Maggie Hamilton - EditorFrom the current issue of Choir & Organ
Whether anyone actually took up ex-Culture Secretary David Mellor on his comment in August that he’d ‘rather be thrown into a pit of scorpions than to have to sit through another of Judith Weir’s operas’, I don’t know – maybe he was killed in the crush. His admission that he finds Weir’s music ‘pretty impenetrable and, when penetrable, unrewarding’ betrays at best the lack of imagination that we have come to expect in recent decades from politicians who have held ministerial positions.
On one point, however, I agree with Mellor: that the important issue in Weir’s appointment as Master of the Queen’s Music is not whether she is a woman (after all, no broadcaster or newspaper has ever heralded previous holders of the post with the words ‘A man has just been appointed…’), but whether she is capable of doing the job. Our exclusive interview not only sets out her impeccable compositional credentials, it also reveals the warmth of her personality and her serious commitment to helping to make classical music less of an oddity in today’s society – as she says, ‘I love the idea of composing for places and people rarely touched by new music.’
We need composers like this: people who are willing to take us with them – out of our comfort zone, sometimes, but nonetheless to a place where we can view the world (and ourselves) through a different twist of the kaleidoscope; people who can lead us to a sense of just how small we are in the universe, and yet at the same time to a realisation of how infinitely capable we are of creative thinking and action; people who invite us to break out of our rut and learn to embrace with delight the unexpected. We may not necessarily connect with the music on first hearing (Nicholas Slonimsky’s Lexicon of Musical Invective
is replete with damning critiques of works by Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner and the like, works that we now hold in great esteem). But if we don’t open our ears and minds to new experiences, we will be stuck in a world of functional muzak that deadens the soul. If anyone still needs convincing, try to catch on iPlayer the BBC Singers’ rendition at their 90th birthday concert in the Barbican of Weir’s exquisite miniature Vertue
, or enter the draw in our Readers’ offers for a CD or scores of her music, for a chance to explore a world of intense beauty.
And if David Mellor is reading this, I’d like to extend a personal invitation to him to attend a Judith Weir opera with me; whether he accepts or chooses his stated preferred option is entirely up to him…