Longstanding members of the CCS have paid tribute to Donald:
Donald was the much loved and respected Musical Director of CCS from 1976-1985. During those years as well as the standard choral repertoire, Bach's Christmas Oratorio, B Minor Mass, St Matthew Passion, Mendelssohn's Elijah, Handel's Israel in Egypt, and Vaughan Williams' Sea Symphony, we joined with Canberra Opera for Vaughan Williams' Pilgrim's Progress, Honegger's Joan of Arc and Britten's Peter Grimes. And somehow we managed Tippett's Child of our Time. We were not quite so keen on some of his music such as his almost unsingable Seven Psalms and Lamentations. They were very exciting times!
Donald was the MD when I joined back in 1979. He was a larger than life personality and a great musician - I remember well the operas we provided the chorus for. I also remember a trip to Melbourne not long after I joined, for a concert with a Melbourne choir, for which Donald insisted we sing our Missa Brevis (Kodaly?) from memory - terrifying! I also remember the Child of our Time performance - a pitifully small audience, but my mother uncharacteristically loved it! A wonderful choral director.
Donald was a wonderful choral director and was indeed loved even though he could be irritable at times. He brought great flair to the CCS and, given he was also artistic director of Canberra Opera, enabled us not only to do the great choral works but also to provide the chorus for various operas. Under his and Ken Healy’s direction, Canberra Opera specialised in 20th century opera. Donald helped rediscover Ralph Vaughan Williams by staging the first (sold out) performance of the opera Pilgrim’s Progress for many years. The composer’s widow came to Canberra and attended the opening night at Llewellyn Hall. We also did other works including Tippett’s A Child of Our Time, which almost bankrupted the choir because we couldn’t sell it to a large audience (such a shame). We really did some wonderful things with Donald at the helm.
As the poem goes: 'We can shed tears that he is gone. Or we can smile, because he has lived."
The Australian composer Donald Hollier has died
An expert pianist, Hollier's compositions included an opera, works for orchestras and chamber ensembles, and solo pieces for piano, harpsichord and organ.
Limelight has been informed of the death of composer Donald Hollier. He was 89.
Born in Sydney, Hollier studied piano at the NSW State Conservatorium of Music, graduating in 1955 with the Frank Shirley Memorial Prize for the most distinguished student of the year.
In 1956, he was awarded The Vasanta Scholarship and travelled to Vienna, before continuing his studies at the Royal Academy of Music and at the National Opera School in London. He graduated from the University of London in 1961 with a Bachelor of Music.
Returning to Australia in 1962, Hollier was appointed as the first Director of Music at Sydney’s Newington College. He travelled again to London to undertake further postgraduate study, returning in 1967 to become Head of Theoretical Studies and Senior Lecturer in Composition and Musicology at the Canberra School of Music, a position he retained until 1984. He was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 1973, and in 1974 received his D.Mus. from the University of London.
Hollier loved working with choirs. He was appointed as conductor of the Canberra Choral Society in 1976, and Musical Director of Canberra Opera in 1978, where he staged the Australian premieres of a number of significant 20th-century works such as Honegger’s oratorio Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher (Joan of Arc at the Stake), Vaughan Williams’ The Pilgrim’s Progress and Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites.
Hollier’s own compositions include an opera (1987’s The Beggar’s …op’ra), works for chorus and orchestra, stage works, chamber music and solo pieces for piano, harpsichord and organ – among them A Little Sea Music (2021) inspired by poems about the sea.
Hollier received commissions from the ABC, the Sydney Organ Society, the University of Melbourne, Duo Contemporain, the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and Musica Viva Australia. He was also composer-in-residence with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in 1990 and 1991.
Hollier was one of three winners of the 2020 Bel a cappella Choral Composition Prize for his work Crossing the Bar (Alfred Lord Tennyson).