Scottish composer Judith Weir is perhaps best known for her choral, orchestral, and chamber music, as well as her works for the theatre.


Who is Judith Weir?

Judith Weir is also Master of the King's Music, and was Master of the Queen’s Music for the final eight years of Queen Elizabeth's reign. Weir will occupy the post for ten years, so will finish the role in 2023. One of her key roles will be to compose music for King Charles' Coronation on May 6.

Judith Weir was appointed to the post in 2014, replacing the previous Master of the Queen's Music, Peter Maxwell Davies.

Which composers have been Master of the King's Music or Master of the Queen's Music?

Past composers who have been named Master of the King's or Queen's Music include William Boyce, Edward Elgar, Arnold Bax and Arthur Bliss. The Australian composer Malcolm Williamson occupied the role from 1975 to 2003, when he was replaced by Maxwell Davies.

Weir studied composition with Robin Holloway at Cambridge University and with the late John Tavener among others, and received a CBE for her services to music in 1995. Known widely for her operas, she has also composed several choral works, orchestral pieces and chamber music.

How old is Judith Weir?

Judith Weir was born in 11 May 1954. At the time of King Charles's Coronation, Judith Weir will be 68 years old.

Is Judith Weir Scottish?

The composer was born in Cambridge, although both her parents are Scottish. Weir's Scottish heritage is important to her, and many of her works draw on Scottish culture and folklore.

Where did Judith Weir grow up?

Weir grew up in Cambridge, and later attended the North London Collegiate School where she studied with, among others, the composer John Tavener. Weir went onto study at King's College, Cambridge, where he tutors included the academic and composer Robin Holloway. She graduated from Cambridge in 1976.

What are Judith Weir's most famous works?


Judith Weir's operas are among her best known and most important works. They include A Night at the Chinese Opera, the fairytale-inspired Blond Eckbert, and The Vanishing Bridegroom, which draws on Scottish folk tales and ghost stories.

There's also King Harald’s Saga, a dramatisation of the old Norse saga recounting Harald Hardrada’s expedition to the East before his demise on English soil. Interestingly, Weir’s intimate setting is for a single unaccompanied solo soprano, playing all eight roles. It has become one of the composer’s most performed works of music-theatre.

Orchestral works

Weir’s concert repertory has been somewhat eclipsed by the success of her operas. Nonetheless, it is a field of her output that shouldn’t go ignored. The world premiere of Stars, Night, Music and Light, performed at the 2011 BBC Proms by the BBC Singers, Symphony Chorus and Orchestra under Jiří Bělohlávek, shows off her luminous orchestral language.

Also try her orchestral piece, The Welcome Arrival of Rain, inspired by the composer's love of Indian music and storytelling. Judith Weir's Piano Concerto is also a beautiful and very personal take on a well-known orchestral form. Accompanied by a string orchestra, it's significantly quieter and more intimate than your average piano concerto.

  • Browse our Judith Weir reviews here

And if you would like to hear Weir as you’ve never heard her before – ‘edgy and urban’ – have a listen to Concrete, an exhilarating ‘motet about London’ for speaker, mixed chorus and orchestra.

Choral works

Innovative and versatile works for choir have been the backbone to Weir’s output since the 1980s. Her strikingly original tonal direction kicks into touch any qualms about inaccessibility in choral music today.

Weir’s setting of a short text by William Blake, ‘The Angel that presided o'er my birth’ has been craftily transformed by her into a glorious carol. And My Guardian Angel employs a natural sense of community through the use of a repeated audience line. Feel free to join in.

Weir's 2003 setting of EE Cummings’s 'a blue true dream of sky' and the all-male Madrigal are two more fine examples of her choral output.

Chamber music

Much of Weir’s writing for chamber groups incorporates folkloric lilts and turns, which hark back to the composer’s Celtic ancestry. First performed by the string players of piano quintet Domus in Cambridge in 1985, The Bagpiper’s String Trio is beautifully lyrical and atmospheric.

Another Celtic-inspired piece, Arise, arise! You slumbering sleepers for piano quartet, dances with Scottish rhythms and evolves into a playful fancy.

Read more about other great British composers on our website, including:

And read about more of the composers writing music for the Coronation:


Nathan Dearden


Steve Wright
Steve WrightMulti-Platform Content Producer, BBC Music Magazine

Steve has been an avid listener of classical music since childhood, and now contributes a variety of features to BBC Music’s magazine and website. He started writing about music as Arts Editor of an Oxford University student newspaper and has continued ever since, serving as Arts Editor on various magazines.