John Holland poses with his Juno statuetteUWindsor alumnus John Holland, who sings baritone, shares a Juno Award with the Ottawa Bach Choir.

Music alum shares Juno Award with Ottawa Bach Choir

Winning a Juno award is a rare and wonderful honour for a professional musician.

For UWindsor music alum John Holland (BMus 2000), it was the jewel atop an extraordinary performing and recording experience with the Ottawa Bach Choir in 2018 for the album Handel: Dixit Dominus; Bach & Schütz: Motets.

“I’ve worked with OBC since 2012 as a soloist and baritone,” says Dr. Holland. “The choir is made up of professional singers. The founder and artistic director, Dr. Lisette Canton, is an expert on the repertoire. She studies scores and we do as well. During these recording sessions we were all focused on her vision for these works.”

When the album was released, it received very favourable reviews from European and U.S. publications including Gramophone Magazine, Fanfare, American Record Guide, and the Whole Note, culminating in winning the 2020 Juno Award for Classical Album of the Year – Vocal or Choral Performance.

“The reviewers were comparing our album favourably with standards in this category,” says Holland. “So, we knew we had created something special.”

In addition to his involvement with the choir, Holland has a diverse career performing in operas, oratorio, and art song. He regularly lectures with the Canadian Opera Company and the Royal Conservatory of Music, and teaches classical voice at York University. He is also the music director and choir conductor for Blessed Trinity Parish in Toronto.

“I have so much pride being a University of Windsor alumnus. The tight friendships that you make last,” says Holland. “I always tell people that the core music education I received at Windsor, the individual attention, extra care, the family atmosphere, was the solid base that sustained me in the rest of my studies. I learned how to learn music.”

He credits music professors Ed Kovarik, Richard Householder, David Palmer, and Gillian McKay for their mentorship and providing students an excellent education in ‘the old bowling alley.’

“Music and other performing arts have been the hardest hit during the pandemic,” he says. “Everything I do is live and in person and that isn’t happening currently.”

Virtual performances on social media platforms are a very different way of making music.

“For singers, our body is our instrument. I advise my students to listen to themselves and listen to other singers,” says Holland. “If you are learning an opera role, listen to lots of other professional singers performing it. Also, watch and listen to yourself often. Be comfortable with your instrument (voice). What we perceive in our head is not what you hear on a recording, so getting accustomed to what you hear on videos and recordings are important moving forward.”

After graduating from the University of Windsor, Holland went on to receive an artist diploma in performance and MMus from Western University, and his PhD in musicology from York University.

Visit his website

—Susan McKee