SIONED WILLIAMS Hon.FTCL; FRAM; FWCMD; Dip.RAM; LRAM; LWCMD; FISM
Principal Harpist, BBC Symphony Orchestra
Emeritus Senior Fellow in Harp Studies, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
President, United Kingdom Harp Association
Honorary Research Fellow RAM
Sioned’s imaginative approach to the harp has earned her an enviable reputation as a performer and creator of unique flair and individuality. As Principal Harpist of the BBCSO since 1990, she has enjoyed working with respected conductors including Belohlavek, Boulez, Bychkov, Davis, Lazarev, Oramo, Robertson and Slatkin, and composers Adams, Cage, Carter, Gubaidulina, Harvey, Knussen, Tippett, Turnage, and countless others, in hundreds of premières and in Radio 3 and television broadcasts. As a concerto soloist, Sioned has performed all the standard repertoire as well as more unusual works including premièring A Persian Reflection by Tafreshipour, and No Doubt by Fitkin on Camac Harp’s innovative Midi pedal harp (for which she was awarded a special medal). In recitals, Sioned has collaborated with Michael Chance, Martyn Hill, Steven Isserlis, Neil Mackie, Aurèle Nicolet, Mark Padmore, Andrew Watts, Roderick Williams and Jeremy Huw Williams. Sioned also performs with the BBC Singers, The Sixteen, The Holst Singers, Cantamus, Tenebrae, Westminster Cathedral and Abbey, King’s College Cambridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, Winchester Quiristers and Oxford Voices, and her extensive discography includes partnerships with James Galway, Lisa Milne, Anthony Rolfe-Johnson and Frederica von Stade. In 2012 the disc of Debussy Danses Sacrée et Profane with the Brodsky Quartet for Chandos, was brilliantly reviewed.
Sioned is renowned for commissioning new works for harp; a passionate researcher and scholar, she presents lively and engaging presentations on a wide range of subjects: The harp in Wales – an unbroken tradition, and a new outlook; The harp in Britain – composers and players; Blind John Parry – Master of High Baroque; John Thomas – Harpist to the Queen (Victoria); Benjamin Britten – his harp legacy; The lesser-known works of Hasselmans; The spirit and passion of Ruskin; New music, innovation and the importance of collaboration; A Welsh harpist’s spiral of English delights; Demystifying Berio’s Sequenza for harp; Contemporary writing for harp; The orchestral harpist; The diverse harpist; A portrait of folk-music within original music for harp; J.S.Bach -Suite BWV 1006a the research and the consequence.
Sioned pioneered integrated harp courses in Britain and is enterprising in her teaching, creative workshops, lectures, seminars and master classes. Awarded an Emeritus Senior Fellow in Harp Studies at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, Sioned is also President of the United Kingdom Harp Association (UKHA) and was the first Welsh board member of the World Harp Congress. She continues to write articles and reviews, and is creating an archive of harp-related materials. In 2013 she launched ‘Sioned’s Spiralling 60th’ a concept for her 6th decade. In the same year she premièred four new solos for harp in Wales, England and Ireland, presented research on John Thomas in the Netherlands, and toured with Joshua Bell and the ASMF around Europe. Highlights of 2014 included a short documentary on S4C, a recital and presentation on ‘Creative Programming’ in Cardiff; a French and British programme with her Nimrod Harp Trio at the Lake District Summer Music and a broadcast of the harp concerto by Josef Jongen with the BBCNOW and Jac van Steen live from the Gregynog Festival. Also in 2014 The Park Lane Group honoured Sioned in a uniquely presented recital of six new solo harp works by eminent English composers (commissioned by Sioned) in the Purcell Room, and the same sold-out event was also a highlight of the UKHA’s 50th Anniversary celebrations. In 2015 Sioned recorded Spirals by Paul Patterson on the SFZ label, and in 2016, she appeared on the STONE label performing The Drowning of Capel Celyn and Dylan by Michael Stimpson (A song-cycle, with renowned baritone Roderick Williams), all of which were most favorably reviewed. In the same year, Sioned also became an Ambassador for the ISM.
In 2017, Sioned appeared on Manoto Persian TV speaking about Beethoven and Mozart’s contribution to the harp repertoire, and interviewed the legendary jazz harpist David Snell for the UKHA in a special youtube video. She gave detailed analytical and performance classes on Berio’s unique Sequenza for harp, examined undergraduates and Masters students in their final examinations at the GSMD and the RAM, and was made an Honorary Research Fellow at the RAM.
2018 Sioned teamed up with superb jazz/blues harpists Tara Minton and Brenda Dor-Groot in two private performances, and in January was accepted as a member of the Royal Society of Musicians. During February she gave an insight into the life and music of John Thomas ‘Harpist to the Queen’ for ‘Retreat to the Harp’ in London.
April 2018 will be a very special month for Sioned; from April 1-7 she will return to North Wales to take part in the Wales International Harp Festival in Caernarfon. Here she will perform Britten and Rutter with the Palestrina Choir from Dublin, Ireland, and give the Welsh premiere of The Drowning of Capel Celyn by Michael Stimpson, hold a master-class on varied works, and be a member of the select panel for the main ‘Pencerdd’ competition.
On 13 Aril 2018, Sioned will give her last concert as Principal Harpist with the BBCSO, at the Barbican Concert Hall, with Sir Andrew Davis at the helm.
After that- ‘watch this space’ as Sioned releases more energy for her creative ideas…!