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Holman, Derek


1931 - 2019

Derek Holman, D.Mus. (London), FRAM, FRCO, FRSCM, FRCCO

Derek Holman, organist, composer, choir master, professor and animal lover, died in Ottawa on May 20, 2019. Beloved husband of Margaret Holman, father of Susan, Nicholas and Judith (Peter), grandfather to Derek, Michael and Riley, dear brother of Pearl (John), uncle to Karen (Giorgos) and Steve (Dee) and great-uncle to PJ.

Dr. Holman, as he was known by his choristers and students, was born in Cornwall, England on May 16, 1931. He held posts as an organist and choir-director in Anglican churches in England and Canada and was a professor for almost thirty years in the Faculty of Music’s Department of Theory and Composition at the University of Toronto. From 1975-85 he conducted the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus.

Dr. Holman was an established composer, creating many choral works, including hymn arrangements, a children’s opera, song cycles and oratorios. He received commissions from numerous artists and organizations, such as the CBC, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the Toronto Children's Chorus, the Aldeburgh Connection and many others.

He was an inspiring mentor to countless young people in his church choirs, at the university and in the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus. He was awarded the Order of Canada for his services to music and received an honourary degree of Doctor of Sacred Letters from Trinity College in the University of Toronto.

A memorial service will be held in Toronto this fall to honour his musical legacy. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory to the Toronto Humane Society would be welcome.  

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20 messages received

Margaret Holman

John and I were so sad to hear the news of Derek's death and want to send you our deepest and heartfelt sympathies. We will always be so grateful that Derek was a part of Andrew's life. Through him, Andrew gained a wonderful education in music and learned important lessons about being part of a group contributing to the making of something special and perfect. Both as a teacher and a musician Derek's contribution to Andrew's life and to many hundreds of others lives on.

Margaret Moore, May 23, 2019

Margaret Holman

Dear Margaret:
Kathleen and I were very sorry to read this notice today. You and your family are in our thoughts. Derek's long illness has been a heavy burden for you & we greatly sympathize. Derek was an admired colleague and valued friend. He loved to compose and was very good at it, but I remember he was quite diffident in earlier years. I wasn't surprised when it all blossomed into a strong career. He will be much missed. With best wishes, John Beckwith.

John Beckwith, May 23, 2019

Margaret Holman

Dear Margaret,
Please accept my deepest condolences and heartfelt sympathy for Derek's passing. He was a remarkable the many, many glorious tributes on Facebook and elsewhere attest. As well as his brilliant music, I enjoyed his sense of humour and our friendship. My lengthy conversations with Derek over the years were very special for me. He has left an extraordinary legacy for all of us.

Jean Ashworth Bartle C.M., O.On
Conductor Laureate, Toronto Children's Chorus

Jean Ashworth Bartle, May 23, 2019

Margaret Holman

Dear Margaret,

On behalf of the Toronto Children's Chorus, please accept our deepest condolences and our sympathy for Derek's passing. It was a joy to meet him and work with him on his Christmas work during my tenure, and I know the children loved working with him also! He has left a great legacy to Canadian Music.

With best wishes to you and the family,
Elise Bradley, MNZM
Artistic Director, Toronto Children's Chorus

Elise Bradley, May 23, 2019

Margaret Holman

Just received this very sad news. Dr. Derek Holman, one-of-a-kind and dearly loved by all of us in the Toronto music world. I treasured everything he said and he made such an impression upon me and my family. I loved his compositions and was able to commission one for the Women's Chorus at the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto. Later I was honored to have followed him as the Artistic Director of the Canadian Children's Opera Company. He brilliantly served this organization from 1975 - 1985. Much love and condolences to Margaret and the family. Dear Derek, may you rest eternally in peace.

Ann Cooper Gay, May 24, 2019

Nick Holman

Sorry to hear tale of your dad's passing. I was just reminiscing last week with fellow chorister David Speakman, just down from the Yukon, about our time in the profoundly musical choir at Grace-Church-on-the-Hill under the aegis of Derek. Your dad instilled a sense of musicality in us that stayed for life. No doubt, he's busy now firing up the organ pipes in the great hereafter.

Tony Spencer, May 24, 2019

Judith and Family

My sincerest condolences to the Holman family on this sad loss. I remember Dad so well on my frequent visits to your home on George Henry Blvd when Judith and I were at school together. Always well-dressed, such a sense of humour and of course so talented. I wish you strength and solace of fond memories at this time.

