30 Years of New Music


Founder Tim Williams to step down as Artistic Director following 30th-anniversary season, to be replaced by pianist Benjamin Powell

Psappha, the North West’s only stand-alone professional contemporary classical music ensemble, celebrates its 30th birthday with a packed season of concerts in Manchester and around the UK in 2021-22. The ensemble’s 30th-anniversary season will also be the last directed by founding Artistic Director Tim Williams, who is stepping back at the end of the season and will be replaced at the helm by pianist Benjamin Powell.

Psappha’s 2021-22 season looks back on some of the keynote works commissioned and premiered by Psappha over its three decades at the forefront of contemporary classical music in the UK – and also looks ahead, with 16 world premieres from composers including Simon Holt, Bethan Morgan-Williams and Ben Gaunt. The 30th-anniversary season includes:

  • Concerts in London, Cambridge, Halifax and Sheffield, alongside a full season of concerts at Hallé St Peter’s in Manchester.
  • The launch of a new relationship with NMC Recordings in September, which will see the reissue of seven previous Psappha recordings and the release in February 2022 of a new recording of Psappha-commissioned works by John Casken, Tom Coult, Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade, Alissa Firsova, Tom Harrold and George Stevenson.
  • The continuation of Psappha’s Composing For… scheme, which has supported more than 140 composers since its launch in 2014 and will this year see the group work with 24 emerging composers to create, record and film 24 brand new pieces.
  • The launch of Psappha’s new Very Young Composers Scheme, a pioneering initiative delivered in collaboration with the New York Philharmonic through which the group will work with Key Stage 2 pupils from school years 5 and 6 (ages 9-11) to encourage their musical interest, enthusiasm and development.
  • A special concert to open the Pordenone Silent Film Festival in Italy, performing Carl Davis’s score to Ernst Lubitsch’s 1925 film of Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan.
  • The world premieres of Pay the Piper, a new production for Glyndebourne Youth Opera written by four young composers, and Tin Man, a family show by Joss Arnott Dance with a new score by composer Anna Appleby.

Tim Williams, who founded Psappha in 1991 and has served as its sole Artistic Director, will be stepping down from his role at the head of the ensemble at the end of the season. His replacement as Artistic Director will be Benjamin Powell, the brilliant pianist who has performed with the group since 2014. Tim will continue to perform with Psappha, whose focus under Ben will remain firmly on the music of the late 20th and early 21st centuries – and particularly on encouraging, commissioning and performing music by some of the brightest and most exciting new composers from the UK and beyond.


Mark-Anthony Turnage CBE, Psappha’s Patron
I owe a huge amount to Tim and to Psappha.

Firstly, an important friendship to me which has grown over thirty years. During that time, Tim has devotedly developed one of the most important – and most capable – ensembles in the world. The standard of playing, interpretation and care produced by every member of the ensemble has always been world-class and I am very proud to be so closely associated with them.

Secondly, the commitment to new music and young composers cannot be surpassed.  It is not easy for me to articulate what a significant difference this ensemble’s approach and attitude to heralding and curating new music has had not just on my life and progression; but dozens of others before me and since.

Thirdly – and perhaps most importantly for me – the memories. Memories of unbeatable performances of my music that I will never forget; periods of development and rehearsal with the most conscientious, positive and impressive group of players, support staff and leadership; collaboration with an artistic director who has always worked way beyond the call of duty to build the ensemble up to what is now the highest level of music performance; and finally – the honour and privilege of my association with Psappha, which I will cherish with the utmost regard for as long as they’ll have me.

I look forward to working closely with Ben and the rest of the team and send my warmest thanks, best wishes and love to my treasured friend and dear colleague, Tim Williams.


Tim Williams, Psappha’s Founding Artistic Director, said:
‘The past 30 years have flown by, and there have been so many highlights that it would take a book to list them. I’m grateful to the thousands of composers who have allowed me to share their creative journeys, and to the musicians, conductors, soloists, collaborators and co-commissioners who have been so loyal to the ensemble and its work. I feel incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved, but this anniversary feels like the right time for me to step down. Benjamin Powell is everything I would wish for in a successor: he’s an amazing musician who shares my enthusiasm and commitment to new music, and I wish him every success.’


Benjamin Powell, Psappha’s Artistic Director Designate, said:
‘I feel incredibly privileged to be taking on the role of Artistic Director Designate, just as I did when I was appointed as pianist in 2014. For me, the ensemble represents a striving to provide the best possible platform for new pieces, as well as for challenging and infrequently heard works of the last century. Tim has worked tirelessly to create and sustain Psappha and has had the courage and foresight to allow the group to adapt to the ever-changing cultural climate. The concerts I have performed with Psappha have been the highlights of my musical life, and I am enormously excited about the creative possibilities that lie ahead.’


