Roy Henderson

Roy Henderson

Roy Galbraith Henderson, CBE (July 4, 1899 – March 16, 2000) was a leading English baritone in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. He later became a great teacher of singing, and was the teacher of Kathleen Ferrier.

Early life and influences

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland [ [ Roy Henderson, 100, Scottish Baritone and Teacher] ] Henderson moved to Nottingham (England) at an early age when his Scottish father, a prominent Congregational minister, was appointed to a church there and later became Principal of Paton College in that city. He was educated at Nottingham High School, where he became captain of cricket. He sang in his father's church choir (his first solo was as First Malefactor in Stainer’s "The Crucifixion"), and in school concerts, but was mainly active in sports. Henderson served in the First World War in the Artists' Rifles. In the regimental concert party were other well-known baritones, including Charles Mott, Percy Heming and Clay Thomas. ["Comparing notes", BBC Interview with Richard Baker 1991.] Henderson was deeply impressed by Charles Mott, who was later killed in the war. [A connected account is given by D. Brook, "Singers of To-day", Second (Revised) edition (Rockliff, London 1958), p. 110-117.]

Musical studies and early career

Henderson began study at the Royal Academy of Music in 1920, on the advice of the bass Robert Radford. He studied hard under Thomas Meux (singing) and J.B. McEwan (composition). He sang in the "Messiah" once, in 1923, and vowed never to do so again. He made his first broadcast for the BBC (the first of very many) in 1924. In 1925, while he was still studying, he had the wonderful opportunity to sing in Delius's "A Mass of Life" at the Queen's Hall for the Royal Philharmonic Society, and was able to prepare the work and sing it from memory with the greatest success, within three weeks. The performance, on April 2, was with Miriam Licette, Astra Desmond and Walter Widdop, conducted by Paul Klenau. He was awarded the Worshipful Company of Musicians' medal as most distinguished student of the year, and so his name as a professional singer was immediately made. He was married in 1926.

Distinction in opera and British music

He then began to obtain many engagements both in opera and in oratorio. He had seasons at Covent Garden, including Wagner roles, in 1928 and 1929. In 1929 at the Delius Festival under Sir Thomas Beecham, Henderson distinguished himself, and was acclaimed by Delius as 'the unequalled interpreter of Zarathustra' in "A Mass of Life". His performances of Delius's "Sea Drift" (a role created by Frederic Austin) were also considered masterly. Beecham had recorded this work with the baritone Dennis Noble in 1928, but this was not issued owing to unsatisfactory acoustics. In 1929 the Decca record company was established by (Sir) Edward Lewis, and Henderson was recruited to record the work as one of Decca's first issues under the conductor Anthony Bernard (6 sides, Decca S10010-10012). [Darrell 1936, p. 130.]

He also became very distinguished in works by Vaughan Williams, including the "Sea Symphony", "Dona Nobis Pacem", "Sancta Civitas" and "Five Tudor Portraits"; in those of Elgar, especially "The Dream of Gerontius", "The Kingdom", and "The Apostles"; in the "St Matthew Passion" and the "St John Passion"; and in Mendelssohn's "Elijah". He took part in first performances of many British works, including composers Vaughan Williams, Dyson, Cyril Scott, E.J. Moeran, Arthur Bliss and Patrick Hadley. He gave the premiere of the Delius "Idyll: Once I walked through a populous city" [Fenby 1936, 121. Composed with Fenby during 1933, on Walt Whitman texts compiled by Robert Nichols, from the prelude to his unpublished opera "Margot-la-Rouge".] at the Queen's Hall Promenade Concerts in October 1933 with Dora Labette, under Sir Henry Wood. For the Royal Philharmonic Society he performed Moeran's "Nocturne" (for baritone, chorus and orchestra) under Adrian Boult in 1936, [Elkin 1946, 171.] and "Dona Nobis Pacem" and the "Sea Symphony" (with Isobel Baillie) under Dr Vaughan Williams at the composer's 70th birthday concert in November 1942. [Elkin 1946, 181.]

From 1930 to 1937 he was chorus master of the Nottingham Harmonic Society under Sir Hamilton Harty, from whom he learned many lasting lessons. He also conducted the Huddersfield Glee and Madrigal Society, the Bournemouth Municipal Choir and the Nottingham Oriana Choir, one of the very few which sang only from memory. Over these years he was also attempting to fulfil very many singing engagements at major concerts and festivals, and teaching in both London and Nottingham, and in the flush of his early success he became over-extended in his work. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music in around 1932.

In 1934 he took part with Kate Winter, Linda Seymour and Parry Jones in the recording of Stravinsky's "Les Noces", under the composer's direction [J. Batten, "Joe Batten's Book" (Rockliff, London 1956), 85-6; Darrell 1936, 463; Columbia Records LX 816-818.]

