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Ruth Watson Henderson

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Ruth Watson Henderson


Ruth Watson Henderson (b. 23 November 1932, Toronto, Canada) is a Canadian composer of choral music, pianist and organist.

Watson Henderson studied the piano with Viggo Kihl from 1937 to 1945. She then entered The Royal Conservatory of Music where she studied from 1945 to 1952 and earned an associate's diploma in 1949 and a licentiate diploma in 1951. Her piano teacher there was Alberto Guerrero. She also studied composition privately with Oskar Morawetz, Samuel Dolin and Richard Johnston. From 1952 to 1954 she studied piano at the Mannes College of Music in New York City with Hans Neumann (pianist).

Watson Henderson made her professional concert debut in 1952 in Toronto and quickly became active as a solo concert pianist with symphony orchestras throughout Canada. She also played with some frequency on CBC Radio. In 1956 she won the grand prize on the Canadian version of Opportunity Knocks. After this, she moved to Manitoba where she lived in Winnipeg until 1961. After a few years in Kitchener, she returned to Toronto where she still resides.

She has done much to promote the artistry of children through her wealth of compositions for treble voices, using the expertise gleaned over 29 years as accompanist of the Toronto Children’s Chorus under Jean Ashworth Bartle. She has also written a wide spectrum of acclaimed works for adult choirs, beginning while accompanist of the Festival Singers under Dr. Elmer Iseler.

Her works are commissioned, performed and recorded worldwide, by such well-known choirs as the Elmer Iseler Singers, the Toronto Children’s Chorus, the Amadeus Choir, and the University of Toronto choirs.

Although most widely known for her prolific body of choral works, Ms. Watson Henderson also writes for piano and organ, as well as for other instruments. One instrumental work, Celebration for organ, won a worldwide competition honouring the Royal Canadian College of Organists’ Centennial, thus earning the piece a première in Westminster Abbey.

Recognized for her lifetime of service to music, Ruth has been paid many great tributes by the music community, not the least of these being the myriad concerts devoted solely to her works by national and international choirs, often with the composer at the keyboard.

Pianist, organist, and prolific composer, Ruth Watson Henderson has often been described as a “Canadian national treasure”.

Works for Winds