Williams was born in North London to a Welsh father and a Jamaican mother. He attended Christ Church Cathedral School in Oxford and Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School, a public school in Hertfordshire. He was a choral scholar at Magdalen College, Oxford, and then became a music teacher. At the age of 28, he resumed music studies at the Guildhall School of Music in London. At Guildhall, he made his operatic debut as Tarquinius in Benjamin Britten's The Rape of Lucretia.
Williams first appeared at The Proms in 1996 as the Royal Herald in Verdi's Don Carlos. He was a soloist at the 2013 Proms production of Ralph Vaughan Williams' ‘A Sea Symphony’, and again in 2014 Last Night of the Proms, which included performances of his own arrangements of two songs. His commercial recordings include albums for Naxos and for Signum. In 2006, Williams and the Sacconi Quartet made the premiere recording of Gerald Finzi's 1921-22 song cycle By Footpath and Stile.
Williams is the president of Junior Saint James Singers and has been the president of Malvern Concert Club since July 2014 and of the Three Choirs Festival Society since December 2016. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2017 Birthday Honours for services to music. In 2019 he was announced as Patron of Birmingham Bach Choir. In 2020 he was appointed President of the London concert series Thames Concerts.
Song with piano or chamber accompaniment
Complete Cantatas Rameau With Rachel Elliott, soprano, James Gilchrist, tenor, and Thomas Guthrie, bass. New Chamber Opera Ensemble Cond. Gary Cooper 1998 ASV Ltd CD GAX 234/1 and /2
The Songs of Percy Turnbull Turnbull With Nancy Argenta, soprano and Robin Bowman, piano. 2000 Somme SOMMCD 020
Blood-red Carnations Songs by Schoenberg With Sarah Connolly, mezzo-soprano, Iain Burnside, piano. 2002 Black Box
I said to Love - Let Us Garlands Bring - Before and After Summer Finzi With Iain Burnside, piano 2004 Naxos 8.557644
Songs of Travel - The House of Life - Four poems by Fredegond Shove Vaughan Williams With Iain Burnside, piano. 2004 Naxos 8.557643
Earth and Air and Rain - By Footpath and Stile - To a Poet Finzi With Iain Burnside, piano and the Sacconi Quartet. 2005/6 Naxos 8.557963
Severn & Somme Howells, Sanders, Wilson, Venables With Susie Allan, piano. 2006 Somm SOMMCD 057
Complete Solo Songs Moeran With Geraldine McGreevy, soprano, Adrian Thompson, Tenor, John Talbot, piano. 2008/9 Chandos CHAN 10596(2)
Songs from A Shropshire Lad - Folk Songs from Sussex Butterworth With Iain Burnside, piano. 2010 Naxos 8.572426
Songs and Proverbs of Williams Blake - Tit for Tat - Folk-songs Britten With Iain Burnside, piano. 2011 Naxos 8.572600
Songs - The Airmen Shaw With Sophie Bevan, soprano, Andrew Kennedy, tenor, Iain Burnside, piano. 2012 Delphian DCD 33105
The Isles of Greece (from the CD 'Wild Cyclamen') Hugh Wood With Iain Burnside, piano. 2014 NMC Recordings
Dylan - The Drowning of Capel Celyn Stimpson With Sioned Williams, harp. 2006/2015 Stone Records
Twelve Sets of English Lyrics - Volume 1 Parry With Susan Gritton, soprano, James Gilchrist, tenor, Andrew West, piano. 2015 Somm SOMMCD 257
Twelve Sets of English Lyrics - Volume 2 Parry With Sarah Fox, soprano, James Gilchrist, tenor, Andrew West, piano. 2017 Somm SOMMCD 270
Twelve Sets of English Lyrics - Volume 3 Parry With Sarah Fox, soprano, Andrew West, piano. 2017 Somm SOMMCD 272
Winter Journey Schubert's Winterreise in an English version by Jeremy Sams With Christopher Glynn, piano. 2017 Signum SIGCD531
Those Blue Remembered Hills Songs by Gurney, Howells With the Bridge Quartet, Michael Dussek, piano 2018 EM Records
The Song of Love songs by Vaughan Williams With Kitty Whately, mezzo-soprano, Williams Vann, piano 2018 Albion ALBCD037
Time and Space songs by Holst and Vaughan Williams With Mary Bevan, soprano, Williams Vann, Jack Liebeck, violin. 2018 Albion ALBCD038
Maud - A Shropshire Lad Somervell With Susie Allan, piano. 2019 Somm SOMMCD 0615
Schwanengesang Schubert An die ferne Geliebte Beethoven With Iain Burnside, piano. 2020 Chandos 20126
Birdsong Songs by Brahms, Clara Schumann, Robert Schumann, Beamish With Andrew West, piano. 2020 Somm SOMMCD 0633
Folk Songs Volume 1 Vaughan Williams With Mary Bevan, soprano, Nicky Spence, tenor, Jack Liebeck, violin, William Vann, piano. 2020 Albion Records
Folk Songs Volume 2 Vaugan Williams With Mary Bevan, soprano, Nicky Spence, tenor, Thomas Gould, violin, Williams Vann, piano. 2021 Albion Records
Winterreise Schubert With Iain Burnside, piano. 2021 Chandos CHAN 20163
Mirages: The Art of French Song With Roger Vignoles, piano. 2021 Champs Hill Records CHRCD159
Façade Walton With Tamsin Dalley, The Orchestra of The Swan cond. Bruce O'Neil Somm SOMMCD 277
Oratorio, cantata and other orchestral and choral works
Shield of Faith Bliss Finzi Singers dir. Paul Spicer 1991 Chandos CHAN 8980
