During this year’s Innibos Art Festival, Henry-John Williams once again had the opportunity to show off his wonderful talent. As an entertainer, he delights wherever he goes.
Creativity has many avenues. Like a true artist, Henry-John easily slips from one creative role to the other. This Mbombelan earns a living as an interior designer, designing kitchens, entertainment areas and even furniture for Brett Stephen Design.
The other side of his creativity comes alive when he sits behind a keyboard, writing songs, or accompanying other musicians on stage. Add to that his ability to write the anchor text for musical shows, his directing skills and beautifully wide-ranged voice, and you will find a multi-talented man.
For Henry-John it all started in a creative home environment. When he was still very small, his mother bought them an organ, but he wasn’t interested in playing at all. His older sister on the other hand, figured it out for herself and loved to play music. In grade nine, things changed.
“One morning I woke up with a sudden urge to play music, but I didn’t have any idea where to begin. One of my good school friends, Marian Steenkamp, had been attending music lessons from an early age and she promised to teach me everything about music theory. Back at home I used the organ to figure out what I had learned,” he explains.
A wonderful opportunity came Henry-John’s way when he joined a group, Jubelatum Singers, after matric. During the year he learned a lot about the entertainment business and working behind the scenes. He also got an opportunity to work alongside Lizz Meiring for three years. Lizz is a well-known Afrikaans actress and compère, and for three years he acted as her driver, sound engineer and technical help at shows. This was a wonderful learning curve.
“Touring with Lizz was fantastic! I have never laughed so much in my life! She really taught me to always enjoy the ride and be adaptable. When I work with artists, I always remind them of those two things. Having had a father with a business mind and a creative mother left me well-balanced. It might sound like a wonderful benefit, but sometimes it is a heavy burden.
“Usually creative people live bohemian lifestyles, not caring too much about what lies ahead. The moment that I start to think about a full-time career in the arts this little voice inside my head goes, ‘No, Henry-John! You like to drive a decent car and prefer to stay in a beautiful environment! Everybody knows that unless you are Ed Sheeran or Elton John, you will barely survive. So, stick to your day job’ .”
A few years ago, when Henry-John and singer/performer Natascha C started to work together on musical productions, they decided to showcase their performance on the stoep of a friend who lives in West Acres. They invited a few friends and acquaintances and these final “repetitions” in front of an audience soon became very popular. When Henry-John and his partner moved back to Mbombela, he started using their home as a concert venue, calling it the Konzert Huis. The basic idea is to put on an intimate show in the comfort of a house and guests bring their own food and drinks, and pay a small entrance fee.
“The moment we sent out the invitation via email, everybody jumped to book a seat. There really is a big need for a theatre in Mbombela. People just love the intimacy and interaction of shows on such a small scale and paying R100 or less for a ticket is very affordable. Last year I had to relocate and unfortunately the venue is no longer available. We are currently looking for the right spot to do the next house concert, as I already have ideas for two concerts up my sleeve. Anybody is welcome to join the mailing list of Konzert Huiz to find out when a new event is advertised. The plan is to find a permanent spot for a small theatre by 2020,” says Henry-John.
In 2018 he went through an extremely difficult time in his life, but now he has put it all behind him. Time helps and he has come to the point where he has the courage and energy to tackle anything that comes his way, always doing his very best. “I believe that no one will come back as a cat or the Pope or a post box. You only have this one life. One day I don’t want to look back and regret anything. My motto in life is to do anything to the best of my ability, whether I am busy designing something or whether I am busy performing. If it is not my best, I’d rather not do it!”
Text: ALITA STEENKAMP