Roderick Williams

Although better known to some as a baritone soloist, Roderick Williams’ reputation as a composer is growing steadily. His Advent antiphon ‘O Adonai’, published by Oxford University Press, has received numerous performances and recordings around the world. He has since been much in demand as a choral and vocal composer.

For the vocal ensemble ‘I Fagiolini’ Roderick’s works include ‘Dr Seuss’ Sleep Thoughts’, ‘Is 5’, ‘Die Oop Lucht’ and ‘A Word in your Ear’. His work with I Fagiolini in collaboration with a choir from Soweto culminated in the album ‘Simunye’ for which he composed and arranged much of the music.

He has received commissions from Ex Cathedra, Concordia, and Choros Amici as well as requests for songs from many of his singing colleagues. His song ‘A Coat’ appears on the NMC label’s 2009 review of British song writing, Songbook.

Roderick’s Jazz Choral Evensong service was written in 2006 in homage to Duke Ellington, and was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in June that year. This was followed by a BBC Radio 4 commission of an accompanying Matins service, broadcast in February 2007.

An expansion of Purcell’s ‘Come ye Sons of Art’ was commissioned by the South Bank Centre and performed by the Sixteen, the OAE and a 200 strong community Gospel choir, in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen in October 2007. Roderick broadcast his own orchestrated arrangements of ‘Ol’ Man River’ and ‘Joshua fit de battle of Jericho’ on the BBC Last Night of the Proms in 2014, accompanied by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Sakari Oramo.

I tend not to follow a specific process; sometimes I create a challenge for myself, such as writing in canon or over a ground, more for fun than as an academic exercise. So I am certainly more sporadic than systematic. If I feel inspiration strike, then I know I have to get the music down on the page as quickly as possible because no amount of compositional technique can mask a lack of inspiration. Most often though, I find myself going through the same old phases as I write; I start off with an idea, work at it for a bit and then realise that it’s complete rubbish. But then I work at it more and begin to think it might not be so bad. Soon I realise that I was right first time – it is rubbish after all, but at least I might have finished it to deadline. Then some time afterwards, I come to think that it maybe wasn’t totally worthless and feel glad to have finished it at least. And so I continue to bounce backwards and forwards for ever afterwards!
— Roderick Williams

Ave Verum Corpus Re-Imagined

A reflection on William Byrd Mass for 5 Voices

William Byrd’s Ave Verum Corpus is a piece that I have known since my days as a treble chorister and I grew up in awe of its carefully measured harmony and effortless counterpoint. Like any choral singer, I have my favourite moments within the piece – the scrunching false relations, the question and answer exclamations, the mournful coda – and so I sought to write a piece that would focus specifically on these highlights and expand upon them. Its composition is an act of homage to a masterful composer.

WORLD PREMIERE: 10th February 2016, Tower of London

ALBUM: Upheld by Stillness

AWARD: British Composer Award 2016, Choral Category