Death of a UK-Canadian composer, 88

Death of a UK-Canadian composer, 88


norman lebrecht

May 20, 2019

Friends are reporting the death of Derek Holman, a Cornish-born composer who migrated to Canada in 1965.

He taught at the University of Toronto from 1966, directed the Concord Singers of Toronto and the Canadian Children’s Opera Company and was organist and choirmaster at Church of St Simon the Apostle in Toronto.

He composed several works with texts by the Canadian novelist Robertson Davies.





  • Bonnie Silver-Kraft says:

    I am so saddened to hear of Dr. Holman’s passing.

    I will always fondly remember his classes at U of T which had a lasting influence on me and so many of my colleagues. I think of his entertaining and brilliant wit, his high expectations of excellence from his students, but most of all Derek’s immense musical skills and creativity which awed us all.

    I had the privilege of producing a wonderful CD of his songs “Ash Roses”; and was so moved by the music’s great beauty and depth.

    My condolences to his family. His passing is a huge loss to the Canadian musical community.

    Bonnie Silver-Kraft

  • Alexander Rapoport says:

    Derek Holman was a musician’s musician – a first-rate composer, pianist and organist and conductor – and a very important mentor for me.

  • Duncan Gibson says:

    Today I am grateful for the life of Derek Holman, CM.

    I remember singing Oh Canada to audition for the Boys Choir at St. Simons at about eight years old, and was fortunate enough to sing with the choir three times a week for another five years.

    St. Simons was a smaller church in Toronto, but under the stewardship of DH, its choir was arguably one of the best. Tuesday evening rehearsals were just for the boys, and Thursdays were for the entire choir. On Sunday mornings we donned cassocks and collected our Hymnals, Psalters and sheet music in well-worn duo-tangs. I learned to sing, but also to be quite and patient during Sunday services. The gig came with a salary too, something like 10 dollars a month, probably pennies an hour.

    Christmas was always a highlight, with services at church and concerts elsewhere. A bright, bright highlight was the choir’s tour to Yorkminster and Westminster in about the summer of 1992. But today I remember my favourite Easter music: Allegri’s Miserere Mei.

    DH was a Shepard and my childhood was made better by his efforts, and so I give thanks.

    • John Birkett says:

      Beautifully written, Duncan. Thank you. Please e-mail me a copy so that I can forward it. Thank you.