Judith Weir’s music has been appreciated by audiences and critics alike. She trained with John Tavener while still at school and subsequently with Robin Holloway at King's College, Cambridge, graduating in 1976. Her music is characterised by a distinctive textural clarity and a lucid but idiosyncratic harmonic idiom. Often drawing on sources from medieval history, as well as the traditional stories and music of her native Scotland, she is best known for her operas and theatre works, although she has also achieved international recognition for her orchestral and chamber works.
Weir's musical language is fairly conservative in its mechanics, but her ear for sonority and effect, and ability to make simple ideas sound fresh, makes her work free of modern-music clichés, while at the same time being interesting, approachable and communicative. Her operatic musical writing is sometimes compared to Britten's. Her first stage work, The Black Spider, was a one act opera which premiered in Canterbury in 1985. She has subsequently written one more "micro-operas", three full length operas, and an opera for television. In 1987, her first half length opera, A Night at the Chinese Opera, premiered at Kent Opera. This was followed by her other two full length operas The Vanishing Bridegroom (1990) and Blond Eckbert (1994), the latter commissioned by the English National Opera. In 2005 her opera Armida, an opera for television, premiered on Channel Four in the United Kingdom). The work was made in co-operation with Margaret Williams.
Weir's commissioned works most notably include woman.life.song (2000) for Jessye Norman and We are Shadows (1999) for Simon Rattle.
From 1995 to 2000, she was the Artistic Director of the Spitalfields Festival in London. She held the post of Composer in Association for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra from 1995 to 1998. She received the Lincoln Center's Stoeger Prize in 1997 and in 2001 the South Bank Show music award.
According to The Independent newspaper, "Judith Weir has brought new hope to those who thought modern music could never be tuneful and original".
In January 2008, Weir was the focus of the BBC's annual composer weekend at the Barbican Centre in London. The four days of programmes ended with a first performance of her new commission, CONCRETE, a choral motet. The subject of this piece was inspired by the Barbican building itself - she describes it as 'an imaginary excavation of the Barbican Centre, burrowing through 2,500 years of historical rubble'.