Williams, Roderick


Roderick Williams is active in the opera house, on the concert platform and in recital, encompassing a repertoire from the baroque to world premieres.

He has enjoyed close associations with Opera North and Scottish Opera, and has also worked for English National Opera and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. As at home in contemporary music as in the standard repertoire, he has taken roles in the world premieres of Sally Beamish's Monster (for Scottish Opera), David Sawer's From Morning to Midnight and Martin Butler's A Better Place (for English National Opera) and Alexander Knaifel's Alice in Wonderland and Michel van der Aa's After Life (for Netherlands Opera). Further contemporary roles include Jaufre Rudel in Saariaho's L'amour de loin (ENO), Eddie in Mark-Anthony Turnage's Greek (BBC) and roles in Tippett's The Knot Garden (Barbican) and Birtwistle's The Second Mrs Kong (Royal Festival Hall).

He has taken major roles in conductor Richard Hickox's semi-staged performances of opera, including Britten's Gloriana (Aldeburgh, 2003), Walton's Troilus and Cressida and most of the Vaughan Williams operas.  Other concert performances include Henze, Strauss, Stravinsky and Wagner (Donner in Das Rheingold for ENO).

He is an accomplished recital artist who can be heard at Wigmore Hall, at many festivals, and on Radio 3, where he has appeared on Iain Burnside's 'Voices' programme.  His numerous recordings include Vaughan Williams, Berkeley and Britten operas for Chandos, and an extensive repertoire of English song with pianist Iain Burnside for Naxos. Roderick Williams is also a composer and has had works premiered at the Wigmore and Barbican Halls, the Purcell Room and live on national radio.


BCMG was formed in 1987 from within the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and is established as one of Europe’s leading ensembles.   Sir Simon Rattle is the Group’s Founding Patron and has conducted BCMG in the UK, on tour in Europe and America, and on several EMI recordings. The Group has strong relationships with its two Artists-in-Association Oliver Knussen and John Woolrich, and also with Thomas Adès who conducts the Group during 2006/07 in Birmingham, London, Cologne and Paris, and with whom BCMG is invited to Carnegie Hall, New York in 2008. BCMG was awarded The Arts Ball 2002 Outstanding Achievement Award and has also won prestigious Prudential, Royal Philharmonic Society, Gramophone and PRS Millennial awards. In May 2005, BCMG was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Audience Development for its popular Rural Tours programme.
The core of BCMG's work is the performance of new music, and the Group has premiered over 100 new works by leading UK and overseas composers. Most have been commissioned with the help of a large number of individuals through BCMG’s ground-breaking Sound Investmentscheme. The Group regularly tours nationally and internationally. Recent UK engagements have included appearances at the Aldeburgh and Cheltenham Festivals, and at the BBC Proms with Birmingham Opera Company for Benjamin Britten’s CurlewRiver.  In April 2006, the Group toured the UK with New York-based jazz trumpeter, Dave Douglas, performing Blue Latitudes, a piece commissioned through BCMG’s Sound Investment scheme. Previous projects have included a European tour with Sir Simon Rattle in 2000, a tour of India in 2002 with Judith Weir and Indian storyteller Vayu Naidu and visits to the Berlin, Radio France Présences and Vienna’s Wien Modern Festivals, Denmark, Sweden and Portugal.   
BCMG is committed to engaging the widest possible range of people with its work, and runs extensive learning and audience-building programmes in pursuit of this aim. Projects with young people in and out of school and with adults in a range of community settings are complemented by free performance projects such as the Group’s popular ‘Rural Tours’, Late-Night performances and Meet-the-Composer days. BCMG broadcasts often on BBC Radio, has made TV programmes for BBC and Independent Television, and numerous CD recordings.  The relationship with NMC is particularly strong, with the recent launch of a new CD of Britten’s film music and several more discs planned.

Yates, Christopher


Christopher Yates began studying the viola at the age of seven and at sixteen won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. He studied there with Stephen Shingles and other teachers have included Bruno Giuranna, Nobuko Imai and the members of the Amadeus Quartet. Whilst still a student, Christopher gave the UK Premiere of Penderecki’s Viola Concerto in the presence of the composer, which was highly acclaimed in the national press. He was the first viola player to reach the national final of the LSO String Competition where he played the Bartók Concerto with the LSO in the Barbican.

At the age of 22 he became the principal viola with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and became the viola section leader with the CBSO eighteen months later. He has appeared as a soloist with the CBSO on many occasions, playing the solo parts in Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, Tippett’s Triple Concerto, and Britten’s Lachrymae.

