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Canadian Composers Interview Series with Ruth Watson Henderson

In our new blog series, Canadian Composers Interview with ACNMP board member and organist Matthew Boutda, we endeavour to illuminate the artistic process of select working composers from across Canada.

Ruth Watson Henderson has often been described as a “Canadian national treasure”. She has an international reputation as a leading Canadian composer of choral music, and as an admired pianist and organist.

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 until they both retired in 2007. She has at the same time written a wider spectrum of works for adult choirs –an activity started while she was 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, Exultate Chamber Singers, and the University of Toronto choirs. Ms Watson Henderson also writes for piano, organ, and other instruments. Her organ work, “Celebration”, won a worldwide competition honouring the Royal Canadian College of Organists’ Centennial, thus earning the piece a première at Westminster Abbey.

Recognized for her lifetime of service to music, Ruth has been paid many great tributes by the music community.  She received the National Choral Award for Outstanding Choral Composition for “Voices of Earth”, and the Distinguished Service Award by the Ontario Choral Federation.

Matthew: Tell me a bit about your musical background.

Ruth: I got started very early on! My mother was a church organist and so I started playing the piano when I was 2, and by the time I was 4, I was making progress. I was very fortunate to study with Alberto Guerrero and we had wonderful classes where his students came to play for each other. Glenn Gould was a contemporary of mine who didn’t like to socialize! He was quite the character!

Matthew: What is your fondest musical memory?

Ruth: I got to play something at Carnegie Hall when I was studying at Mannes in New York City. I was also an usher there and able to hear all sorts of concerts.

Matthew: What is your inspiration for composition?

Ruth: I learned almost everything I know from accompanying fine choirs and sitting through their rehearsals. You learn a lot when you are playing for rehearsals because you can listen to all of the individual lines. I started working with Elmer Iseler, playing for the Festival Singers and singing through rehearsals with him was just wonderful because I could hear how the counterpoint moved and fit together.

Matthew: How has your musical style changed?

Ruth: It hasn’t changed a big deal, but it depends on the choir I am writing for! For example, I could write more counterpoint for professional choirs. For amateur groups, I tend to be pretty straightforward. For me, everything depends on the text. Before I write anything, I try to get a good text, which is where my ideas derive from.

Matthew: How often do you compose now?

Ruth: I don’t compose as much anymore, but I still keep up my playing! The fingers work much faster than my brain these days!

Many of Ruth’s works for piano, organ, and choir are included in our Contemporary Showcase syllabus, including this one for Treble Voices:

ACNMP Job Posting -Seeking Office Admin!

The ACNMP seeks an energetic and self-motivated individual to work with the Board of Directors and Contemporary Showcase Coordinators in the capacity of Office Administrator.


The Alliance for Canadian New Music Projects (ACNMP) is an organization dedicated to the promotion of Canadian contemporary music. Throughout our history, it has been our mission to encourage teachers to teach Canadian contemporary music, to motivate students to study and perform this music, and to encourage Canadian composers to write music for students of all levels from the most junior to the paraprofessional.

ACNMP has centres of operation in 15 cities and towns across Canada. Every year during Canada Music Week, these centres present a Contemporary Showcase Festival, a non- competitive festival set in a master class format adjudicated by knowledgeable musicians. Various workshops are also available.

Job Description

Working directly with the President, the Office Administrator is responsible for providing office administrative and clerical services in order to ensure effective and efficient day-to-day operations of ACNMP.

The position requires approximately 15 hours per month, with peak times of work to support the national Contemporary Showcase Festival during late September through mid-January. The candidate should have experience with grant-writing, possess good communication and current technology skills. The candidate should be able to work independently with sound judgment and an attention to detail.

Wage to be negotiated based on qualifications and experience.
To apply for this position, please send a cover letter and resume to Stephanie Chua at

Deadline for receipt of applications is 5:00 pm EDT, December 31, 2018.

Job Responsibilities

• Funding Development: apply for all available municipal, provincial, and federal funds; research and cultivate relationships with corporate supporters and sponsorships; lead fundraising initiatives

• Administration: manages day-to-day operations of the organization; communication with Contemporary Showcase Centres; work closely with Board Members in assigned tasks; preparation and distribution of quarterly newsletter to membership via MailChimp; updating website via WordPress; responding to emails and voice mails; attend board meetings normally held in September, January, and June

• Promotion & Advocacy: contributing to social media presence (Twitter, Facebook); fostering and building positive relationships with community and arts organizations, supporting Contemporary Showcase Centres

Requirements and Qualifications

The ideal candidate will have demonstrated success in the following:

  • Experience in the administration of non-profits and/or arts organizations
  • Knowledge of granting and private funding landscape
  • Excellent communication (verbal and written), interpersonal, and problem-solving skills
  • Initiative, ability to work independently, and sound time-management skills
  • Computer and social media proficiency (applications include Microsoft Office, WordPress, Mailchimp, Facebook and Twitter)
  • Ability to work with virtual teams

Preferred Skills, Experience, Background, and Interests

  • French is strongly preferred
  • Musical background is an asset
  • Interest in supporting the teaching and the performance of Canadian contemporary music

National Student Composition Class 2018

Are you a budding composer looking for feedback for a new creation? A student performer who enjoys writing on the side and would like some advice? Then our annual National Student Composition Class is for you!

This year’s adjudicator is composer Darlene Chepil Reid, faculty member of Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, associate of the Canadian Music Centre, and conductor of the Fort William Male Choir. Darlene has written extensively for acoustic and electroacoutic instruments, as well as film. Her works have been performed by many soloists across Canada and the United States, and many ensembles including the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra, University of Alberta Symphonic Winds, the University of Western Ontario Chamber Orchestra, and Trio Fibonacci.

Visit here for more details and to submit.

Deadline is October 31, 2018.


Announcing a New National Award!

The Ann Southam Award is a new performance excellence award that is established in memory of pioneering Canadian composer Ann Southam by the Southam family.

This new national award will recognize an outstanding performance of a work by a Canadian female composer.  Each Contemporary Showcase centre may nominate one performer at the Junior Level (pre-Grade 1  to 8) and Senior Level (Grade 9 and above).

Click here to read more about Ann Southam.