano, piano)
  • The Art of Touching the Keyboard (1983, piano)
  • Missa Del Cid (1988, SAAATTTBBB choir), originally part of BBC's Sound on Film series; later used independently in concert and on stage.[24]
  • String Quartet (1990)
  • Musicians Wrestle Everywhere (1994, flute, oboe, bass clarinet, horn, trombone, piano, cello, double bass)
  • Forest (1995, orchestra)
  • Piano Concerto (1997, piano, strings)
  • Storm (1997, children's choir, SSAA choir, chamber ensemble)
  • Natural History (1998, soprano, orchestra)
  • Piano Trio (1998)
  • We Are Shadows (1999, children's choir, SATB choir, orchestra)
  • Piano Quartet (2000)
  • woman.life.song (2000, premiered by Jessye Norman at Carnegie Hall, soprano, chamber ensemble)
  • The welcome arrival of rain (2001–2002, orchestra)
  • Tiger Under the Table (2002, chamber ensemble)
  • Piano Trio Two (2003–2004)
  • Winter Song (2006, orchestra)
  • CONCRETE (2007, speaker, SATB choir, orchestra)
  • I give you the end of a golden string (2013, strings)
  • In the Land of Uz (2017, SATB choir, soprano saxophone, trumpet, tuba, organ, viola, double bass)
  • Oboe Concerto (2018, oboe, orchestra)
  • The Prelude (2018–2019, flute, violin, viola, cello)
  • The True Light (2018, SATB choir, organ) for the First World War centenary
  • By Wisdom (2018, SATB choir, organ) for the Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II[25]
  • Music, Spread Thy Voice (2022, orchestra) for the 150th Anniversary of the Royal Orchestral Society
  • Like as the hart (2022, SATB choir, organ) for the state funeral of Elizabeth II.[26]*
  • Begin Afresh (2022, orchestra)
  • Brighter Visions Shine Afar (2023, orchestra) for the coronation of Charles III and Camilla

Recordings edit

References edit

Citations edit

  1. ^ Alan Blackwood (1991). Music of the world. Prentice-Hall. p. 218. ISBN 978-0135882375. OCLC 25465899.
  2. ^ "Queen's new composer Judith Weir hails 'boss'". heraldscotland. 22 July 2014. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  3. ^ Morrison, Richard (18 January 2008). "The wonderful Judith Weir – With a Barbican weekend devoted to her music, the composer Judith Weir is being feted as never before". The Times & Sunday Times Archives. London: Times Newspapers. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  4. ^ "No. 54066". The London Gazette (1st supplement). 16 June 1995. p. 9.
  5. ^ Brodeur, Michael Andor (9 September 2022). "Queen had 'immensely detailed knowledge' of music, says royal composer". The Washington Post. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  6. ^ Booth, Robert (29 June 2014). "Judith Weir to be appointed first female master of Queen's music". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  7. ^ "Judith Weir appointed Master of the Queen's Music". www.musicsalesclassical. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  8. ^ Tilden, Imogen (3 July 2014). "Judith Weir: the female music master with royal seal of approval". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  9. ^ "The Ivors 2015 Winners, Ivor Novello Awards, Judith Weir". The Ivors. BASCA. 22 May 2015. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  10. ^ "Incorporated Society of Musicians". ISM. 4 August 2015. Retrieved 19 September 2022.
  11. ^ "Ms Judith Weir HonFRSE". The Royal Society of Edinburgh. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  12. ^ "Royal Holloway presents Honorary Fellowships". Royal Holloway, University of London. 8 June 2023. Retrieved 30 December 2023.
  13. ^ "No. 64269". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 2023. p. N9.
  14. ^ Clements, Andrew (13 March 2012). "Miss Fortune – review". The Guardian. London.
  15. ^ "Opera Composers: W". opera.stanford.edu. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  16. ^ "Judith Weir – Armida (2005) – Music Sales Classical". www.chesternovello.com. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  17. ^ "Musical Work rises from the concrete Barbican". London Evening Standard. 28 December 2007. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  18. ^ "The State Funeral and Committal Service for Her Majesty The Queen". The Royal Family. 15 September 2022. Retrieved 19 September 2022.
  19. ^ "Andrew Lloyd Webber piece among new coronation music". BBC News. 18 February 2023. Retrieved 20 February 2023.
  20. ^ Royal Family, "New music commissions for the coronation service at Westminster Abbey", 17 April 2023. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  21. ^ Evans, Rian (29 May 2022). "The Black Spider review – Weir's opera is ghastly gothic treat". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  22. ^ Weir, Judith. Memoirs of an Accidental Film Artist. In: A Night in at the Opera – Media representations of Opera. Edited by Jeremy Tambling. John Libbey & Company Ltd, London, 1994, p57.
  23. ^ "Search – BBC Programme Index".
  24. ^ Weir, Judith. Memoirs of an Accidental Film Artist. In: A Night in at the Opera – Media representations of Opera. Edited by Jeremy Tambling. John Libbey & Company Ltd, London, 1994, p58.
  25. ^ Brodeur, Michael Andor (15 September 2022). "Queen had 'immensely detailed knowledge' of music, says royal composer". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 December 2022.
  26. ^ Ashley, Tim (19 September 2022). "A ringing coda: the music at the Queen's funeral was both solemn and sublime". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 September 2022.

Sources edit

External links edit

Court offices
Preceded by Master of the King's Music