Simon Wills is a prolific, widely performed and broadcast composer for the stage and concert platform with a fast-growing reputation as an accessible but powerful writer of opera. He is cheerfully anti-modernist in outlook and describes his unorthodox compositional style as "a sort of benign semitonality". The language is very direct, simple and tuneful with an immediate appeal to audiences.
His catalogue of orchestral work includes The Island, which was commissioned by the Tonhalleorchester in Zurich and a Dante symphony, Malebolge, which in 2010 was toured and broadcast byt the Münchner Philharmoniker. His dramatic setting for double chorus and soloists of Theodor Fontane's ballade Die Bruck am Tay was performed at Bad Kissingen and Feldkirch in 2005 and Moro Lasso - a song for an unseen singer received acclaim at the Cheltenham International Festival in the same year. A sextet called ...without words... was premiered in June 2009 at King's Place in London and Caliban's Boogie was performed at the St Magnus Festival in 2010. Corpus Christi, first played in Cardiff the same year, is an account of a bout of fever in Mexico City. 2013 saw the completion of his Island Sonata for violin, a violin concerto for performance in Osaka and a brass piece, Echidna. In September, the NDR symphony orchestra opened its 2013/14 season with the televised premiere of his PG Wodehouse overture, Empress of Blandings and in December 2013 the Balthasar-Neummann-Chor toured his secular cantata for Christmas, Hoping It Might be So. In April 2014 his tone poem Canboulaye will be premiered in Havana, Cuba and he is working on a chamber symphony provisionally titled A Man Who Suddenly Fell Over for performance in Germany in the autumn. His Prelude and Fugue upon Quem Pastores Laudavere is a Christmas favourite in Germany (last year it was played for the first time by the Berlin Philharmonic) and the orchestral arrangements, which he made at Claudio Abbado's request for the Emmy-winning Spitting Image Prokofiev Fantasy,are in repertoire as a ballet at Deutsche Oper am Rhein.
His stage work is wide-ranging. His first large-scale theatre piece, A Day Close to Summer, was a dadaist pantomime written as a "prequel" to Dido and Aeneas and premiered at the Baden Baden Festspielhaus. He followed this with The Secret Agent, an opera composed to his own libretto, which attracted widespread attention at the Feldkirch Festival in Austria: the theme was terrorism and the work ends with one of the singers suicide-bombing the audience. The Stolen Smells was commissioned by Norddeutsche Rundfunk. Simon conducted the first run of performances in Luzern in January/March 2012, and the NDR symphony orchestra performed and broadcast the piece at the Kampnagel Hamburg, to popular and critical acclaim. He is equally at home on the small stage: Du Bist Da, Du Bist Fort, an experimental chamber opera for children, was produced at Dusseldorfer Schauspielhaus in November 2012 and a year later won the Junge Ohren prize for music theatre in Leipzig.
He began his career in the opera house in Palermo, Sicily and after seven years with the London Symphony Orchestra was principal trombonist of The Chamber Orchestra of Europe until 1997. He has worked with all the UK orchestras and many overseas, including the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Berliner Staatsoper unter den Linden, Ensemble Modern, Freiburger Barockorchester and Moscow Soloists. He has been professor of trombone at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London since 1986.