Love, Michele

MICHELE JAMES, May 25, 2019

Margaret, Nicholas, Susan and Judith Holman

Very sad for your loss and for Derek's illness.
Derek was very kind to me. Asked me to pick all the hymns. Only comment ... I seemed to prefer 3/4 time. Was M.C. at my farewell from St. Simon's ... said I was not a tenor.
Many warm memories. Wanted me to write something he could set music. Very generous and I am sad I couldn't rise to it. Best relationship I ever had with an organist. Incredibly fine musician for church and beyond.

Rev. Randal Johnston, May 26, 2019

Margaret and family

I can't tell you all how deeply saddened I was to hear of Derek's death. The world has lost a great artist, teacher and might I add, humorist. We are all diminished by the loss of a friend and someone we admired and respected so much but you even more so by the loss of a husband, father and grandfather of a lifetime. Please believe that my sincerest sympathies and condolences are with you at this time and that you are daily in my thoughts and prayers as you adjust to life without his physical presence amongst you. I have such wonderful memories of our times in Montreal when Nicholas was living there and while having such respect for his musical genius, also such admiration for his ability to see the humour in life's most absurd situations. His gifts as a mimic were of course legend. He has probably already delivered a wicked response to St. Peter as he entered that place which has been prepared for him since the beginning of time and where all those he has loved, made music with and laughed with who have preceded him have awaited his coming. Our loss is only heaven's gain. God Bless you all.

Stephen A. Crisp, May 26, 2019

Margaret Holman

Dear Margaret and family,

Please accept my sincere condolences at Dr. Holman's passing. I admired and looked up to him very much, and he was a strong mentor to me during my years at Trinity and the Faculty of Music. Friends of mine who were fortunate enough to sing in his choirs at Grace Church and St. Simon's have always spoken glowingly of their time with him, and it is clear just how much of a formative influence he was in their lives - truly what every chorister's experience should be. May he rest in peace.

Matthew Larkin, May 30, 2019

The Holman Family

Dear Margaret, Judith, Peter, Riley, Susan and Nicholas,

John and I are thinking about you all send our deepest sympathy for the loss of your beloved husband, father, and grandfather.

Love Laurie and John

Laurie Steven & John Forster, June 6, 2019


Dear Margaret,
Please accept my deepest condolences and sympathy for Dr. Derek Holman's passing. I vividly remember our composition lessons together many years ago when I was a teenager; Jean Ashworth Bartle connected us together, and we spent hours in your basement studying scores, listening to music, and completing theory exercises. He worked me very hard, and I loved it! Towards the end of our time together, he attended a performance of my high school string orchestra premiering my first string quartet. I was so touched to have his presence and support, and still remember how wonderful it felt to hear that he was proud of me and the progress we'd made together. Those lessons have served me well to this day, and I will always treasure the time we shared, the knowledge and wisdom he imparted, and the experience of his generosity and support. My dad and I also loved dropping by your house with fresh marmalade, and saying hello to Charlie. Sending love from all the Luftsprings to you and your family.

Cassie Luftspring, June 14, 2019

Margaret and family

The many richly-deserved tributes to Derek rightly list his many musical achievements, but I would like to add a word about his ability to reduce a class or a choir to uncontrollable mirth. His droll humour could lighten many a topic, and when I was last In Canada, I found that the musicians I met who knew him all had stories of how he made people laugh as well as sing! He tried to teach me the organ in 1960 and this was a serious challenge for him but I always came away both enlightened and amused. After hearing his wonderful boys at Croydon Parish Church soaring up to the top c's of Kodaly's Missa Brevis, my enquiry as to where he found such excellent singers was met with the response that he kicked any boy he saw passing the church and if they yelled he took them into the choir because he knew they were sensitive! I fear this remark might dismay the PC brigade today! Derek was certainly my most unforgettable and lovable mentor. Much missed!

Lionel Sawkins, June 28, 2019


Holman, Derek - Death Notices | Funeral Co-operative of Ottawa Inc.

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Holman, Derek - Death Notices | Funeral Co-operative of Ottawa Inc.

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Holman, Derek - Death Notices | Funeral Co-operative of Ottawa Inc.

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Holman, Derek - Death Notices | Funeral Co-operative of Ottawa Inc.

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Holman, Derek - Death Notices | Funeral Co-operative of Ottawa Inc.

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Holman, Derek - Death Notices | Funeral Co-operative of Ottawa Inc.

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Holman, Derek - Death Notices | Funeral Co-operative of Ottawa Inc.

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