Glyndebourne and Mozart

He did not return to opera until 1934, when he participated in the first ventures at Glyndebourne. He sang on the opening night and appeared in every season until 1939, also singing on the last night before the outbreak of war in 1939. He sang the role of the Count in "Marriage of Figaro", Masetto in "Don Giovanni", Guglielmo in "Cosi fan tutte", and Papageno in "Die Zauberflöte", under the direction of Fritz Busch, who commended him highly. He also took the role of Peachum in the "Beggar's Opera". His Count is preserved in the Busch (Glyndebourne 1936) HMV recording of "Marriage of Figaro". [Originally 78 rpm, Mozart Opera Society, 3 vols. (22 records) with Audrey Mildmay, Aulikki Rautawaara, Luise Helletsgrüber, Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender, Norman Allin, Heddle Nash, etc; cf Darrell 1936, 328: reissued on LP for MFP.] His Masetto is in the Busch (Glyndebourne, c.1937-8) "Don Giovanni". [Originally 78 rpm for the Mozart Opera Society with John Brownlee, Ina Souez, Kolomon von Pataky, Audrey Mildmay, etc; reissued on LP by American Victor Records before 1953, and in UK as ALP 1199-1201 by 1955, see E. Sackville-West and D. Shawe-Taylor, "The Record Year 2" (Collins, London 1953), 204, and E.M.I. Ltd. (Record Division), "A Complete List of HMV, Columbia, Parlophone and MGM LP Records issued up to and including June 1955" (London 1955), 74.] For these years Glyndebourne became his artistic home. [Some of the production values are described in C. Benn, "Mozart on the Stage" (E Benn, London 1946).] Henderson was an outstanding Mozart singer.

He recorded the first complete Purcell "Dido and Aeneas" with Nancy Evans and the Boyd Neel ensemble conducted by Clarence Raybould before 1936. [Also with Mary Hamlin, Mary Jarred and Dr Sydney Northcote, with Bernhard Ord (continuo), Charles Kennedy Scott's A Capella singers, and directed by Hubert J. Foss, Decca, for the Purcell Club by subscription, X 101-107 (14 sides)). cf. Darrell 1936, 371.] In 1938, Henderson was one of the original 16 soloists in Vaughan Williams's "Serenade to Music" (his is the solo line to the words ‘Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds’). In March 1940, he was involved in the Glyndebourne Company revival of "The Beggar's Opera", directed by John Gielgud, at the Haymarket Theatre in London.

In his later career he specialized more in recitals, and delivered a fine collection of English songs at the first Edinburgh Festival in 1947.

Kathleen Ferrier

Henderson became a Professor at the Royal Academy of Music in 1940. He first met Kathleen Ferrier when both sang in a performance of "Elijah" at Runcorn on December 23, 1942. [Henderson 1954.] A few weeks later she came to him at the Royal Academy asking for lessons. (She had previously been taught by Dr Hutchinson of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.) Their relationship as pupil and teacher lasted for seven years. He began her coaching in Bach, Handel and Brahms, and steered her away from Verdi. He prepared her for her first "Dream of Gerontius" in Leeds in November 1944 (insisting that she sing it from memory), and in that year they had also studied the "Four Serious Songs" ("Vier Ernste Gesange") of Brahms. He sent her to Professor Carl Ebert (producer of the pre-war Glyndebourne Mozart), on his return to Glyndebourne after the war, and to Hans Oppenheim when she was preparing lieder recitals with Bruno Walter. It was Walter who thoroughly introduced her to the work of Mahler. Henderson is the conductor of the recording of the Pergolesi "Stabat Mater" with Ferrier and Joan Taylor, the Nottingham Oriana Choir and the Boyd Neel String Orchestra (Decca AK 1517-1521). He wrote an account of his teaching of Kathleen Ferrier in the memoir edited by Neville Cardus. He was also the teacher of Jennifer Vyvyan.

Henderson retired from the stage in 1952, and devoted nearly all of his time to teaching and writing music.

In 1991, a BBC Radio 4 broadcast was made by Roy Henderson in conversation with Richard Baker and Sir Keith Falkner. In 1999, he celebrated his 100th birthday. An album was released for the occasion, entitled "Roy Henderson: A Centenary Recital".

He died in Bromley, Kent.

ee also

* Veterans of the First World War who died in 2000


Further reading

* D. Brook, "Singers of To-day", Second (Revised) edition (Rockliff, London 1958), p. 110-117.
* R.D. Darrell, "The Gramophone Shop Encyclopedia of Recorded Music" (New York 1936).
* R. Elkin, "Royal Philharmonic, The Annals of the R.P.S." (Rider & co, London 1946).
* E. Fenby, "Delius as I Knew Him" (Bell, London 1936).
* R. Henderson, "Per Ardua...", in N. Cardus (ed.), "Kathleen Ferrier 1912-1953, A Memoir" (Hamish Hamilton, London 1954), 36-58.
* H. Rosenthal and J. Warrack, "Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera" (OUP, London 1974 reprint), p. 176.

External links

* [ Roy Henderson singing 'Sylvia' (filmclip)]

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