Members of the Henderson family will perform at this year’s Ryga Arts Festival in Summerland.
Bill Henderson, founder and lead guitarist of the famed band Chilliwack, will be part of the crowning concert at this year’s festival, which runs Aug. 24 to Sept. 1.
While this will be Henderson’s first appearance at the Festival, the Vancouver-based musician is no stranger to Summerland or the work of George Ryga.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the album, Grass and Wild Strawberries, which was a collaboration between Henderson and Ryga.
The album was a hit record for the Collectors (who went on to become Chilliwack) in 1969. In the same year, a stage version of Grass and Wild Strawberries broke attendance records at the Vancouver Playhouse and at regional theatres across Canada.
“Basically, George sent us his script and lyrics… We took them and worked with them and
shifted stuff around,” Henderson recalled working with Ryga on Seventeenth Summer and other
songs half a century ago. “Then we went and met with him and spent time working hands-on
together…He would go and bang something out on the typewriter and say: try this.”
Henderson said Ryga, a political writer, changed his way of looking at the world and continues to influence his songs about social issues.
“So George lives in some way,” he says, in songs like Patent on the Wind, Henderson’s commentary on the legal battle between the Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser and the global Monsanto corporation.
Henderson returns to Summerland after a decade’s absence.
For 15 years, he and Roy Forbes used to give songwriting workshops at the former Ryga home, which became a retreat for writers and musicians following George Ryga’s untimely death in 1987. The Ryga Centre closed in 2014 and the Ryga Festival Society was formed the following yea.
This year’s festival closing concert, called Interweaving, will be held Saturday, Aug. 31 at Centre Stage Theatre in Summerland.
Henderson will be joined by Claire Lawrence, another veteran member of The Collectors, and they will accompany Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson, a Haida artist, singer and activist for aboriginal land rights. 250.494.8533
The trio recently released an album, Grizzly Bear Town, which explores the spirit of improvisation that connects Haida music and jazz.
It was recorded among the ancient totem poles and mossy landscape of Haida Gwaii, where Williams-Davidson lives.
The Summerland performance will also feature Juno-nominated Jodi Proznick on bass, and Henderson’s daughters, Saffron and Camille Henderson, as vocalists.
Saffron Henderson has a long list of film and anime credits as an actress, and she provided backing vocals on such albums as Electric by Paul Rodgers (who now lives part-time in Summerland.) Younger sister Camille, a voice coach, began performing at the age of 10 and has won awards recording and touring with the West End Girls and later with Sarah McLachlan.
Bill Henderson’s brother Ed Henderson will also perform. He is also an original member of Chilliwack, and a Juno award winning musician. He is returning to the Ryga Arts Festival, where he performed two years ago with Ann Mortifee at her 70th birthday concert.
His collaboration with Mortifee spans decades.
This year Ed Henderson will be performing his own music in an evening of Acoustic Blend, on Friday, Aug. 30 at Centre Stage Theatre.
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