Chuck Holdeman has written songs, works for band, orchestra, chamber music, and film and educational music. His one-act opera “Agostino and the Puccini Clarinet,” with libretto by Vincent Marinelli, was premiered in 2007 at the Music School of Delaware, and produced again in 2008. In 2006 his “Concerto tre d’uno” was commissioned and premiered by the Philadelphia Classical Symphony. The soloist and dedicatee was Richard Woodhams, principal oboist (retired) of the Philadelphia Orchestra, who performed the work again in 2011 for the International Double Reed Society in Tempe, Arizona.
2009 saw the premieres of both “At the Bend,” eight songs based on poems by W. S. Merwin, who was in attendance, as well as “Quintetto” for bassoon and string quartet which received its first two performances in Birmingham , UK and Bordeaux, France, featuring Paris opera bassoonist Ludovic Tissus. Tissus also was featured in the American premiere in New York in 2014 of “Trois Hommages: Ravel, Pärt, Bach,” which was presented in a new septet version including piano and string quintet.
Holdeman is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied bassoon with Sol Schoenbach and counterpoint with Matthew Colucci, later studying bassoon in France with Maurice Allard. He is principal bassoonist for the Bach Festival of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and performs with Philadelphia’s new music group Relâche. He was a member of the Buffet Trio for 20 years, and for 28 years was a member of the Delaware Symphony, including 24 years as principal.
For Relâche he has composed two scores for silent films, for Maya Deren’s “At Land” and for Max Linder’s “Max fait de la photo.” Chuck also composed two trios for members of Relâche, “Neighborhood Music” and “Mural Music.” Both of these community projects were based in South Philadelphia, the first for two after school programs with dancer Jenna Frome, United Communities Southeast Philadelphia, and American Composers Forum, Philadelphia Chapter. The second, in the fall of 2014, was a collaboration with ACF and Mural Arts Philadelphia, based on refugee residents re-settled from Burma and Nepal. Chuck’s Sumer Redux (2016) for Relâche was based on ancient cuneiform tablets in the collection of The Penn Museum where Relâche was in residence. It included the dispute between the Hoe and the Plow, and texts by Enheduana (b. 2285 BC), sometimes described as the first woman poet.
In 1999 Chuck Holdeman was named Composer of the Year by the Pennsylvania and Delaware State Music Teachers Associations, which commissioned “Crossover Soundings,” for piano 4-hands, and in 2000 he was the first recipient of the Delaware Division of the Arts Master Artist Fellowship. In 2003 Holdeman received the Beekhuis Award for outstanding service and performance in the Delaware Symphony Orchestra. The DSO commissioned and performed the orchestral version of “Crossover Soundings” as well as “The Curse” for narrator and orchestra. For 15 seasons Chuck initiated and facilitated the DSO’s high school composition project, and was commissioned again by the DSO on the occasion of his retirement from the orchestra to compose “Petit Concert” for wind octet.
Chuck has produced two CDs, one featuring “Buffet Music,” commissioned by Hampden-Sydney College for the Buffet Trio, and the other an all original solo album, partially recorded in the Cistern, an empty two-million-gallon water storage tank in Port Townsend, Washington. The Cistern’s 20 to 40 second reverberation time enables the bassoon to play chords among other magical effects. “Sonate en Trio” is included in the Meyer Media recording by Mélomanie Florescence. “Lyric Seasons” was released in 2012 on CD Baby, iTunes, and Amazon.
Working with librettist Bill Bly, Chuck completed his second opera, Young Meister Bach, a one-act based on mishaps in the early career of J. S. Bach. It premiered March 1 and 2, and May 3 and 10, 2014 in Bethlehem and Philadelphia, commissioned and produced by the Bach Festival of Bethlehem. Chuck completed two suites for solo piano (now available on his Soundcloud page), also somewhat inspired by Bach and the baroque dances of Bach’s solo instrumental suites, as well as a wind quintet, and two sets of variations, the first on Stravinsky’s little known bassoon duo Lied Ohne Name, and the second a bassoon quartet, variations on Berlioz’ Chant de Brander. This composition entitled Berlioz Rat was premiered by the North American French Bassoon Quartet in August 2018 in Granada, Spain for the IDRS. His 8-part set of songs and narrations for baritone voice, violin, viola, ‘cello, and piano, based on the poetry of Jeffrey Harrison was premiered on March 16, 2019 for Market Street Music in Wilmington, Delaware and on March 17 for the German Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. A new opera project is a one-act for young audiences, “Yorgie Yorgensen, the Pop-Cycle, and the Sausage Bassoon,” with librettist Vincent Marinelli. To see a 6-minute video of two scenes from this work in progress, please press play:
Several new pieces were composed during the pandemic with premieres delayed including duos for violin and harp, for baroque flute and harpsichord, and for ‘cello and piano, also a reed quintet, and a group of three songs based on poems set in Philadelphia. Another duo, for oboe and bassoon was played outdoors in parks in the summer of 2020 by Richard Woodhams and the composer. “String of Events” for string quartet was premiered in Philadelphia April 22, 2022, presented by Artcinia. Orchestra 2001 has commissioned “Pier Music” for Philadelphia’s Cherry Street Pier, to include a workshop session with violinist Luigi Mazzocchi and harpist Rong Tan, who will later perform the Pier Premiere. Holdeman’s newest composition is a trio for oboe, bassoon, and harp.