Kate Stross, Psappha’s Chair, said:
‘We are very sad that Tim has decided to step down and want to record our thanks and appreciation for all he has done to develop Psappha since he founded it. Tim has been not only the musical inspiration behind the ensemble and a key player in it, he has also spearheaded contemporary music in Manchester in 30 years of original and ground-breaking programmes, as well as commissioning works and showcasing new compositional talent. Tim will be very much missed, but we are delighted to have been able to secure Ben Powell as our new Artistic Director Designate. We look forward very much to Tim’s final season in 2021-22, to Ben’s first season in 2022-23, and to the continued development of the ensemble thereafter.’


About Psappha
Psappha is the North West’s only stand-alone professional contemporary classical music ensemble. Founded in 1991 by Artistic Director Tim Williams, the group is dedicated to commissioning, performing and promoting new music – particularly by living composers and emerging musicians.

Throughout its 30-year career, Psappha has commissioned and premiered music by more than 500 composers and has performed across the UK and worldwide on five continents. In the process, it has worked with the likes of Aldeburgh Music, the BBC Philharmonic, the BBC Proms, BBC Radio 3, Glyndebourne Festival, NMC, Opera North, Phoenix Dance Theatre, the Royal Northern College of Music, University of Manchester and the Royal Opera House in the UK; Guggenheim New York, the New York Philharmonic and Princeton University in the USA; and Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, the Jerusalem Festival and Muziektheater Transparant worldwide.

Psappha supports composers at all stages of their careers, inviting them to work with its core musicians to create, develop and present new work. Through its pioneering ‘Composing For…’ scheme, which launched in 2014, the group has worked directly with more than 140 emerging composers on brand new compositions. All these works are premiered via high-quality films on the group’s extensive YouTube channel, which contains more than 230 free-to-view films of live performances and has received more than 120,000 views in the last 12 months alone. The group also launched its own record label in 2004, and its catalogue of recordings are set for re-release in 2021 through its new relationship with NMC Recordings.

Composer Mark-Anthony Turnage was appointed as Psappha’s Patron in 2018 – succeeding Peter Maxwell-Davies, former Master of the Queen’s Music, who served as Patron for 20 years and was an enthusiastic supporter of the group’s work until his death in 2016. An Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation and PRS Foundation Talent Development Partner, Psappha is based at Hallé St Michael’s, the former Italian Chapel in the central Manchester neighbourhood of Ancoats.


Psappha’s 2021-22 Season
Saturday 2 October 2021
Pordenone Silent Film Festival, Italy
Performing live to a screening of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1925 silent film of Lady Windermere’s Fan

Friday 8 October 2021
Hallé St Peter’s, Manchester
World premieres of new works by Michael Betteridge, Bofan Ma and Philip Rousiamanis, plus music by Tom Coult, Adam Gorb, Tom Harrold and Nina Whiteman


Thursday 25 November 2021
Hallé St Peter’s, Manchester
World premieres of new works by Robert Reid Allan and Keting Sun, plus music by Gordon McPherson


Friday 4 February 2022
Hallé St Peter’s, Manchester
World premieres of new works by Rylan Gleave, Simon Holt, Derri Joseph Lewis and Bethan Morgan-Williams, plus music by Aaron Parker and Mark-Anthony Turnage

Thursday 17 February 2022
Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge
Music by Harrison Birtwistle, Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade, Simon Holt and Joanna Ward


Saturday 19 to Sunday 27 February 2022
Glyndebourne Youth Opera
Pay the Piper, the world premiere of a new opera by Anna Appleby, Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade, Cecilia Livingston and Ailie Robertson


Thursday 10 February 2022
Imperial College, London
Music by Shostakovich and Mark-Anthony Turnage


Friday 11 March 2022
Square Chapel, Halifax
Music by Berg, Shostakovich, Mark-Anthony Turnage and Kate Whitley


Thursday 31 March 2022
Hallé St Peter’s, Manchester
World premieres of new works by Nina Danon, Ben Gaunt, Athanasia Kontou, Electra Perivolaris and Lisa Robertson, plus music by Peter Maxwell-Davies and Anna Thorvaldsdottir


Friday 29th April 2022
Music in the Round, Sheffield
Music by Harrison Birtwistle, Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade, Simon Holt and Joanna Ward


Spring 2022 (dates TBA)
Venues TBA
Tin Man, the world premiere of a new stage work by Joss Arnott Dance with a new score by Anna Appleby