Spotlight on NRSO Musician – Richard Williams

Richard Williams – timpanist

Richard WilliamsFor this concert we highlight the role of Richard Williams, one of the core musicians in the Northern Rivers Symphony Orchestra who has been performing in our percussion section for over a decade.  The veteran timpanist is also a committee member and stage manager – he is always there to perform the arduous task of setting up the stage before every concert and packing up afterwards.  Here, we ask Richard to tell us a little bit about himself:

How did you decide to become a timpani player?

At age 13 my mother took me to an orchestral concert of The St Louis Symphony Orchestra.  I was immediately fascinated with the percussion players especially the timpani player.  The timpanist was considered the solo position in the orchestra and I soon found out why.  The timpanist plays similar notes as the trumpet and string bass players, and is very dominant in a lot of classical pieces of music by all the great composers.  I got private lessons from the late great Rholand Koloff who was the solo timpanist for the New York Philharmonic for over 30 years.  I still watch him on YouTube playing in Fanfare For The Common Man by Aaron Copeland with the New York Philharmonic conducted by James Levine.  It is well worth the watching of as he was considered one of the greatest.

When did you arrive in the Tweed region and how did you find the NRSO?

I arrived in the Tweed Heads area in 2005 and had just finished my 23 years as solo timpanist with the Queensland Pops Orchestra under the late conductor, Colin Harper.  I was invited to play solo timpani for the Northern Rivers Symphony Orchestra under its founder, Barry Singh, in a rehearsal for a Gala concert.  Barry was impressed with my playing and offered me the position as solo timpanist for the NRSO and I have been playing ever since.

Tell us about one of your favourite classical pieces that you like to perform and why is it special?

My favorite classical pieces are the symphonies of Gustav Mahler as they use a lot of timpani and percussion.  My first ever piece of music I performed as solo timpanist was with the California Youth Symphony, playing Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique at the War Memorial Opera House of San Francisco when I was just 16 years of age.  The interesting thing is that Berlioz used the timpani to portray thunder for the storm scene in his symphony.  The same storm sounds are required for Beethoven Symphony No. 6, subtitled the Pastoral Symphony, in which I will play the timpani thunder sounds in the 3rd movement.  The upcoming concert entitled PASTORAL INTERLUDE by the NRSO will be performed on Sunday 7th April, 2.30pm at the Tweed Heads Civic Centre conducted by Dr Warwick Potter.