Christopher has appeared as a soloist at the Aldeburgh and Cheltenham festivals and gives recitals regularly at music clubs around the UK. In addition to his performing commitments he enjoys teaching and has taught for a number of years at Birmingham Conservatoire. He plays on a viola made by John Lott, circa 1830.

Image Credit: 

Brabbins, Martyn

Artistic Director of the Cheltenham International Festival of Music 2005-2007, he was Associate Principal Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra 1994-2005. He is Principal Guest Conductor of the Royal Flemish Philharmonic, a position which started in September 2009. After studying composition in London and then conducting with Ilya Musin in Leningrad, his career was launched when he won first prize at the 1988 Leeds Conductors' Competition. Since then Brabbins has regularly conducted all the major UK orchestras and is much sought-after in Europe, notably in Germany, Holland, Belgium and Scandinavia.   
Brabbins’ symphonic engagements have included appearances at London's  South Bank in subscription with the London Philharmonic and Philharmonia orchestras, his Tokyo debut, with the Tokyo Metropolitan (where he returns in 2011); and visits to the Netherlands Radio Chamber in the prestigious Matinee series, the Residentie Orkest, Salzburg Mozarteumorchester and Lahti Symphony.  He is a regular guest with the City of Birmingham Symphony, Halle and BBC Philharmonic orchestras, and appears several times each season with the BBC Symphony and BBC Scottish Symphony orchestras in subscription and at the BBC Proms.


Howard Skempton - Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
  • Total duration: 63'25
  • CD | PRICE £12.99
  • MP3 | 320K 44.1 KHz
    108.0 MB
     | PRICE £7.99
  • FLAC 16 | 16bit 44.1 KHz
    227.00 MB
     | PRICE £8.99
  • FLAC 24 | 24bit 88.2 KHz
    967.00 MB
     | PRICE £13.99
  • Album Booklet PDF | FREE



Roderick Williams baritone
Christopher Yates viola
Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
Martyn Brabbins conductor

Perfectly crafted, deceptively simplistic and distinctively individual, Howard Skempton's compositions have a soundworld all of their own. This new full-length album on NMC perfectly displays his experimental, yet sonorous and tonal music.

Skempton takes on Coleridge's poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and brings it to life, using just solo voice (baritone) and small chamber ensemble. The result is a stunning, dark and hypnotic journey led by the almost constant, magnetic presence of Roderick Williams, for whose voice and dramatic capabilities the piece was conceived.  

Only the Sound Remains takes its name from the opening line of The Mill-Water by English poet Edward Thomas. The piece is an evocation of loss and decay, where textures, and melodies mysteriously recur, while others simply fade beautifully out of aural reach. It is written for sixteen players, including solo viola.

This is a stunning premiere recording of two recent works by one of Britain's finest living composers.


Watch Roderick Williams and Howard Skempton in conversation here.


Read Howard Skempton's live Twitter Q&A here.







'[Skempton's] deceptively simple setting of Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner ... is hypnotically effective' The Times

‘Hugely evocative … Williams is, as ever, the most spellbinding of story-tellers’ Presto Classical

'Haunting and gripping' BBC Radio 3 'Record Review'

‘Superbly recorded and informatively annotated, this is a valuable addition to Skempton’s expanding discography and welcome acknowledgement of his significance in his 70th year.’ Gramophone

'The typical Skempton traits - clarity, deceptive simplicity and apparently familiar yet fresh and capricious language are all here, sensitively conveyed by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group' BBC Music Magazine ★★★★★

‘hypnotic … this is a great album’ American Record Guide

'If you buy just one disc of contemporary music this year, get this one' The Arts Desk

‘Howard Skempton’s music doesn’t wait to be admired, it engages actively in communication.’ The Wire

‘These two works are not to be missed, and I can’t conceive of better performances than these. Skempton has raised the bar for himself.’ Fanfare

‘Roderick Williams […] delivers the vocal part with sensitivity, clarity, intelligence and unfailingly good diction.’ Opera News

‘Sometimes it’s hypnotic, sometimes playful and with continual surprises.’ OperaRamblings


The two works on this album were commissioned by Maurice and Sheila Millward. NMC would like to thank them for generously supporting this recording.


The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was recorded on 25 November 2016 at All Saints, Tooting, London. Only the Sound Remains was recorded on 27 November 2016 at CBSO Centre, Birmingham.


DAVID LEFEBER Recording Engineer & Producer



Oxford University Press
Catalogue number:
NMC D234
Release Date:
21 April 2017