VPA continues Billy Joel Visiting Composer Series with residency by Scottish composer Judith Weir

Thursday, February 14, 2008
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Director of Communications and Media Relations
College of Visual and Performing Arts
(315) 443-5891

Syracuse University's College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) will continue its Billy Joel Visiting Composer Series in the Rose, Jules R. and Stanford S. Setnor School of Music with a residency by Scottish composer Judith Weir March 3-5. The residency will culminate in three free public events.

Weir's interests in narrative, folklore and theater have found expression in a wide range of musical invention. She is the composer and librettist of three operas: "A Night at the Chinese Opera," "The Vanishing Bridegroom" and "Blond Eckbert." She has written music for performances in England and India with storyteller Vayu Naidu, and she has worked on numerous film and music collaborations with Margaret Williams -- most recently "Armida," a one-hour television opera. In 2007, she was presented with the Queen's Medal for Music by Queen Elizabeth II of England and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, master of the queen's music.

"We're way beyond excited to have Judith Weir here," says Andrew Waggoner, associate professor and chair of the composition department at the Setnor School. "For many of us who became aware of her music back in the late '80s, Judith has consistently pointed a way through many of the most confounding -- and, frankly, irritating -- stylistic arguments in recent classical music. All at once hugely intelligent and heartfelt, her music offers perhaps the most direct and personal distillation of folk and traditional musics on the current concert music scene. She is utterly unique."

Weir will work with students and faculty in master classes and informally. Her residency will culminate in three free public events, including two performances of her work. On March 3 at 8 p.m., a DVD showing and discussion of "Armida" will take place at The Redhouse, 201 S. West St. On March 4 at 8 p.m., the Syracuse University Symphony Orchestra will perform in the Rose and Jules R. Setnor Auditorium, Crouse College. On March 5 at 8 p.m., the SU Contemporary Music Ensemble with soprano Janet Brown, a faculty member in the Setnor School, and the SU Singers will also perform in Setnor Auditorium. Free parking is available in Irving Garage for the Setnor Auditorium events.

The SU Symphony Orchestra's program includes Weir's "The Welcome Arrival of Rain." The SU Contemporary Music Ensemble and the SU Singers will perform a program of Weir's recent choral, vocal and chamber music, including the large ensemble work "Tiger Under the Table." The program will also feature a new work for chamber ensemble by Ian Hartsough, a Billy Joel Fellow in the Setnor School.

Weir grew up near London and attended Cambridge University, studying with Robin Holloway. Upon leaving there, she spent several years as a community musician in rural southern England and then returned to Scotland to work as a university teacher in Glasgow. Since the 1990s, she has been based in London, serving as artistic director of the Spitalfields Festival for six years as well as resident composer with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. She has continued to teach, most recently as Fromm Foundation Visiting Professor at Harvard University in 2004 and currently as a research professor at Cardiff University.

The 2007-08 season has already seen 12 premiere performances of Weir's "I've turned the page..." for piano solo, the test piece for the Scottish International Piano Competition, and the world premiere of "Winter Song" for chamber orchestra, given by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. New productions of "Blond Eckbert" took place in Innsbruck and Vienna, Austria, as well as Berlin. "CONCRETE," an extended motet written for the BBC Symphony Orchestra (BBC SO) and BBC Singers in 2007, formed the finale of the BBC SO's January 2008 Composers Weekend, which was devoted to Weir's work of the last 30 years. "The Welcome Arrival of Rain," a CD of Weir's orchestral music recorded by the BBC SO, was released by NMC to coincide with this weekend. Also in 2008, "A Night at the Chinese Opera" will be produced by the Scottish Opera.

Weir has also been commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra and Carnegie Hall. Her music is published exclusively by Chester Music Ltd. and Novello and Co. Ltd.

The Billy Joel Visiting Composer Series was endowed using a portion of a gift from entertainer Billy Joel. VPA was one of seven East Coast institutions awarded gifts in fall 2005 as part of Joel's long-term commitment to music education and newly established music education initiative. The gift was also used to establish the Billy Joel Fellowships in Composition for graduate composition students in the Setnor School.

For more information on the Billy Joel Visiting Composer Series, contact Waggoner at (315) 443-5892.