Cellist Dale Henderson Strives To Bring Bach To All
Even when he wanted to run away, life brought cellist Dale Henderson back to music.
“One of the many things I heard as a student and didn’t think too much about was ‘you can’t hide with the cello’,” he said. “But then I learned through experience that it was 100% true. No matter who you are on the outside when you’re playing, your inner self will show through. You’re totally exposed.”
Dale said a musician has to be willing to face and give every part of themselves, all the secrets, jagged edges, insecurities, conflicts, and joys.
His humanity and drive to connect with others are what drive his music and inspiration. This is what led him to Bach in the Subways, a global music movement to increase popular awareness and appreciation of classical music.
Bach in the Subways began in 2010 as an act of musical giving in New York City. During that year, Dale began to frequently perform Bach’s Cello Suites in the subways, as a way to bring live classical music to a larger audience. For Bach's 326th birthday on March 21, 2011, Dale invited other musicians to join him. From there, the Bach in the Subways movement was born.
Every March the movement grew – from Dale alone in New York's subways into a global phenomenon. By Bach's 330th in 2015, thousands of musicians in 150 cities in 40 countries offered Bach's music freely in public spaces.
This past year (2018) was Bach’s 333rd birthday, and it had a special meaning for Dale. It was a confluence of 3s: Bach turned 333; when Dale started Bach in the Subways, he was 33; the first Bach in the Subways birthday celebration to go global was 3 years ago, on Bach’s 330th birthday.
“This birthday felt significant! The same feelings that drove me in the beginning now compelled me to experience this amazing thing in places around the world where it had taken root and flourished,” he said.
For the March 21 through 25, he performed in 3 cities in 3 countries on 3 continents: Seattle, Washington in America; Singapore in Asia; and Tbilisi, Georgia in Europe. In June he continued in Philadelphia; in September, Kolkata, India; early October, 3 California cities in 3 days – Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco; in November, the Netherlands; and finally December, Mexico!
This year’s celebration will be from March 21 through 24.
Bach To The Masses
Not only does Dale bring Bach to the subways of the world, but he brings it to curated audiences. He has performed Bach’s Six Cello Suites all over the world for a variety of audiences, from intimate to large.
Dale thinks though the music is important, an audience is key to being a musician.
“A musician needs an audience to create. I could practice alone for the rest of my life, but it's all just rehearsal. What ends up being created is the music that occurs in the interaction between myself and the audience,” he said.
The culture around classical music needs to change, Dale thinks, in order to encourage the younger generation.
“We need to make the world realize how COOL classical actually is – then communities will want to find a way to support their young musicians,” he said.