Gillian Weir

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Dame Gillian Constance Weir DBE FRCM (born 17 January 1941) is a New Zealand-British organist.


Weir was born in Martinborough, New Zealand, on 17 January 1941.[1] Her parents were Clarice Mildred Foy (née Bignell) and Cecil Alexander Weir. She received her schooling at Queen's Park School, Wanganui Intermediate, and Wanganui Girls' College.[1] When she was 19, she was a co-winner of the Auckland Star Piano Competition, playing Mozart. A year later she won a scholarship of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music in London. There, she studied with the concert pianist Cyril Smith and the renowned organist Ralph Downes, and in her second year (1964) won the prestigious St. Albans International Organ Competition.

In 1967, she married Clive Rowland Webster. The marriage was dissolved in 1972. In 1972, she married Lawrence Irving Phelps, an American organ builder.[1]


Her performance in 1964 of a work by Olivier Messiaen occurred at a time when his music was little-known outside France and she became particularly associated with this composer; she has several times performed his complete works in series. Her recording for Collins Classics (new re-release for Priory Records on 2002) was hailed as "one of the major recording triumphs of the century" in In Tune Magazine. Her distinguished position as a Messiaen interpreter has been reinforced by her CD release of his complete organ works to great acclaim as well as by her contribution to Faber's The Messiaen Companion and other publications. At Messiaen's request, she gave the first UK performance in January 1973 of the Méditations sur le Mystère de la Sainte Trinité at the Royal Festival Hall from the composer's manuscript, given to her after he gave the world premiere in Washington D.C.[citation needed]

Her series of six weekly recitals in Westminster Cathedral of Messiaen's organ works in 1998, the 90th anniversary of his birth, brought huge audiences, and for her performances she was awarded the Evening Standard Award for Outstanding Solo Performance, the first organist to have been so honoured. Weir made her début at the Royal Albert Hall while still a student, as soloist in the Poulenc Organ Concerto, on the opening night of the 1965 season of the Promenade Concerts, and in the same year at the Royal Festival Hall in recital, then the youngest organist to have performed there publicly. She returned to the Albert Hall to make the first recording on the great organ after the 2004 rebuild.[citation needed]


Weir's artistry was marked in 1999 by the re-issue on CD of her series of Argo recordings, and her nomination by Classic CD magazine as one of the 100 Greatest Players of the Century, and by The Sunday Times as one of the 1000 Music Makers of the Millennium. In December 2000, ITV's South Bank Show chronicled her worldwide activities as performer, teacher and recording artist in a highly acclaimed documentary.[citation needed]

Honours and awards[edit]


Weir performed in her own six-part television series King of Instruments for the BBC in 1989;[1] it drew large audiences in Great Britain.


  1. ^ a b c d Lambert, Max; Traue, James Edward; Taylor, Alister (1991). Who's Who in New Zealand, 1991 (12th ed.). Auckland: Octopus. p. 679. ISBN 9780790001302. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
  2. ^ "No. 51774". The London Gazette (3rd supplement). 17 June 1989. p. 32.
  3. ^ "No. 54256". The London Gazette (2nd supplement). 30 December 1995. p. 33.

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