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The great writer on music Alex Ross, famous especially for his superb book The Rest is Noise, wrote “The Messiaen festival at the University of Chicago kicked off last night with the great British organist Gillian Weir performing Messe de la Pentecôte, among other works. When I reviewed a great pile of Messiaen organ discs for Fanfare magazine some years ago, I came to the conclusion that Weir's cycle, originally issued on Collins Classics and now available from Priory Records, reigned supreme.”

Read more comments on Weir's Messiaen on the Messiaen Recording page.

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Honorary Fellowship

On November 7th St Chad's College, Durham University, honoured Gillian by awarding her an Honorary Fellowship. At a Dinner in the College Dr William Apedaile, President of the Senior Common Room, gave the citation, and the College Principal, Dr Margaret Masson, presented GIllian with the College Hood.

Southbank Centre Scholarship!

Gillian Weir has made a gift to the Southbank Centre for its Scholarship programme. It was announced by the Southbank Centre on September 15, 2017 as follows:

As the 2017/18 classical season begins, legendary organist Dame Gillian Weir announces a new organ scholarship for London’s Southbank Centre - the place where she made her professional debut more than 50 years ago and where she has appeared as soloist more than 50 times. In an unprecedented collaboration for the arts centre, the Dame Gillian Weir Organ Scholarship will fund Southbank Centre’s Organ Scholar (a post that has been in place since 2007) for the next ten years.

The first recipient of the Dame Gillian Weir Organ Scholarship will be David Thomas. David is the Director of Music at St. Mary’s Church in South Croydon, and holds the organ scholarship at St. Martin-in-the-Fields. After reading music at the University of Hull, he studied with David Titterington and Anne Marsden Thomas at the Royal Academy of Music, graduating with the Stephen Bicknell Organ Prize. David became an Associate of the Royal College of Organists in 2016.

[L-R Gillian Moore MBE, Southbank Centre Director of Music; David Thomas, Organ Scholar; Dame Gillian Weir; Elaine Bedell, Southbank Centre CEO; Dr William McVicker, Organ Curator] credit: Elyse Marks / Southbank Centre

Dame Gillian has a long and illustrious history with the Royal Festival Hall’s Harrison and Harrison organ - an instrument designed by her teacher, organist Ralph Downes. She made her professional debut on the organ in 1965 and was, at the time, the youngest organist to perform there. Over the following years, she has given countless performances and broadcasts as recitalist and concerto soloist and has been instrumental in developing new concert repertoire for the organ. She has given significant premieres at the Royal Festival Hall such as the UK premiere of Messiaen’s ‘Méditations sur le Mystère de la Sainte Trinité' in 1973, given at the composer’s request and performed from his original manuscript. Other Royal Festival Hall highlights include Dame Gillian’s 60th birthday concert in 2001, where she was presented with a CD of work written and performed by school-children and a giant organ cake; and a sold-out concert celebrating the organ’s 50th birthday in 2004, when she performed Guilmant’s D minor Symphony with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Her CD ‘On Stage!’ includes a variety of popular concert staples and was the last recording to be made of the organ before it was dismantled for refurbishment in 2005.

In committing to support ten years of the organ scholarship, Dame Gillian enables Southbank Centre’s work to further build the profile of the concert organ and develop repertoire for it. Recipients of the Organ Scholarship spend a year as part of Southbank Centre‘s staff as an ambassador for the organ, learning from Organ Curator Dr William McVicker about the many facets of curating the international organ series, but also bringing the organ to the general public, through Southbank Centre’s year-round festival programming and education and participation activities for all ages.

Dame Gillian Weir said: “The Royal Festival Hall has always been special for me - not only did I make my professional debut here but the organ was designed by my teacher so I had the opportunity to explore it under his direction, whether delving into its internal construction or discovering all its musical possibilities at the keyboard. Since those early days, I have played at Southbank Centre on so many occasions - frequently practising in the middle of the night! - and accumulated a cornucopia of wonderful memories.

