G iven that I’ve earned a living as a composer for several decades, it’s still difficult to explain how this came about. I remember my musical education being very patchy, including almost no specific composition tuition. I recall piles of harmony exercises and fugues at college, and my too-sketchy abilities on piano and organ.
So how did music become my lifetime job? I now realise it was thanks to the oboe, which I began learning at age 11. I began borrowing ‘the school oboe’, followed later by lessons with a great musician and oboist, Robin Miller. Then came performing in bands and orchestras, and, despite the unavoidably baroque atmosphere of the oboe, playing improv and even jazz. For such a polite instrument, it demanded workmanlike skills such as carpentry (making the reeds) mechanics (caring for the tiny keywork) and even the occasional bit of soldering.
Judith Weir. Photo © Benjamin Ealovega
So when Adelaide Symphony Orchestra principal Celia Craig asked had I ever thought of writing an oboe concerto, I didn’t treat it as I usually do commission requests, doubtfully asking myself,...