Q&A with Diana Weir

Auckland Philharmonia’s Joshua Clark interviewed our newly appointed Chief Executive Diana Weir as she commences her role with the orchestra.

Welcome to Auckland Diana, it is so exciting to have you on board with the Auckland Philharmonia! How have your first experiences of Tāmaki Makaurau been?

I’ve been so spoiled by the warm welcome I’ve received from musicians, staff, board members, volunteers and our concert audience. I’ve been enjoying my time in the office and rehearsals and feel lucky that we have the Auckland Town Hall, a beautiful public asset, here in our city.

Outside the office, my husband and I have been exploring the beaches around Auckland and are feeling very inspired by the region’s  vast coastline—which is definitely not so common where I come from in Canada!

I understand you have a long-standing love of classical music. Do you play any instruments yourself? 

Yes! I play some very enthusiastic—but rather mediocre—amateur piano. I got my undergraduate degree in piano and have had the privilege of serving as a church choir leader and music director for a good deal of my pre-Auckland life. I think community music-making is incredibly important in a region’s musical ecosystem and I get excited working with non-professional musicians who hold a deep joy of participating in music with others.

What is the first piece of music that made a lasting impression on you, and why did it resonate so much?

My early years had a lot of music in them. I was put (one might say “forced”) into piano lessons at a young age by my mother and my father. We always had an eclectic collection of records and CDs lying around the house. I remember receiving my first CD as a gift when I was very young, and feeling so special that this recording was mine. I listened to it over and over again and remember being so affected by the string instrumentation in one of its famous songs. It was the Beatles’ Revolver and it’s still one of my favourites.

What is the first concert experience you remember?

I was probably five years old when my father and mother took me to see the iconic Irish band, The Chieftains, live in Toronto. I remember sitting on my dad’s lap and being mesmerised by the Irish dancers who came out toward the end of their set. One of the reasons I find our Learn & Participate programme so inspiring is its ability to give young people their early moment of inspiration around live music. I, personally, still feel that childlike wonder when I experience a great piece of orchestral music.

I didn’t attend a symphonic concert until I was a young adult. One night after work I bought a $6 ticket to hear Britten’s War Requiem at the Roy Thomson Hall by myself. I was so moved by the experience—the orchestra, the chorus, the soloists, Britten’s pacifist message. It’s one of my most impactful concert memories.

If you could attend any music event or performance in the world, regardless of time or place, what would it be and why?

July 13, 1985. Queen performs at Wembley Stadium for Live Aid. My husband and I watch that performance on YouTube all the time just for fun.

What is a favourite thing to do for yourself?

One of my favourite ways to pass a Saturday morning is with a cup of tea (orange pekoe with milk and sugar—the British way!) and a good magazine. I love the tactile nature of print media and cannot get on board with digital subscriptions to my favourite magazines.

But, if I’m really being honest, the answer to this question should be—sleep in.

Are there any highlights in our 2024 season that really appeal to your musical interests?

What I love about working for symphony orchestras is how we present such a diverse spectrum of music throughout the year, activating our orchestra as a library of sounds that can be shaped to perform everything from Schoenberg to Sondheim, from Schumann to Ché Fu.

Personally, I’m looking forward to hearing our orchestra perform the epic Tristan und Isolde. Having started my career in opera, I love any opportunity to hear Wagner. I’m equally excited to celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Lion King and offer up some Bernstein West Side Story alongside the New Zealand premiere of Wynton Marsalis’ Violin Concerto. I appreciate how any Aucklander can look at our season and find something they might enjoy. This commitment to offering events for all tastes in our city is one of the reasons I was excited to take this job.

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