Tim Williams was born in Liverpool and trained as a timpanist and percussionist at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. On graduating, he formed Psappha, a specialist new music ensemble providing opportunities for composers of all ages to collaborate with its musicians to create new works. Since its formation in 1991 Tim has been the ensemble’s Artistic Director and has commissioned more than 500 works.
Tim is an active performer, serving as Psappha’s percussionist/timpanist as well as performing with a wide range of orchestras and ensembles at home and abroad. He has been featured on BBC Radio 3 and on many commercial recordings throughout his career. He is one of a handful of musicians in the UK who are expert in the cimbalom, a hammered dulcimer that is Hungary’s national instrument. More than 50 works have been written especially for him over the past 20 years.
He worked closely with Peter Maxwell Davies who served as Psappha’s first Patron from 1995 until his death in 2016 and has enjoyed collaborating with Mark-Anthony Turnage, its current Patron. Both composers have written for Psappha, notably Davies’ chamber opera Mr Emmet Takes a Walk and Turnage’s Black Milk for large ensemble and jazz singer. He has been fortunate to work with many of the world’s leading composers including Harrison Birtwistle (who invited him to perform The Axe Manual on his 83rd birthday) and György Kurtàg through a series of performances of his Scenes from a Novel.
Tim has taken the ensemble and the music created for it to five continents, touring Europe and performing at the likes of the Guggenheim in New York, the Barossa Arts Festival in South Australia, the Jerusalem Festival and at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.
Tim devised Psappha’s Composing For… scheme, a pioneering initiative that invites emerging composers to develop a new work with an individual musician or a duo over a ten month period, culminating in a day of filming and providing a calling card for the composer. The scheme supported more the 160 composers between 2016-22 . Through a close collaboration with the New York Philharmonic he launched Very Young Composers, a new scheme that gives primary school children the chance to develop their creativity with no prior musical knowledge through enquiry-based learning. The pilot scheme took place in the summer term of 2022 in two deprived areas of Merseyside. It follows on from Psappha Kids, a free online resource devised by Tim to aid the teaching of music by non-music specialists in primary schools through a video-based scheme of fun, creative and informative work.
He has edited and produced the hundreds of beautifully shot films for Psappha’s YouTube channel, featuring live performances, workshops and composer introductions. He has also produced eight commercial recordings on Psappha’s own label which are available through NMC Recordings.
After three decades as its artistic director, Williams stepped down in the summer of 2022, passing the baton to Benjamin Powell, leaving an imaginative legacy of learning and creativity for audiences, composers and performers alike.
Tim has also worked in the theatre with the Royal Shakespeare Company, with Mark Rylance’s own company, at Contact Theatre and at the Bolton Octagon. His particular interest in new music led him to form the ensemble Psappha in 1991. Since its inception he has been its Artistic Director and percussionist. With the ensemble he has performed throughout the UK, in Europe (France, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Ireland & Belgium), North America (New York and San Francisco), South America (Caracas and Buenos Aires), Hong Kong, Australia (Barossa Festival) and most recently at the Jerusalem Festival.
He has been featured prominently in such works as Stockhausen’s Kontakte (also broadcast on BBC Radio 3), Birtwistle’s The Axe Manual (including a performance for the composers 83rd birthday), Peter Maxwell Davies’s Stedman Doubles (original 1955 version) (also recorded for CD, film and BBC Radio 3), Steven Mackey’s Micro-Concerto (UK tour and CD recording), Martin Butler’s Going with the Grain, Gordon McPherson Little Moses (also recorded for CD and BBC Radio 3), Alvarez’s Temazcal, Boulez’s Le Marteau sans Maitre (also recorded for BBC Radio 3) and Anthony Gilbert’s Moonfaring (UK tour and recorded for CD).
In 1999 Tim Williams went to Budapest, bought a cimbalom (Hungary’s national instrument) and taught himself to play it, going on to perform many works on the cimbalom including Stravinsky’s Renard (BBC Proms, BCMG (This is Rattle)) and Ragtime (BBC Proms & Britten Sinfonia) , Jonathan Harvey’s Weltethos (CBSO UK première), Boulez’s Eclat/Multiples (London Sinfonietta), Mackey’s Five Animated Shorts (Network for New Music, Philadelphia and Princeton and with Psappha, Cheltenham Festival, Lancaster, webcast and CD recording), Peter Maxwell Davies’s Image, Reflection, Shadow (UK tour), Peter Maxwell Davies’s Sonatina and Farewell to Stromness. In 2001 he worked on Scenes from a Novel with its composer György Kurtág at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. He has had works written for him by Gordon McPherson (Memory Crash and Lorelei), Anthony Gilbert (Vers de Lune) and John Casken (Fractured Lines). He has also taken part in Kodály’s singspiel Háry János on a number of occasions, Howard Shaw’s Lord of the Rings Symphony (RSNO) and Kurtág’s Stele (RSNO).
Since 2008 Tim has developed Psappha’s online presence and has directed all the films you find on Psappha’s YouTube Channel. Tim is a Sabian Artist
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