This is the first recording entirely dedicated to the songs of celebrated Canadian composer Derek Holman. Although few late 20th- and 21st-century Canadian composers have made song a focus of their output, Derek Holman, most noted for his choral works, has became a champion of the art form in his late career and has established a reputation as a composer sympathetic to vocal inflection and poetic nuance.

Ash Roses highlights a group of Holman’s works written over a twenty-year span that coincides with the composer’s most prolific period of writing art song. The program features a group of artists well known for their dedication to song and chamber repertoire. Tenor Lawrence Wiliford, soprano Mireille Asselin, pianist Liz Upchurch and harpist Sanya Eng perform all previously unrecorded works that include Ash Roses (1994), Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal (2007), The Four Seasons (2009) and a collection of songs for high voice and harp (2011).

This recording represents the inaugural CD release by the Canadian Art Song Project (CASP), which aims to nurture and promote the Canadian art song repertoire. Founded in 2011 by tenor Lawrence Wiliford and pianist Steven Philcox and inspired by a passion for Canadian music, CASP’s mission is to build on the rich legacy of Canadian song. It engages composers, librettists, and performers to share and celebrate their experiences through the creation of new music and provides opportunities for Canadian artists to program and advocate the wealth of beauty in the existing song literature.


Lawrence Wiliford, tenor
Liz Upchurch, piano
1. Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind 2:37
2. Christmas Eve 3:02
3. The Hounds of Spring 1:42
4. Fair Daffodils 2:56
5. Summer Thirst 2:17
6. August 2:43
7. Towered Camelot 3:41
8. The West Wind 3:42

Mireille Asselin, soprano
Liz Upchurch, piano
9. Geology 3:28
10. Maze 2:48
11. Sweet Breath at Night 3:24
12. Arabesque 6:07
13. Amore mi fai Danzar 3:02
14. Alchemy 5:15

Lawrence Wiliford, tenor
Mireille Asselin, soprano
Liz Upchurch, piano

Lawrence Wiliford, tenor
Sanya Eng, Harp
16. Midnight on the Great Western 2:36
17. Adlestrop 3:32
18. Loveliest of Trees 2:18

Lawrence Wiliford, tenor
Mireille Asselin, soprano
Liz Upchurch, piano
Sanya Eng, harp


« Asselin, a recognized champion of new music, sings with confidence, security and high expression. […] Wiliford shows here why he is one of this country’s finest song interpreters. His lyrical phrasing, diction, articulation, range of vocal colours, subtle vibrato and high emotion are wonderful. Pianist Upchurch handles the often-difficult piano parts with ease, always supportive, never intrusive. […] « Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal » is a lovely duet to a poem by Tennyson, with Asselin and Wiliford here completely in sync, vocally, technically and expressively. » – Rick Phillips, Opera Canada

« All in all, this is a virtuosic display at every level. But always it is subtle, seemingly simple, limpid and lyrical, full of ease. This recording will no doubt bring these wonderful songs to the wider audience it seeks. I’m delighted to say I’ve already heard some of these pieces on recent recital programs, and this CD will be the reference point for future performances. The Canadian Art Song Project has set a new standard of excellence as they (to quote their introductory essay) « attempt to increase our understanding of what it is to be human. » A profound and noble goal, matched by profound and noble music. Ash Roses is not to be missed. » – Cecilia Livingston, Notations

« The clear and direct harmonic language of Gerald Finzi and Ralph Vaughan Williams is apparent in the immediacy, spontaneity and tonal imagination of [The Four Seasons]. Wiliford’s singing is expressive, musical, and dramatically exciting, with an exquisite dedication to the text. Upchurch demonstrates her mastery of the piano, sophisticated collaborative skills, and sensitivity to color, line and meaning in the music. […] Ash Roses (1994), the album’s title, is a cycle of six songs. Coloratura soprano Mireille Asselin performs these beautiful songs with Liz Upchurch again at the piano. […] Holman brilliantly delivers a score with a wide palate of colour and musical expression in these highly charged songs. Asselin, who possesses a gorgeous, sparkling, soaring voice, offers a tour de force performance with her dazzling coloratura and impeccable legato. Asselin has exquisite control of her instrument displaying stunning pianissimo singing in high tessituras. Her voice is brilliantly hued and gains luminosity as it ascends into its upper register. I absolutely loved her singing of this cycle; her coloratura is impeccably voiced and fluid, and her intonation flawless. Beyond that, she sings every one of these songs with a rapturous joy that is utterly irresistible. Upchurch also deserves credit for the recording’s outstanding musicality. Specifically, her playing draws in the listener with its simplicity, well-defined clarity, energy when needed, and subtle rhythmic elasticity, all of which serve to illuminate the songs. » – Jane Leibel, CAML Review