Judith Weir was born into a Scottish family in 1954, but grew up near London. She was an oboe player, performing with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, and studied composition with John Tavener during her schooldays. She went on to Cambridge University, where her composition teacher was Robin Holloway; and in 1975 attended summer school at Tanglewood, where she worked with Gunther Schuller. After this she spent several years working in schools and adult education in rural southern England; followed by a period based in Scotland, teaching at Glasgow University and RSAMD.
During this time she began to write a series of operas (including King Harald’s Saga, The Black Spider, A Night at the Chinese Opera, The Vanishing Bridegroom andBlond Eckbert) which have subsequently received many performances in the UK, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium and the USA. The most recent opera isMiss Fortune, premiered at Bregenz in 2011, and then staged at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in 2012.
As resident composer with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in the 1990s, she wrote several works for orchestra and chorus (including Forest, Storm and We are Shadows) which were premiered by the orchestra’s then Music Director, Simon Rattle. She has been commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra (Music Untangled and Natural History) the Minnesota Orchestra (The Welcome Arrival of Rain) and the London Sinfonietta (Tiger under the Table); and has written concert works for some notable singers, including Jane Manning, Dawn Upshaw, Jessye Norman and Alice Coote.
She now lives in London, where she has had a long association with Spitalfields Music Festival; and in recent years has taught as a visiting professor at Princeton, Harvard and Cardiff universities. Honours for her work include the Critics’ Circle, South Bank Show and Elise L Stoeger awards, a CBE and the Queen’s Medal for Music.
Recent and forthcoming premieres include Ave Regina Caelorum (Merton College Choir/Cheltenham Festival 2014) Day Break Shadows Flee (Benjamin Grosvenor/BBC Proms 2014) and Good Morning, Midnight (Alice Coote, Aurora Orchestra/Wigmore Hall 2015). Judith Weir has begun work on Count Öderland, a music-theatre piece based on a play by Max Frisch with a new libretto by Ben Power, co-produced by Scottish Opera, The Royal Opera House Covent Garden and the Frankfurt Opera.