Holman, Derek

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Holman, Derek

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Derek Holman was a composer, organist, choir conductor, and professor, born on May 16, 1931 in Illogan, England.

Holman studied at the Royal Academy of Music with Sir William McKie, Eric Thiman, and York Bowen from 1948 to 1952, before becoming an instructor in the Royal Army Educational Corps (1952-1954); master at Westminster Abbey Choir School (1954-1956); assistant organist at St. Paul's cathedral (1956-1958); organist at Croydon Parish Church (1958-1965); and, tutor, subwarden, and warden of the Royal School of Church Music (1956-1965). He also founded the Croydon Bach Society in 1960.

He then immigrated to Canada in 1965, where he was the organist-choirmaster at Grace Church-on-the-Hill (1965-1979), choirmaster at Bishop Strachan School, and professor at the University of Toronto (1967-1996). He also directed the Concord Singers of Toronto (1973-1975) and the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus (1975-1985), and was the organist-choirmaster at the Church of St. Simon the Apostle (1981-1998).

The bulk of Holman's compositions are theatrical and choral music. He frequently collaborated with Robertson Davies, who wrote the libretti for several of Holman's compositions, including Doctor Canon's Cure (1982), which was commissioned by the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus. Among his other commissions are Songs of Darkness and Te Deum, written for the Toronto Mendelssohn Youth Choir; The Invisible Reality and Tapestry; for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra; Nicholas Knock, The Heart Mislaid, Airs and Echoes upon a ground, and The Death of Orpheus for the Aldeburgh Connection; and many others.

Holman became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Church Music in 1972 and a Member of the Order of Canada in 2002. He was also an associate of the Canadian Music Centre and a member of the Canadian League of Composers. He passed away in Ottawa, Ontario on May 20, 2019.


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Created February 6, 2020.




Elaine Keillor, "Derek Holman," The Canadian Encyclopedia, https://thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/derek-holman. Last edited February 3, 2020.

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