Member Focus - Ed Henderson
Posted April 03, 2019 by
Our latest member to be featured is Ed Henderson, former Vice President of VMA and current Board Member of SOCAN!
How would you describe your musical style?
I play a wide variety of musical styles and have worked in many different genres. I have a background in choral music from singing music at home and in church since I was a little kid. I also studied classical guitar for a while. When I was 18 years old, I was composing music for theatre productions. That got me into theatre, which uses a wide variety of music in itself: folk, classical, rock & roll – all sorts of things. I've played with Chilliwack over the past 20 years, produced two CDs of music that I've arranged for the Vancouver Chamber Choir, composed solo guitar repertoire for the three solo guitar CDs I have released and had many commissions from choirs and orchestras including musica intima, Electra Women’s Choir, Hamilton Symphony, Tapestry Music Theatre, Vancouver Chamber Choir, Stratford Festival etc.
Who were some of the influences on your musical career?
When I first started playing guitar, I loved listening to Andrés Segovia and John Williams, who were playing, among others, Bach, Villa-Lobos and many Spanish composers. This has had a big impact on how I approach music. In particular, the many guitar transcriptions of Bach's music – they're just amazing pieces to play for any instrument. Another influence is Jacques Brel. I was asked to play in the original Vancouver production of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living Paris in the early 1970s. That music, the sound of Brel, and how he approached music making, had a great impact on me. Persian music and music of the Gypsies has also had a tremendous impact – and Dylan, Hendrix, The Cream, Doc Watson, Muddy Waters… themes of this music runs through my head all the time.
What have been some of your favourite moments over your career?
There was an amazing concert I played with Ann Mortifee in the Elora Gorge about 15 years ago. The audience was above the gorge, about 60 feet up a cliff, and we were on a raft in the middle of the lake. We started playing and partway through I closed my eyes – we were improvising and all playing something none of us had played before. When I opened my eyes, I couldn't see anything – could not tell what was up or down, no sense of gravity. There were stars and lights shining off the water and more lights above – the feeling was amazing and the music was delicious. There's been Chilliwack gigs like that too. I just love it when the music really takes me somewhere – so it's not like you're just showing up to a gig, performing, finishing, and then going home. Instead, it's intense performances with totally committed players that really feeds me. This is what I aim for all the time.
What project(s) are you currently working on?
I've been working on my fourth solo guitar CD. Aside from that, I am also working on a project with a friend who tours regularly in Germany. We have interest there from a conductor who has an orchestra and choir who wants us to do some concerts together. I have some editing to do on the score of The Mysteries (an opera that Ann Mortifee, David Feinstein and I collaborated on) and there are a several other projects coming up as well.
If you could go back and give any piece of advice to your past self, what would you say and why?
I didn't put it in these words back then: listen to everybody's advice and take your own – that's instinctively what I've always done throughout my career. Follow your passion. I never thought of it like that, it's just that I simply had to make music. I couldn't not make music. I think this is the most important thing for anybody to do in any profession – to follow your passion. Just find what you want to do and give it your all. Be gracious when people speak well of your work, keep your personal doubts to yourself and never stop learning.
How has the music industry changed compared to when you first began your career?
There's been huge changes gig wise, and in terms of technology. When I started playing gigs professionally, the starting dollar figure was 40 dollars a week for eight shows (Brel at the Arts Club). Back then, to get any gigs, you had to be in the union. If you wrote music, you had to be a member of PROCAN (now SOCAN).
The ability to record has changed as well. Now, for not too much money, you can record with a laptop and a few pieces of decent equipment – people do this everywhere and all the time. A Vancouver member released a CD a few years ago, all recorded on an iPhone. There have been great technological changes, which allow us to record more easily. Previously, you also needed record companies to get your music distributed. It's a little different now and maybe, that side of the business is not as hard.
If you had all the resources available, what would you to do help Vancouver/BC’s music industry continue to flourish and grow?
I would make sure there's lots of places to play, as well as a community space where members can rehearse and hang out together. We need more facilities in Vancouver. Music associations could be in these buildings together, have shared spaces, and create collaborations and partnerships with people in order to put on more music. I'd also help change the values and attitudes about music and musicians, along with the importance of music in our society. I think making those concepts clear and having people, at a civic level, recognize the value of music in our society. Imagine what life would be like without music or the arts and see how poverty-stricken that would make us.
What advice would you give to musicians who haven’t joined the VMA?
I think standing together with people who are in the same industry is a really good idea. When you're all separated and working in your own areas, some will be strong enough to demand certain things, but others perhaps not. When we stand together to stick up for our rights and each other’s rights, we have a greater chance of being able to make a living. Musicians should be able to make a good living here in Vancouver and not have to move somewhere else to succeed.
Do you have any final thoughts or anything else that you would like to share?
As I've said earlier, just follow your passion, don't give up and make the most beautiful music you can then share your knowledge and gifts with others.