Derek Holman was born in Cornwall, England in 1931. He was educated at Truro School and at the Royal Academy of Music, studying with York Bowen, Eric Thiman and William McKie. He received no formal instruction in composition but was awarded three composition prizes whilst a student, and graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Music from the University of London, and the Fellowship Diploma from the Royal College of Organists.
Throughout his adult life, Holman has been active as a composer, teacher and church musician. His varied experience as a teacher began with two years as a sergeant-instructor in the British Army of the Rhine, followed by two years as Music Master at the Westminster Abbey Choir School. From 1956 to 1965, he was Tutor, later Warden, at the headquarters of the Royal School of Church Music. In 1965 he emigrated with his family to Canada, and from 1967 taught at the University of Toronto, in the Faculty of Music's Department of Theory and Composition, retiring as a Professor in 1996.
As an organist and choir-director, Dr. Holman held posts in Anglican churches in England and Canada, retiring from St. Simon's Bloor St. in Toronto in 1998. From 1975-85 he conducted the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus.
Derek Holman's considerable output as a composer consists almost entirely of choral works, ranging from hymn-tunes to full-scale oratorios, and songs for solo-voice and piano. Most of these works were commissioned by a wide range of performing artists or organizations, including the CBC, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the Toronto Children's Chorus, the International Choral Festival of 1993, the Aldeburgh Connection and many others.
Holman's collaborations with Robertson Davies include three Gaudy Night cantatas for Massey College, a children's opera, Dr. Cannon's Cure, and the oratorio Jezebel, premiered at Roy Thomson Hall in 1993. A second oratorio The Invisible Reality to words by P.K. Page was premiered there in 2000, as part of Toronto's Millennial Celebrations.
Of Holman's sixty-plus songs, most are found in twelve song-cycles. These include Ash Roses, written for Karina Gauvin, The Centred Passion, written for Mark Pedrotti in 1986, and recorded by Gerald Finley and Stephen Ralls in1998 for CBC Records, and in 2008, The Four Seasons, commissioned by the Canadian Opera Company in memory of their director, Richard Bradshaw.Dr. Holman holds the degree of Doctor of Music from the University of London and is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music. He was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2003.
December 2010, prepared by Elizabeth Anderson.
1988 CAPAC, Canadian League of Composers