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Judith Weir

British composer born 11 May, 1954 in Cambridge

Judith Weir was born in 1954 in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. She studied composition with John Tavener in London, and performed in the National Youth Orchestra. From 1973 to 1976, she studied composition at King’s College, Cambridge, notably with Robin Holloway. In the Summer of 1975, a Koussevitsky Foundation grant allowed her to attend the Tanglewood Summer Course, where she studied with Gunther Schuller.

From 1976 to 1979, she was composer in residence with the Southern Arts Association, where she led courses for adults and participated in artistic projects. She taught music at Glasgow University from 1979 to 1982, and at Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1983 to 1985. She returned to Scotland in 1988, where she was composer in residence at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. In 1995, she was named Fairbairn Composer with the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; this saw the composition of Musicians Wrestle Everywhere, premiered by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group in March 1995, and Forest, premiered by the CBSO under the direction of Simon Rattle in December of the same year.

Judith Weir is perhaps best known as an opera composer and libretist. A Night at the Chinese Opera, a commission of the BBC Kent Opera, was premiered at the Cheltenham Festival in 1987, and subsequently performed in London, where it was lauded by critics. The Vanishing Bridegroom was commissioned by the Glasgow City District Council for Scottish Opera in 1990, when Glasgow was the European Capital of Culture, and premiered there in October of that year. The work’s London premiere took place two months later at the Royal Opera House. Blond Eckbert was commissioned by the English National Opera and premiered in London in April, 1994. This work is published by Collins Classics. These three operas have since been performed in the United States and broadcast on television: Chinese Opera and Bridegroom on BBC; and Blond Eckbert on Channel 4. In 1991, the television production of Heaven Ablaze in His Breast by Ian Spink and Second Stride won the first prize at the International Festival of Filmed Opera in Helsinki.

Additional theatre and cinema projects include the telefilm of the Not Mozart series; Scipio’s Dream (BBC 2, November 1991); Missa e Combattimento, a work of theatrical music created in collaboration with Astrid Vehstedt and performed at DeSingel in Antwerp and Royal Theatre of La Monnaie in Brussels (1993-94); music for Sir Peter Hall’s RSC production of The Gift of the Gordon; and Royal National Theatre productions of The Skriker by Caryl Churchill (1994) and Sophocle’s The Oedipus Plays, directed by Sir Peter Hall (1996). Weir recently completed the score for a BBC/Arts Council Sound on Film Series short film, Hello Dolly, Goodbye Mummy (MJW Productions, 1996).

Judith Weir received the Critics’ Circle Music Section Award in 1994 for the most significant contribution to music in Great Britain. In 1995, she was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire at the Queen’s Birthday celebrations, and was awarded an honourary doctorate from the University of Aberdeen. She is currently the Associate Director of the experimental theatre group, Second Stride, and Artistic Director of the Spitalfields Festival.

Judith Weir’s music is exclusively published by Chester Music and Novello & Co.

© Ircam-Centre Pompidou, 1998