Born the same year as Glenn Gould, and sharing his piano teacher Alberto Guerrero at the Toronto Conservatory of Music is Ruth Watson Henderson — organist, accompanist, composer and one the many modest, busy, talented ambassadors of music appreciated well beyond Toronto’s city limits.
I thought I’d use Thanksgiving Day to point our thoughts towards Henderson, who turns 80 next month and is still composing and working as director of music at Kingsway-Lambton United Church.
To local fans of choral music, Henderson is probably most recognizable as a dutiful presence at the piano — from Elmer Iseler’s Festival Singers in the 1970s to her nearly 30-year association with the Toronto Childrens’ Chorus since becoming their founding accompanist in 1978.
This year marked the 60th anniversary of her professional début as a pianist in Toronto.
But Henderson is most notable for her compositions for childrens’ voices — the sort of music that gets young hearts and minds hooked on the art of singing for the rest of their lives. Her pieces are sung by thousands of young voices around the world every week of the year.
There is a simplicity to so much of Henderson’s music that belies the careful thought behind it.
You can find more detail on Henderson on the Canadian Music Centre’s new website here.
Here are a few samples of her work — no turkeys here:
The River, sung by the Baylor University A Cappella Choir:
When Music Sounds, sung by Florida’s Atlantic Childrens’ Chorale this past summer:
Gloria, sung by the Girls’ Choir of Rottenburg am Neckar, Germany:
And then there are Henderson’s short non-vocal compositions, such as:
Celebration! for organ:
Lullaby in Black and White, played by University of Iowa’s Alan Huckleberry:
“Waterfall” from Six Miniatures for Piano: