The new Master of the Queen’s Music has joked that to have “an 88-year-old woman boss” is a career first.
Judith Weir, former resident composer with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra from 1995 to 1998, officially took up her role after she 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 through her new role.
“It was a most surprising thing to be asked to do so it was a challenge for me. I was curious, interested about it.
“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 was 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 is famously meticulous in her approach – soon after joining the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Contemporary Music Group a piece was paid for by 20 members of the audience.
When this music was then later performed abroad in Toronto by another ensemble, Ms Weir asked for each of the investors’ addresses and sent them each a postcard from the performance to thank them.
Ms Weir, who was an oboe player performing with the National Youth Orchestra and had composition lessons with John Tavener during her school days, said she was 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.”
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.