Derek Holman – Ash Roses
Mireille Asselin; Lawrence Wiliford; Liz Upchurch; Sanya Eng
Centrediscs CMCCD 19914

The Canadian Art Song Project was founded in 2011 by tenor Lawrence Wiliford and pianist Stephen Philcox with a mission to build on the rich legacy of Canadian song, especially art song, through performance, recording, commissions and editing. There is no finer example of Canadian art song composers to feature than the English-born and longtime Canadian resident Derek Holman. Holman has written a prolific number of choral works in addition to his opera, oratorio, keyboard, chamber and orchestral compositions. In Ash Roses, two song cycles and two collections are featured in this first all-Holman recording.

Wiliford sings with passion, power, and clear articulation in The Four Seasons, an eight-song cycle commissioned by the COC in memory of Richard Bradshaw. Set to a number of British poems, it is a moving collection rich in lyrical tonality, word painting, contrasting moods and subtle harmonic shifts. In Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal, Wiliford is joined by soprano Mireille Asselin in a virtuosic duet. Asselin shines in the song cycle title track Ash Roses. The at times witty text of Canadian poet Tricia Postle is given a more atonal setting with vocal interval leaps and shifting rhythmic piano accompaniment. Pianist Liz Upchurch is unbelievable in her accompaniments – these difficult piano parts sound effortless thanks to her awesome musicality and technique. Harpist Sanya Eng accompanies Wiliford admirably in the intricate Three Songs for High Voice and Harp.

Holman ends these compositions with simple luscious resonating cadences leaving the listener begging for more Canadian art songs.

by Tina Kiik, The Wholenote, June 2014 – Link to Article