Master of Queen’s Music Honoured by Oxford

At the annual Encaenia ceremony yesterday (21 June) in the Sheldonian Theatre, Judith Weir CBE, Master of the Queen’s Music, was presented with the Oxford degree of Doctor of Music honoris causa.

The University citation reads:

Professor Judith Weir CBE is a composer and Master of the Queen’s Music. She has written in many forms but is best known for her operas, including The Vanishing BridegroomBlond Eckbert and Armida. She has been awarded the Elise L Stoeger Prize, the Queen’s Medal for Music and the Ivor Novello Classical Music Award. Her setting of Love bade me welcome was performed at the ceremony by the choir of Keble College.’

After the ceremony, Professor Weir was congratulated by the Chair of the Music Faculty Board, Professor Michael Burden, and Professor of Composition, Professor Robert Saxton (pictured above).

For those who, as the late Peter Cook used to say, ‘do the Latin’, here is the Public Orator’s speech given yesterday in praise of Professor Weir:

Quidnam nos in rebus incertis versantes potius celebremus quam ingenium eius quae fabulam melicam composuit ‘Consolationes Doctrinae’ inscriptam? Maiores nostri credebant concentum illum caelestem, quem agnoscerent tantum mathematici, auribus nostris percipi non posse. Quo magis hanc feminam honorare decet quae de Martis stella modos attulerit, nosque docuerit hos cantus, etsi tam longo spatio commutatos, colonos tamen quosdam suorum Scotorum olim cecinisse. Quam ultimam in agmine videtis, haec non modo alienae stellae et lunae siderumque, sed terrestris etiam mundi numerorum nos participes reddidit. Facetiis enim acerrimis et verborum et modorum usa fabellas sonis dulcissimis ornatas a Scotia, a regione Serica, Germania, Hispania, Austroslavia traductas nobis o ert. Haec etsi modorum haudquaquam imperita est recentiorum, opera parere solet quae omnium fere auribus vere placeant. Eadem etsi ex usibus multarum gentium materiam electam haurit earum modos lepidos numerososque sermonibus adiungit qui nullius esse videri possint nisi ipsius; huius enim carmina et rerum veritatem lucidissime explicant, et animos vi paene magica fascinant. Namque ‘Imbrium Adventum’ celebrans, modisque ipsis concentuque velut poeta usa, etesios Indicorum imbres audientibus revocat adventuros, oblectaturos, laetitiam laturos.

In fabulis autem sua ipsius verba ita expedit ut omnia auscultantes intellegamus – id quod raro aliter conceditur. In o cio exsequendo hoc magni facit, ut artis musicae bene cia aetati omni civium conferantur. Ut sapiens quidam olim censuit, dummodo regi musica placeat, valent cives. Hac denique magistra creata, nonne sperare nos admonet Regina fore aliquando ut, remotis discordiae causis, concentu tandem consensuque animorum rursus fruamur?

Praesento igitur inventricem creatricemque musicae pulchritudinis peritissimam, Judith Weir, Regiae Musicae Magistram, ut admittatur honoris causa ad gradum Doctoris in Musica.


How, amidst uncertainty, could we not celebrate the creator of an opera entitled The Consolations of Scholarship? The music of the spheres, said the ancients, is for most mortals not an audible phenomenon, but a mathematical idea; let us honour one who has revealed the sounds of music on Mars, and has disclosed further that what we hear, refracted through this vast distance, is a music played there by a colonising band of her Scots compatriots. But not only is this lady, who completes our line of honorands today, a communicator of those Airs from Another Planet and of Moon and Star; she presents also an earthly universe and tells, with the keenest wit in words and tones alike, melodious tales of Scotland, China, Germany, Iberia and the Southern Slavic lands. Here is a modernist whose music is actually liked by many, one who draws inspiration from the folk music of many lands but lovingly places these lively sounds and rhythms at the service of a language inimitably her own. Here is music that lucidly speaks, explains, and bewitches the imagination. In her Welcome Arrival of Rain the notes and beautiful orchestration evoke like a poem the anticipation, joy and ful lment of the Indian monsoon. In her operas the composer’s own libretti are written and set so skilfully as to grant us that all-too-rare bonus: we hear the words! As Her Majesty’s musician, she sets great store by bringing music to all, young and old. A sage once opined that if the monarch loved music, all would be well with the land. In appointing this artist as Master of her Music, Her Majesty cannot but give us hope that, despite all fractures in our land, pleasant harmony will one day reign.

I present Judith Weir, CBE, Master of the Queen’s Music, most able creator and revealer of the beauties of musical sound, to be admitted to the honorary degree of Doctor of Music.