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Gillian Weir Receives Life Time Achievement Award



Dame Gillian Weir DBE, world renowned organist, was presented with the ‘New Zealand Society Lifetime Achievement Award by Hon Russell Marshall, High Commissioner to New Zealand and Brian Perkins, BBC Radio 4 ‘Today Programme’ Announcer, at the annual Waitangi1 Day dinner, held in the Dorchester Hotel, London, on Friday night.

The award, which is presented periodically and exceptionally, was given to Dame Gillian for the long-term contribution that she had made in enhancing the reputation of New Zealand in Britain throughout her career.

Leaving her hometown of Wanganui, Gillian came to the UK in 1961 to study at the Royal College of Music. Gaining status as the first women president for the Royal College of Organists and Fellow of the Royal College of Music, she is internationally regarded as one of the greatest performers of her generation.

Judith Watson, President of the New Zealand Society commented: “It is a great honour for the Society to recognise one of the world’s foremost musicians with this award. Her many achievements are well reflected in the numerous accolades that she have received over the years and continues to receive”.

In accepting the award, Dame Gillian acknowledged her background in New Zealand and paid tribute to her New Zealand education and the many influences and opportunities that had encouraged her to base her career in the UK.

Past winners have included the late Kui Rahera (Rachel) Windsor and fellow to the Royal Society, Robin Clark FRS.

Ends 6 February 2006

Note to Editors:

Held annually in the UK to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, the Waitangi Day Dinner showcases the very best of New Zealand wine and food. Sponsors of this year’s dinner included PPCS Richmond, New Zealand Lamb Co Limited, Cloudy Bay, Fonterra Co-operative Group, Nectar Ease UK Limited, Sealord (Europe) Ltd, JO Sims Ltd, Monteith’s, LENZ Wines, The Village Press and Zespri International.

PROFILE: Gillian Weir is one of the world's foremost classical musicians. Through her unique career as an internationally acclaimed concert organist, performing world-wide at major festivals and concert halls and with leading orchestras and conductors, she has achieved international renown for her brilliant virtuosity and penetrating musicianship.

Dame Gillian came from Wanganui in 1962 to study in London after winning a scholarship from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. In less than three years she had won an international competition and made a spectacular public debut, both at the Royal Albert Hall, where she was the concerto soloist on the opening night of the Proms, and at the Royal Festival Hall, the youngest ever organ recitalist to have played there. An extraordinary career as a solo concert organist was launched, and she has remained at the top of her profession ever since as performer and recording artist, gathering plaudits in addition as broadcaster, lecturer, writer, adjudicator and teacher. Her television appearances have reached vast audiences. Of particular note are her six-part series for BBC2, shown in many different countries of the world and reaching a 2-million weekly audience here in Britain; and the recent documentary on her life and career made for The South Bank Show. She has received many honorary doctorates and fellowships from distinguished institutions, and a host of awards, prizes and honours from around the world. Classic CD Magazine voted her one of the 100 Greatest Keyboard Players of the 20th Century, and she was made CBE in 1989 and DBE in 1996.

Gillian Weir has been something of a role model for women players, having led the way for them in many areas of her profession; and among the influential positions she has held she was the first woman President of the Royal College of Organists in its 150-year-old history. She is known for her encouragement of young players and her skill in coaching them, and former students are prominent in the younger generation of performers and in leading University and Cathedral positions. The Waitangi Trust created the Gillian Weir Scholarship Fund for young New Zealanders to study here in Britain. Her links with her homeland continue; she was recently the energetic speaker for the Convention in Christchurch of the NZ Music Teachers' Association, and next year will play in Wellington again.

The affection as well as respect in which this charismatic NZ artist is held was underlined by the capacity audiences that recently streamed to fill both the Royal Festival Hall and the Christchurch Town Hall, as well as an American venue, to join in celebrating her 60th birthday.


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