Alva Henderson (alvahenderson)

Alva Henderson entered San Francisco State College as a Drama major, but after several years changed to a major in Composition with voice as his principal instrument. He studied composition with Wayne Peterson (SF State) and Robert Sheldon (SF Conservatory). Before leaving the college in 1966 to pursue a career in music, he presented a complete recital of original works.

During the following four years he completed his first opera Medea while supporting himself by singing in the San Francisco Opera Chorus. The 1972 production of Medea by the San Diego Opera with Metropolitan Opera star Irene Dalis in the title role brought him to national attention.

(“Henderson is, clearly, an extraordinary talent, a strategist who can cope with sprawling forms, a musician with an obvious flair for the theatrical.” Martin Bernheimer, Los Angeles Times.)

A commission from Opera Delaware to create an opera for the American Bicentennial and for the gala reopening of the restored Grand Opera House in Wilmington followed, and The Last of the Mohicans was premiered there in 1976. (“Henderson obviously has an exultant talent for opera...His instincts come right from the heart in creating arias, duets and ensembles with a pulsing sense of melody and stirring emotional commitment. Cora’s dramatic farewell forms the basis of a richly layered, thrilling outburst with principals and chorus.” Robert Jacobson: Opera News). The following year the work was produced by the Lake George Opera Festival and broadcast throughout the country on National Public Radio.

Among his other compositions are the operas West of Washington Square, premiered by Opera San Jose in 1988, Achilles (unproduced) the cantata The Ancient Ones, premiered by the Schola Cantorum in 1983, and a dramatic musical, Far From the Madding Crowd.

In June of 1998 Mr. Henderson was composer in residence at the Western Slope Summer Music Festival. One hour of excerpts from his opera Nosferatu were performed (with full orchestra conducted by Imre Pallo) to great acclaim.

In June of 2004 Schola Cantorum, a San Francisco Bay area chorus of 140 voices gave the premiere of Mr. Henderson’s Winter Requiem, poems by Dana Gioia. The work was performed, with orchestra, at St. Joseph’s Church in San Jose, and in San Francisco at St. Ignatius Church.

Also in 2004 Mr. Henderson’s opera Nosferatu, with libretto by Dana Gioia (after the film by F. W. Murnau) was given its World Premiere first at by the Rimrock Opera in Billings, Montana, followed by performances in by Opera Boise in Boise, Idaho.

For the opening of the City of Hope in Orange County, California, in September of 2008 he was commissioned to write From Greater Light, a cantata with baritone and tenor solos, chorus and orchestra. Carl St. Clair conducted the Pacific Symphony and the Pacific Chorale. The work was first performed with reduced forces in the chapel of the City of Hope, and the following evening with larger forces in the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

Mr. Henderson has written many songs, song cycles and choruses as well as incidental music for Twelfth Night and The House of Bernarda Alba and Much Ado About Nothing.

Recitals of his music have been performed at the Kaiser Center in Oakland, California, Conservatory of Music in Burlingame, California, The San Francisco Conservatory of Music, The Renee Weiler Concert Hall in New York City, and Mercer University, Macon Georgia. In celebration of his 70th birthday, a recital of 26 of his art songs was performed at the Tateuchi Recital Hall in Mountain View in April, 2010.

Mr. Henderson has been a Fellow at Yaddo and The Djerassi Foundation and Distinguished Artist in Residence at San Jose State University.

He makes his home in Mountain View, California with his spouse, Bear Capron.

Collection: Collected Songs

2 publications