Chris Beckett’s book of poetry about his upbringing in Ethiopia was brought to my attention by chance by a pianist with whom I was rehearsing. My gaze happened to fall on the book and I picked it up, asking about its author, a friend of my accompanist. As I opened it to rifle through, I happened upon the final poem in the book The goodbye tree, and a sense of music began to play immediately in my head. I knew instinctively that my search for texts for this very special Chineke! commission was over. The dust and the heat, the rhythms, the colours, the infectious joy, the impish cheekiness of Beckett’s poems screamed out to me as being the perfect match for the effervescent spirit of this unique orchestra. I was a little apprehensive in contacting Chris, afraid he might not be that happy to have me play with his poetic creation but his response was just as joyous. I know above all else that setting Chris’ poetry was going to be a great deal of fun. – Roderick Williams
About Roderick Williams
Roderick Williams is one of the most sought after baritones of his generation with a wide repertoire spanning baroque to contemporary. He enjoys relationships with all the major UK opera houses and has sung opera world premieres by David Sawer, Sally Beamish, Michel van der Aa, Robert Saxton and Alexander Knaifel as well as roles including Papageno, Don Alfonso, Onegin and Billy Budd.
He performs regularly with leading conductors and orchestras throughout the UK, Europe, North America and Australia, and his many festival appearances include the BBC Proms, Edinburgh, Cheltenham and Aldeburgh.
As a composer he has had works premiered at Wigmore Hall, the Barbican, the Purcell Room and on national radio. In December 2016 he won the prize for Best Choral Composition at the British Composer Awards.
Roderick Williams was awarded an OBE in June 2017 and was nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Opera in both the 2018 and 2019 Olivier Awards.