Roderick Williams on Butterworth and Vaughan Williams

Posted on: October 20, 2021 in: Comment & Media, Programmes

Roderick Williams is one of the most sought-after baritones of his generation and our Orchestra is privileged to share a long history of performances and recordings with him. We’re excited to perform with Roderick again in Origin: An authentic voice at Southwark Cathedral on Wednesday 27 October, especially following such as a challenging time. We asked him a few questions about the programme ahead of the concert.

First things first: When Alexandra Wood caught up with you during the first 2020 lockdown, you said that you couldn’t wait to go for a pint in the country pubs that you’d been cycling past. Have you managed to do plenty of this, amongst performing to audiences since restrictions ceased?

I have managed to get to the pub a few times since they have begun opening up, but the idea of cycling to local pubs hasn’t happened at all. Things have been so busy recently and I have been abroad a little. I’ve managed to ride my bicycle here in Warwickshire once in the past month only. It looks like that will have to wait for next summer!

We’re thrilled that you’re collaborating with us in the first concert of our Origin series, An authentic voice! How did the collaboration come about, and are you looking forward to working with our musicians again?

The collaboration came about in the way most of such opportunities come; someone rings or emails me and invites me to take part in a really lovely project. I say, ‘yes please’. It’s as simple as that. I love making music with chamber musicians and have so enjoyed my past concerts with CLS, especially our Bach in Southwark Cathedral. I never took such experiences for granted before Covid; I enjoyed every single moment then. But boy, I’m going to enjoy them now even more!

Roderick Williams
Roderick Williams singing Bach, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 2018

Not only are you performing some fabulous British music in this concert, but you’ve arranged some as well. Can you tell us about the pieces and what they mean to you?

Butterworth’s Six Songs from A Shropshire Lad is music that is especially familiar to me in my voice and piano recitals. I have sung them many times and I am aware of the effect they have on audiences wherever I go. It is not only I who holds them dear. I have sung them in various versions – full orchestra, chamber orchestra, strings alone – and it is particularly lovely for me to sing them in my own arrangements. It’s just a way for me to access the music on an even deeper level, to be more involved in the music.

The Vaughan Williams folksongs I met during the summer of the first lockdown, when recording in a studio was the only sort of music-making that was permissible. I was in a studio with pianist William Vann, who curated the complete folksongs project, and with tenor Nicky Spence and soprano Mary Bevan. There were many, many songs to record for those discs and I remember filing away numbers which I thought I might like to orchestrate at some later date. I’m so pleased the opportunity came sooner rather than later.

You have a long history of working with CLS, beginning in the Richard Hickox days, which makes you performing with us in our 50th Anniversary Season even more special! Are you able to tell us about some of your “golden” CLS memories?

Gosh… there are too many to mention! Only this morning I heard BBC Radio 3 playing the overture to Copland’s opera The Tender Land and I remembered we had performed that whole opera, rarely done nowadays, in concert. I really enjoyed that piece. I also loved singing Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos in the original version – longer, higher, more difficult – at the Barbican and then going to the pub with amazing American soprano Cyndia Sieden afterwards. She had sung Zerbinetta at stratospheric pitch and was there at the bar drinking pints like a normal human!

Recording Lennox Berkeley operas was also a great memory; that was Richard Hickox at his best. But, to be fair, there are so many concerts and recordings that we did together, it’s hard to pick a favourite.


Be sure to follow and get involved in #CLSat50 on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more information about our 50th Anniversary Season. You can also hear from the composers of our four new commissions this year on our podcast.

Browse our 50th Anniversary Season >>


Origin series

Discover the authentic voices of the British Isles as we explore how folksong has influenced composers, both past and present in ‘An authentic voice’ on Wednesday 27 October, 7pm. Get tickets>>

Explore the power of music to shock and change through pieces that have shifted contemporaries towards yet undiscovered soundworlds in ‘Shifting sounds’ on Thursday 4 November, 7pm. Get tickets>>

Immerse yourself in the diary of a young, autistic naturalist in the world premiere of ‘Scenes from the Wild’ on Thursday 25 November (7pm) and Saturday 27 November (2.30pm, 7pm). Get tickets>>

Celebrate 50 years of City of London Sinfonia, and many more years to come in ‘This is CLS’ on Thursday 3 March 2022, 7pm. Get tickets>>


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