Derek Holman

Derek Holman. Organist, choir conductor, composer, teacher, b Illogan, near Camborne, Cornwall, England, 16 May 1931; FRCO 1950, ARAM 1958, FRAM 1965, D MUS (London) 1967, Fellow RSCM 1972. He studied 1948-52 at the RAM with Sir William McKie, Eric Thiman, and York Bowen.

Holman, Derek

Derek Holman. Organist, choir conductor, composer, teacher, b Illogan, near Camborne, Cornwall, England, 16 May 1931; FRCO 1950, ARAM 1958, FRAM 1965, D MUS (London) 1967, Fellow RSCM 1972. He studied 1948-52 at the RAM with Sir William McKie, Eric Thiman, and York Bowen. For two years, 1952-4, he was an instructor in the Royal Army Educational Corps with the British Army of the Rhine, but he returned to music as master 1954-6 at Westminster Abbey Choir School and went on to become assistant organist 1956-8 at St Paul's Cathedral. He was organist 1958-65 at Croydon Parish Church and founder in 1960 of the Croydon Bach Society. From 1956 to 1965 he was tutor, then subwarden, and finally warden of the RSCM. He moved to Canada in 1965 and served as organist-choirmaster at Toronto's Grace Church on-the-Hill 1965-79 and choirmaster 1965-70 at Bishop Strachan School. In 1967 he joined the staff of the University of Toronto. He directed the Concord Singers of Toronto 1973-5 and the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus 1975-85. He became organist-choirmaster at Toronto's Church of St Simon the Apostle in 1981.

Several of Holman's tunes and harmonizations appear in The Hymn Book (1971) of the Anglican and United churches of Canada, for which he was a consultant. His commisioned works include Eight Carols for Choir, Soloists, Orchestra and Audience, for the NACO, and Weatherscapes for the Ontario Choral Federation (and premiered in Kingston by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and Canadian Brass). The most important of his several collaborations with Robertson Davies is the opera Doctor Canon's Cure, commissioned by the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus, which also commissioned, and recorded, the carol sequence Sir Christëmas (the recording, which also includes two of his arrangements, won a 1990 National Choral Award from the Association of Canadian Choral Conductors). Holman won a 1988 National Choral Award for Night Music, written in 1985 for the Toronto Mendelssohn Youth Choir. The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir commissioned Holman's Songs of Darkness and Te Deum; for Elmer Iseler's 25th anniversary as conductor of the Mendelssohn Choir. Holman composed Tapestry on a commission from the TS. Other artists and organizations that have commissioned Holman compositions include Mark Pedrotti (The Centered Passion), the Aldeburgh Connection (Nicholas Knock), the Gents (Food for Thought), and the Thirteen Strings of Ottawa (Hommage to Handel, Serenade).

Holman composes in an elusively tonal, strongly rhythmic style, with frequently angular melody, exuberant polyphony, and musical wit. He writes well for voices; the best of his vocal music is characterized by idiosyncratic selection of texts, ready response to dramatic situations, a quirky, sometimes raffish sense of humour, and an intriguing sense of mysticism. He is less happy with the grandiose, which succeeds best when he does not take it seriously. He is an associate of the Canadian Music Centre and a member of the CLComp.

Selected Compositions

Music Theatre
Doctor Canon's Cure, an opera for young people (R. Davies). 1982. STB, children's chorus, 2 treble, 2 soprano, piano. Ms


Homage to Handel. 1985. Str orch. Ms

Serenade for Clarinet and String Orchestra. 1989. Ms


Four Folk Songs From Canada. 1977. Counter tenor, fl, viola, violoncello. Ms

Antiphons of the Venerable Bede. 1979. Counter tenor, organ. Ms

In the Bleak Midwinter. 1981. Mezzo, organ. Ms

The Centered Passion (Tennyson). 1986. Bar, piano. Ms

Nicholas Knock, cantata (D Lee). 1988. Treble (boy soprano), soprano, tenor, 2 piano. Ms


Make We Joy Now In This Feast (Selden). 1964. SATB. Novello 1964. Poly 2917-009 (Festival Singers)

Mary is a Lady Bright. 1964. SATB. Novello 1964. Poly 2917-009 (Festival Singers)

Christ Keep Us All. 1971. Treble, SATB. GVT 1974. 2-Fantasy FS-23315 (Youth Band and Youth Singers of Ontario)

Eight Carols. 1972. Vs, choir, orch (piano or brass quintet), audience. Ms

Mass of St Thomas (liturgical text). 1973. SATB, organ. Wat 1974.

Weatherscapes (A. Bourinot, L. Cox, A Bailey). 1973. SATB, brass quintet. GVT 1973

Beatitudes (Bible). 1974. SATB, organ. GVT 1975

The Niagara Mass (liturgical). 1975. Vs, SATB, organ (piano). GVT 1975

Hommage to John Aubrey (J. Aubrey, R. Davies). 1975. Sop, alto, tenor, bar, bass, SATB, renaissance consort. Ms

Songs of Darkness (J. Joyce, A. McLeish, D. Thomas). 1976 (rev 1980). SATB, brass quintet, percussion. Ms

The North Wind and. Weathers (T. Hardy). 1978. SS (children), piano. Wat 1978

Four Carols. 1980. Choir, audience, orch. Ms

Mass of St. Mark. 1981. SATB. Ms

Three Canadian Folksongs. 1981. SATB, piano. GVT 1982

A Hymn of Celebration. 1981. SATB, organ. Royal School of Church Music

Te Deum. 1983. SATB, orch. Ms

Trinity Mass. 1983. Choir, organ, congregation. Ms

Missa Brevis. 1983-4. Double choir. Ms

'O Come Let Us Sing'. 1984. SATB, brass quintet, organ. Ms

Academic Processional. 1984. Choir, brass, organ. Ms

Night Music. 1985. Choir, string (piano). GVT 1986

Songs of Youth. 1985. SATB, piano. GVT 1990

Laudes Creationis, cantata. 1986. Sop, chorus, instr ensemble. Ms

Sir Christëmas. 1987. Treble (soprano), children's choir, fl, violoncello, harp, piano, percussion (piano alone). Novello 1990. CCOC 0189-CD (CCOC)

Food for Thought. 1989. Men's voices (AATTBB). Ms

Tapestry (Medieval lyrics, Waddel transl). 1989. Chor, orch. Ms

Also an arr of Bach's 'Sheep May Safely Graze,' recorded by the Festival Singers (CBC SM-5042), and many other choral works and arrs, some published by the RSCM and Schirmer. Some are listed in The Catalogue of Printed Music in the British Library (London 1984). 5 Christmas carols published by GVT 1982

Other works for organ, Prelude and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell (1985, recorded by Ian Sadler on Remote Control WRC1-4478); and chamber works

Further Reading

  • Schulman, Michael. 'Derek Holman calls himself an all-round church musician,' CanComp, 147, Jan 1980

    Littler, William. 'Choral director enjoys the secret of youth,' Toronto Star, 30 Nov 1984

    Kraglund, John. 'Holman quietly making his mark on children's chorus,' Toronto Globe and Mail, 1 Dec 1984

    Compositeurs canadiens contemporains