Introducing... James Williams, Managing Director

How did you become involved with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO)?

Prior to working for the RPO, I worked for another London orchestra (the Philharmonia Orchestra) and prior to that, I worked in various roles in music education. My move to the RPO allowed me to bring together my passion and collective experience from both the fields of education and performance.

What was your first experience of orchestral music?

I was fortunate to grow up in Bournemouth, with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra as my local orchestra. At the age of seven, I went on a school trip and heard them play Janáček’s Sinfonietta: from that moment, I was hooked!

How did you find yourself on this career journey?

I’ve been extremely fortunate over the years to work with some fantastic colleagues who have inspired me and supported me to pursue a career in music. At times, it has required me to take some brave steps into the unknown and involved a great deal of long hours and hard work.

What is the best thing about being part of the RPO family?

There is a unified sense of purpose at the RPO that drives the passion of our musicians and staff that, even at the most testing of times, appears to be indefatigable. I feel truly blessed to work with such a remarkable group of talented people.

Tell us about your favourite RPO journey.

My favourite RPO journey is always the next RPO performance I’m about to hear: the beauty of live performance is that it is unpredictable and finite and that every concert is a unique learning experience.

Do you have any pre-concert rituals?

Finding time to eat pre-concert is always a challenge and often I find myself rushing from a meeting straight into the concert hall. I usually carry a supply of energy bars or dried fruit to keep me going and stop my stomach rumbling in the quiet moments!

Must listens – if you had to recommend one artist or composer, who would it be and why?

Carl Nielsen’s Symphony No.4, ‘The Inextinguishable’. It’s a work that celebrates the human spirit and, as Nielsen put it, ‘the elemental will to live’. It deserves a greater number of performances.

Symphonic crossover – if you could work with any artist on a performance or project, who would you choose?

I think it would probably be Björk: she’s a phenomenal artist and I think her music would lend itself beautifully to a symphonic collaboration.

Away from music, tell us two of your favourite hobbies and why they strike such a chord.

There’s little time for hobbies with such a busy job but I do enjoy a weekly swim in my local lido and when I can, getting in the garden and connecting back to nature.

Dream dinner party – who would you invite, what would you cook?

I love dinner parties that involve sharing food, so probably meze-style Middle Eastern cuisine would be on the menu. David Attenborough would be on my celebrity guest list alongside Shirley Bassey; I imagine both would have an endless supply of stories to tell that would make the evening go with a bang!


Written October 2023

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