• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Queen's new composer Judith Weir hails 'boss'

The new Master of the Queen's Music has joked that to have "an 88-year-old woman boss" is a career first.

World renowned composer Judith Weir officially took up her role today and cycled to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen.

She said their chat was "inspiring" and added that her new "boss" was in "tremendous sparkling form".

Ms Weir, who has composed everything from grand operas to piano concertos, said she hoped to encourage everyone involved in music.

"It was a most surprising thing to be asked to do so it was a challenge for me. I was curious, interested about it," she said.

Ms Weir added: "I think above all it gives me the chance to travel round Britain and perhaps see what's going on in the musical scene.

"It's interesting to have a role that will cover the whole country and maybe bring some interesting information to light," she said.

Ms Weir hailed the Queen's interest in music and said she felt inspired after meeting her.

"Firstly, to have an 88-year-old woman boss is a new one for me.

"As a woman composer this is a first. She was in tremendous sparkling form, takes tremendous interest in music through the nation and so that is certainly a meeting to go back to," she said.

She added: "She takes a great interest in musical matters in the country so I definitely will be thinking back to the meeting that we've just had. It is an inspiring thing to think about."

Ms Weir takes over from Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and is the first woman to have the role - a fact she is very pleased about.

"I'm very happy. Indeed it's a great honour. One of my reasons for accepting the job was that I really feel there should be women in public positions, so given the chance to do that I accepted the job.

"That was a very strong reason for me. I'm extremely honoured to be the first person who is a woman doing this job," she said.

Ms Weir, who was an oboe player performing with the National Youth Orchestra and had composition lessons with John Tavener during her school days, is looking forward to how the job will influence her music.

"I'm sure that the role will lead me to try and widen the scope of the style of my music even further.

"In particular, I'd like to write more music which amateur musicians, school children, beginners can play. So that would be quite a change for me," she said.

Cambridge graduate Ms Weir said she hopes more music will start making its way from cities out into more remote areas.

"I think we're lucky in this country that we have music all around us, not just professional music, but amateur music, church music, folk music, a great deal of all kinds of music which spread through the whole nation.

"But I suppose the change I would like to see is more music spreading out of the big urban centres.

"A city like London has almost too much music. Not that we'd want there to be less but some places around the country, more remote places, I think could be better provided with music.

"And my other priority is that I'd like every school to have good music. A lot of schools do but you can be lucky or unlucky as a school pupil. I'd like everybody to be lucky," she said.

Ms Weir laughed when she was asked about cycling to the palace.

She said: "I live very close. I live about 15 to 20 minutes away and bicycle is the obvious method. It's a very good way to get around London."

Ms Weir has been a visiting professor at Princeton, Harvard and Cardiff universities and during the 1990s was resident composer with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

Her music has been described as spare, delicate and beautiful and she draws inspiration from a wide range of sources from folk music from Scotland, where she was born, to Chinese opera.

The office of Master of the Queen's Music is the musical equivalent of Poet Laureate and Ms Weir will serve for a fixed term of 10 years.

Since the reign of George V, the holder has had no fixed duties, although the Master can choose to produce compositions to mark royal or state occasions.

The post has a long history dating back to the Middle Ages and earlier when sovereigns employed a band of musicians as part of their households.

Records show that Edward IV had 13 minstrels, "whereof some be trumpets, some with shalmes and small pypes".

Sir Peter was invested with the insignia of a Companion of Honour by the Queen today.

Contextual targeting label: 
Arts and Entertainment

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

249479