SOCAN member composer Derek Holman – also an organist, choirmaster, professor, animal lover, and Member of the Order of Canada – died in Ottawa on May 20, 2019, at the age of 88.
Holman was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 2002 for his services to music, and received an honourary Doctor of Sacred Letters degree from Trinity College at the University of Toronto. He also won two National Choral Awards from the Association of Canadian Choral Conductors, for Night Music (1988), written for the Toronto Mendelssohn Youth Choir, and Sir Christëmas (1990), written for the Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus.
His compositions include commissioned works for the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Ontario Choral Federation, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the Canadian Brass, and the Canadian Children’s Opera Company (then Chorus). Holman collaborated with iconic Canadian author Robertson Davies on the children’s opera Doctor Canon’s Cure and the oratorio Jezebel. He was an associate of the Canadian Music Centre and a member of the Canadian League of Composers.
Born in Cornwall, England, in 1931, Holman earned a Doctorate in Music from the University of London and was a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal School of Church Music, and the Royal College of Organists. In England, he held posts in various churches, including the Westminster Abbey Choir School and St Paul’s Cathedral.
Holman moved to Canada in 1965, working as choirmaster at Bishop Strachan School, and organist and choirmaster at Toronto’s Grace Church-on-the-Hill. He began teaching music at the University of Toronto in 1966 and served for almost 30 years in its Faculty of Music, in the Department of Theory and Composition. He directed the Concord Singers of Toronto and the Canadian Children’s Opera Company (then Chorus) and was the organist and choirmaster at Church of St Simon the Apostle. He was an inspiring mentor to countless young people in his church choirs, at the university, and in the chorus of the children’s opera.
Holman is survived by his wife Margaret Holman; children Susan, Nicholas and Judith (and her partner Peter); grandchildren Derek, Michael, and Riley; sister Pearl (and her partner John); and his extended family. SOCAN offers its condolences to his family and friends at this sad time.
A memorial service will be held in Toronto this fall to honour Dr. Holman’s musical legacy. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory to the Toronto Humane Society are welcome.