On 21st May 2015 Judith Weir collected The Ivors Classical Music Award.

This Ivor Novello Award recognises an outstanding body of work in the classical genre. It is an opportunity for the classical community to acknowledge the excellence and diversity of the recipient’s achievements as a composer.

Originally commissioned to appear in the award ceremony programme, music journalist Mark Sutherland, profiles the composer:

“There’s no requirement to be normal,” Judith Weir once said. She was talking about why she loves opera, although she could also have been speaking about her own remarkable career.

As a public figure, Weir is a ground-breaker, becoming the first female Master of the Queen’s Music last year. And as a composer, she’s a one-off. It’s been clear that she possesses great talent ever since she starred as a teenage oboist with the National Youth Orchestra, but she also has a rare gift for communication that has seen her reach far beyond the usual classical enclaves with her work.

And what a body of work she has built up. Her compositions range from children’s songs to full-blown operas, via piano concertos and chamber music, but everything she does displays the same lightness of touch and musical clarity. Critics have hailed the elegant simplicity and accessibility of her work, although she’s never afraid to challenge. So, in her operatic work alone, she has written mini-operas such as 1985’s The Black Spider, the full-length likes of 1990’s The Vanishing Bridegroom and 1994’s Blond Eckbert and 2005’s pioneering Armida, an opera composed for Channel 4 television.

She also cares passionately about music education and has held many significant roles within the classical sector, including Artistic Director of the Spitalfields Festival. And the recipient of The Ivors Classical Music Award this year is no stranger to picking up prizes, having scooped the 2001 South Bank Show music award and the 1997 Lincoln Centre’s Stoeger Prize. Nor is she new to royal circles; she was awarded a CBE in 2005 for services to music and the Queen’s medal for music in 2007.

So it’s no surprise that, when she was appointed to her latest royal role last year – shattering a glass ceiling that has existed since the post was created by Charles I – the classical world was delighted. Weir is a confident champion of contemporary music and a great advertisement for its continued relevance. On her appointment, she declared her intention to travel the country investigating music education and to challenge her contemporaries to create music that is accessible to all.

“They said it’s absolutely up to the person who does it to make it their own,” she told The Guardian on her appointment and it seems nailed on that this most individual of classical figures will do precisely that. With Judith Weir at the helm, the Queen’s Music is in the safest of hands.

Mark Sutherland (c) 2015

www.judithweir.com