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Moerenhout, Jos

Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, 27/04/1909 > Antwerpen, 18/01/1985


Moerenhout, Jos

by Annelies Focquaert

Already at an early age it was a dead certainty to Jos Moerenhout that he would go into music. He took music lessons at the academy of music in Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, played the clarinet in the symphonic wind orchestra of Lanaken and wrote his first works at age nine. At age 17 he was already conducting a choir and a wind orchestra, in addition founding the symphonic orchestra Excelsior. As a secondary school graduate he went to the Brussels Conservatory to study composition, musical theory and clarinet. Subsequently he received private tutoring from Paul Gilson and August de Boeck (counterpoint, fugue and composition). In 1929 he became solo clarinettist in the Band of the 8th Line Regiment of Brussels.

He opted for a military career, in 1939 obtaining the degree of bandmaster. With this training he first became bandmaster of the 1st Light Infantry Chasseurs in Mons (1939-1940), but the outbreak of the Second World War checked his career to a great extent: not only did he lose all his scores, but he was also made a prisoner of war in Germany. After the war he became conductor of the Bands of the 6th Brigade in Cologne and of the 7th Brigade in Aachen and Unna (1945-1951). On Christmas 1950 his mass Puer Natus est was executed at Aachen Cathedral. From 1951 to 1960 he was bandmaster of the 11th Infantry Brigade Band in Antwerp, which in 1955 was renamed as the 2nd Division Band.

Though initially his compositional interest was mainly directed towards symphonic and choral music, it transpired later that he had lost his heart to music for wind instruments. He combined both loves by making several transcriptions for wind orchestra, such as for instance of Grétry's Danses villageoises, Céphale et Procris and Zemir et Azor, of Benoit's Concert Suite and Alva's intocht te Brussel (The Duke of Alba's Entry into Brussels), Arthur Meulemans's Tweede Danssuite, Flor Peeters's Modale Suite (for organ) and of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana.

Upon his return to Belgium he recovered his taste for composing, resulting in works like the Tweede orkestsuite (Second Orchestral Suite), the symphonic poem Images d'Eté, the suite Vier Antwerpse Kunstschilders (Four Antwerp Painters), the suites Lente (Spring), Divertimento Burlesco, Ode aan de Schelde (Tribute to the River Scheldt) and Mini Midi Maxi.

As a composer Moerenhout primarily concentrated on renewing the repertoire of the (symphonic) wind bands. The music he wrote is very melodious and of a rich harmonious colour. His at times obstinate rhythms and extremely varied orchestration contributed to a considerable extent to the appraisal of the wind orchestra as a valuable medium. His music met with international fame and figured as set work at international competitions ranging from the former Czechoslovakia to the United States.

© Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek vzw - Annelies Focquaert (translation: Jo Sneppe)