Henderson and Forbes return to the Okanagan

It might seem far off, but the deadline for getting in an application to the annual Forbes-Henderson songwriting workshop is coming fast.

Bill Henderson

Bill Henderson

It might seem like a long ways away, but the deadline for getting in your application to the annual Forbes-Henderson songwriting workshop is fast approaching.

This will be the 17th year that Bill Henderson — lead singer and song writer for Chilliwack — has teamed up with the equally legendary song writer Roy Forbes to conduct a two-day workshop at the George Ryga Centre in Summerland.

But applications for the April workshop need to be in by Dec. 31, according to organizer Ken Smedley, in order to give the two master songwriters time to choose the participants. Submissions, he said, come from across the country and are evaluated in the order received, so it’s advisable to get in early.

“We get quite few submissions and 12 is our maximum for the workshop,” said Henderson, who has some advice for aspiring song writers wanting to take part.

“We are looking for the song itself. When you have enough experience with songwriting, you realize that the production is not the song.”

There is no need to hire an experienced producer and create a beautifully polished recording, he continues.

“Polish is good, but that is not what this is about. It’s about songwriting,” said Henderson.

“The song is the melody, the chords and the lyrics. That’s what we’re listening to. We’re not going to discount a song that is well produced, but it is not the production that is going to tell us if it is a good song or not.”

With some eight decades of songwriting experience between them, Henderson and Forbes have finely-tuned ears for a good musical idea. Henderson said that they’re looking for people they think they can help, people whose music sounds like they’re reaching for something.

“Once you’ve been doing this for a few years, when you listen to something you can hear into it quite a ways,” he said. “Send in the one song you think is your best and send in one that is kind of an idea. That may end up being the one that has the spark.”

There are two sides to songwriting, he said, craft and inspiration. A great song always has both.

“Part of songwriting is learning how to let it happen and part of songwriting is learning to deal with what you’ve got once it’s happened,” said Henderson. “We really try to work on both, but the craft takes most of the time because it works better in a classroom. I always tell people that as far as the inspiration side goes, there is only one way to do it, you just have to write every day.”

The application package should consist of a tape or CD — no more than two songs — of your music, along with two sets of printed lyrics plus the $30 submission fee.

If accepted, the full cost of the intensive two-day workshop on April 21 and 22 is $250.

Packages should be submitted to Henderson-Forbes Songwriters Workshop, c/o Ken Smedley, Box 323, Armstrong, B.C., V0E 1B0.


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