Mass of the Children Rutter cond. John Rutter 2003
Fantasia on Christmas Carols/The First Nowell/On Christmas Night Vaugan Williams City of London Sinfonia cond Richard Hickox 2005 Chandos CHAN 10385
Symphony No.1 - 'Oliver Cromwell' Rutland Boughton BBC Concert Orchestra cond. Handley 2006 Dutton CDLX 7185
Aftertones/No Man's Land Colin Matthews Hallé Choir and Orchestra cond. Nicholas Collon 2014 CD HLL 7538
Israel in Egypt Handel Nederlands Kamerkoor Le Concert Lorrain cond. Roy Goodman 2014 ET'CETERA
Three Nocturnes Vaughan Williams BBC Symphony Orchestra cond. Martyn Brabbins 2015 Albion Records
Choral Symphony Dyson Bach Choir, Bournmouth Symphony Orchestra dir. David Hill 2017 Naxos 8.573770
L'Enfance du Christ Berlioz Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Chorus cond. Sir Andrew Davis 2018 Chandos CHSA 5228(2)
Messiah Handel Rias Kammerchor Berlin Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin cond. Justin Doyle 2020 PENTATONE
Ned Keene: Peter Grimes Britten City of London Sinfonia cond. Richard Hickox 1995 Chandos CHAN 94477/8
Obstinate, Watchful, First Shepherd: The Pilgrim's Progress Vaughan Williams Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal House cond. Richard Hickox 1997 Chandos CH 9625(2)
Prince Andrey Bolkonsky: War and Peace Prokofiev Spoleto Festival Orchestra cond. Richard Hickox 1999 Chandos 9855
Rôle uncredited: A Hand of Bridge Barber Royal Scottish National Orchestra cond. Marin Alsop 2003 Naxos 8.559135
Head Reaper: Ruth Lennox Berkeley City of London Sinfonia cond. Richard Hickox 2003 Chandos CHAN 10301
The Earl of Dunmow: A Dinner Engagement Lennox Berkeley City of London Sinfonia cond. Richard Hickox 2003 Chandos CHAN 10219
Captain Balstrode: Peter Grimes Britten Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and Choirs cond. Edward Gardner 2019 Chandos CHSA 5250(2)
Williams was commissioned by the Financial Times in 2014 to compose a Christmas carol, 'Christmas Bells', a setting of a poem by Longfellow. It was premiered by the Godwine Choir at St George the Martyr church in Southwark, London. His choral orchestral setting of Keats' To Autumn was commissioned by the Waynflete Singers in 2019 and was premiered in Winchester Cathedral on 16 October 2021.
- Hannah Nepil (22 November 2013). "Interview with baritone Roderick Williams before Albert Herring at the Barbican". Financial Times. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- Team, i (30 May 2016). "'I count the ethnic minorities in the audience… It doesn't take long.' Roderick Williams on opera's diversity problem". inews.co.uk.
- "Facing the music: Roderick Williams". The Guardian. 16 January 2017. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- "Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony (BBC Proms 2013 - Sakari Oramo: Conducts)". Retrieved 5 January 2019.
- Imogen Tilden (10 September 2014). "Roderick Williams on the Last Night of the Proms: 'Maybe I should dress as Britannia and wave a Jamaican flag'". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- Andrew Clements (6 May 2005). "Finzi: I Said to Love; Let Us Garlands Bring; Before and After Summer: Williams/ Burnside". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- Andrew Clements (4 November 2005). "Vaughan Williams: Songs of Travel; The House of Life; Four Poems by Fredegond Shove, Williams/ Burnside". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- Andrew Clements (16 July 2015). "Venables: Song of the Severn, Pine Boughs CD review – convincing and yearning". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- Clements, Andrew (14 July 2006). "Finzi: Earth and Air and Rain; by Footpath and Stile; To a Poet, Williams/ Burnside/ Sacconi Quartet". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
- "Roderick Williams to be President of Three Choirs Festival Society" (Press release). Three Choirs Festival Society. December 2016. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- "No. 61962". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 June 2017. p. B14.
- Unknown (3 April 2019). "'Roderick Williams OBE announced as new Patron of Birmingham Bach Choir.' Choir continue centenary celebrations with special recital and new appointment". What's On (Birmingham). Retrieved 4 April 2019.
- "Thames Concerts - About us". thamesconcerts.com. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
- Claudia Pritchard (30 May 2016). "'I count the ethnic minorities in the audience...It doesn't take long.' Roderick Williams on opera's diversity problem". iNews. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- Roderick Williams (14 October 2016). "How to be good? Getting to grips with Billy Budd". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 July 2017.
- "The FT's Christmas carol by Roderick Williams". www.ft.com. 5 December 2014. Retrieved 26 February 2021.
- Waynflete Singers