Baritone Roderick Williams signs as a composer: ‘Lockdown has brought boundaries, but we can adapt’

25 January 2021, 17:52

Baritone and composer Roderick Williams
Baritone and composer Roderick Williams. Picture: Benjamin Ealovega

By Rosie Pentreath

The British Baritone and composer on his new signing with iconic classical music publisher, Edition Peters, and working within the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic.

British Baritone Roderick Williams OBE recently announced that he’s signing as a composer to Edition Peters.

“To think that Edition Peters has believed in me and my music enough to invest in our future together both inspires me and also gives me cause to re-assess my own perception of my music,” Williams tells Classic FM.

He laughs, adding: “I’m going to have to start taking myself a little more seriously!”

Read more: ‘Classical music expresses the universality of human experience’ – composer Adolphus Hailstork >

Welcoming Roderick Williams to Edition Peters

The classical music publisher, Edition Peters was founded in Leipzig in 1800, and is known for publishing core classical works, its earliest output including Haydn’s string quartets, and chamber works by Mozart.

Williams, an in-demand performer, has been composing for a long time alongside his career as a top baritone.

“I’ve written music for people around me. First it was my family, then school and university friends and, later, students when I was a teacher,” he tells us.

He describes a desire to allow performers to make his music their own; to “feel blessed to express themselves” through his music.

“I enjoy hearing when other people turn what I have written into sound; into living music,” he says.

“I guess that sounds like a bit of an ego trip but, in my defence, I really enjoy the way people interpret what I’ve written and make more of it than I had imagined possible. I welcome that instinctive input from performers, I suppose because I am one myself.”

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DEEP RIVER: Roderick Williams & Roger Vignoles

For Williams, composers have a unique ability to adapt and use limitations as inspiration, something especially needed in the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Of all the groups of people who might have been able to exploit the concept of lockdown, I think composers are one of the most obvious.

“Opportunities for premieres and performance have been badly affected, yes, but on the positive side many composers have to discipline themselves to find time and the correct space to write music, often going to great lengths to find a remote spot in isolation, so we know how to make use of these conditions.”

He continues: “Composers can be very adaptable, and that is a strength. I personally find being given specific requirements a spur to composition, whether it be an unusual performance venue, the combination of performers or specific context for the piece.”

Indeed, lockdown has enabled Williams to focus on composition more than ever.

“I have managed to tackle several projects that had been on the back burner for some time,” he says. “And when live music does return, I have a stack of premieres to offer the unsuspecting public!”

It’s not easy though: “While composers can adapt and, wherever possible, turn such limitations into inspiring possibilities, it is still unfortunate to have to begin any project from a position of boundaries.”