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About this Piece

Judith Weir studied composition in London with John Tavener, and at Cambridge University with Robin Holloway. She taught composition for six years at Glasgow University and RSAMD. In 1999 she held the Hambro Visiting Professorship in Opera Studies at Oxford Universit


From 1995 to 1998 she was the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra's Composer in Association; and for six seasons (from 1995 to 2000) she was the Artistic Director of the Spitalfields Festival in London's East End, famed for its program which combines early and contemporary music. She is the holder of a Critics' Circle Award (1994) a CBE (1995), and Lincoln Center's Stoeger Prize (1997).

From the early 1980s, Weir spent ten years working predominantly in opera and music theater, and her three full length operas A Night at the Chinese Opera, The Vanishing Bridegroom, and Blond Eckbert have all been televised, and performed in Britain and the U.S. She has also written music for theater, working at the Royal National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and the Peter Hall Company, working with playwrights including Caryl Churchill and Peter Shaffer.

Thread! was composed in 1981 on a commission from the New Music Group of Scotland, with assistance from the Scottish Arts Council. The composer has provided the following note:

I chose to set the text from the upper horizontal border of the Bayeux tapestry, which in my piece is declaimed severely by a narrator. For dramatic reasons, I made small alterations to the original text in places, repositioning one or two scenes, adding the occasional word, and translating the whole from Latin into English.

"The story has a three-act structure: (1) the background to the Norman invasion of England in 1066, particularly the French contention that Harold of England had promised the English throne to William of Normandy; (2) the extensive technical preparations for the invasion; and (3) the Battle of Hastings and the death of King Harold.

"In the original performances, the extensive percussion element consisted largely of post-industrial junk found around the streets of Glasgow and the shores of Fife, where the piece was written. For me, the instrumental music mirrors my reactions to the tapestry itself: at first, one is charmed by its cartoon-strip matchstick men, but on closer inspection, its content is found to be increasingly vicious."

© Copyright 1995 Judith Weir