“My career as solely a concert performer has been unusual, and I admire the opportunities Southbank Centre is giving through its Organ Scholarship for a young organist to be associated with a great concert hall and to develop his or her talents in the myriad ways possible in such an environment. The donation I am making to Southbank Centre is the smallest drop in the ocean, but I hope it will be a useful drop and I consider it a privilege to be thus continuing my own association with the concert hall that has meant so much to me. I am now looking forward immensely to meeting the successive Scholarship holders and following the progress of their careers."

Gillian Moore MBE, Southbank Centre’s Director of Music, said: “Dame Gillian’s generous support is invaluable in bringing this incredibly unique instrument, steeped in the history of British players, more fully into the public eye, by enabling a further ten years of our vital organ scholarship and the continued development of an exciting new concert programme. The new organ scholar will be integral to the fabric of our new season, from year-round festivals, schools’ and higher education activity to standalone events and performances. This is a very exciting start to the season and we are hugely grateful to Dame Gillian for her wonderful support.”

Bloomsbury Organ Day 2017

This excerpt from the February 2017 The Organ highlights Dame Gillian's masterclass. There's another opportunity next year... don't miss it!

Dame Gillian Weir’s masterclass can only be described as the masterclass of masterclasses! Insightful, probing, witty, challenging, Dame Gillian certainly cast a spell over the large audience (several hundred throughout the afternoon) and the allotted hour seemed wholly inadequate to survey the chosen works in detail; but nothing was lost as the opening sections of the chosen works were subjected to the most intense scrutiny.

The three students who submitted themselves to the challenge together with their choice of repertoire were Konstantin Gensitskiy - (Bach Trio Sonata 1 - 1st and 2nd movements); Hannah Gibson (Franck - 2nd Chorale) and Ashley Wagner (Mendelssohn - Sonata 1 - Adagio and Allegro Assai).

Although Dame Gillian may have retired from centre-stage performing, the sheer energy, stamina and bravura were as gripping as ever. At every opportunity Dame Gillian could be seen adding and subtracting stops, refining registration, demonstrating alternative fingering patterns, and it would be impossible to summarize the wealth of experience and erudition of this ‘hands on’ approach here. Questions which frequently vex organists such as the pros and cons of 8’ or 16’ pedal registration in the trio sonatas, choice of mutation stops and understanding the important concepts of rhythm and meter were all addressed. The Mendelssohn proved to be an ideal choice for defining accent and articulation in the opening bars of the last movement with the overlapping arpeggios- no hint of blurring tolerated here!

New Honour for Gillian Weir

Gillian Weir was made an Honorary Fellow of Grey College, Durham University. (2016)

New Honour for Gillian Weir

Gillian Weir has been given the signal honour of being made an Honorary Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Musicians. This venerable and distinguished Society, one of the Livery Companies of the City of London, dates back to at least 1360. Founded as a specialist guild for musicians, the modern Company promotes all aspects of the art and science of music. It supports musicians and musical education, awarding prizes, scholarships and medals.

The Honorary Freedom is the Company's highest Award. Other current Freemen are Dame Janet Baker, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, HRH the Prince of Wales, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, Sir Harrison Birtwistle and HRH Duchess of Kent. Past Honorary Freemen have included Sir Edward Elgar, Sir Hubert Parry, Ralph Vaughan Williams O.M., Lord (Benjamin) Britten, and Sir Yehudi Menuhin.

The Award was conferred on Gillian Weir by the Master, Andrew Morris, in a ceremony held at the ancient and beautiful Merchant Taylors' Hall, in the City of London. A Dinner for some two hundred members and guests followed, at which Gillian was the speaker.

Latest CD release!

LYRITA have issued a CD containing the world première of Peter Racine Fricker's Symphony No. 5 for organ and orchestra (in effect an organ concerto). The concert was broadcast live and Lyrita have been able to acquire the BBC's recording.

The work was commissioned by the BBC for the 25th Jubilee anniversary of the Royal Festival Hall, and the concert took place on May 5th 1976. Gillian Weir was soloist (as she was in his later Organ Concerto and other Fricker works), and Sir Colin Davis conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

The CD, which also contains his oratorio The Vision of Judgement, is available now, on Lyrita REAM1124.

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