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Renowned composer conducts UWRF Symphony Band

March 4, 2015

The UW-River Falls Symphony Band hosted a world-renowned Dutch composer and conductor, Johan de Meij, for its concert on Thursday, Feb. 26, in the Abbott Concert Hall.

“His is a name known across the entire world for wind orchestra,” said Symphony Band Director Kristin Tjornehoj. “He doesn’t really say that he writes for bands. Its been said that he rebelled.”

Abbott Concert Hall was nearly full on Feb. 26. Many students, as well as community members, braved the cold, windy night to hear de Meij and Holland alto saxophone soloist Hans de Jong along with the Symphony Band.

Tjornehoj stepped aside and played alongside her students as de Meij took the conductor’s baton and launched into the night’s opening piece, “The Witches’ Sabbath.”

The concert featured the newly released “Riverdance,” with elements from Spanish and Irish folk dance, according to de Meij. Along with “Riverdance,” de Meij conducted the symphony band in “Spring” and “Summer,” both inspired by Scandinavian folk music.

The UWRF Band Invitational is a program in the music department hosted by Tjornehoj and music lecturer Gary Bird. There were different events featuring de Meij last week. A master class was held on Feb. 26, with de Meij’s “Preview of the World Premiere Fellini.” On Friday, de Jong was also part of a smaller recital at the Coffee Concert.

De Meij has won awards including his Symphony No. 1, “The Lord of the Rings,” based on the trilogy by author J.R.R. Tolkien, according to de Meij’s website. The piece was awarded the prestigious Sudler Composition Prize in 1989.

When not traveling, he divides his time between his Hudson Valley, New York, home and a Manhattan apartment. He is the founder and CEO of his own publishing company, Amstel Music, established in 1989.

After spending the week in River Falls, de Meij plans to move on to Michigan for the Red Cedar Festival. In 2014, de Meij became principal guest conductor of both the New York Wind Symphony and the Kyushu Wind Orchestra in Fukuoka, Japan, according to his website.

Later that night, de Meij introduced his friend and special guest, de Jong. Originally from Holland, de Jong took the stage with de Meij for the first time at UWRF’s concert.

“My dear friend, Hans de Jong, we have been friends since 1997 and have traveled the world together,” de Meij said.

De Jong was the solo alto saxophone in de Meij’s “Ballade for Band,” “Elfentanz” and “Riverdance.” He is a professor of classical saxophone and chamber music at the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp in Belgium.

He has produced the seven part CD series “Vintage of European Saxophone Music,” released by Casanova Records. About 150 compositions have been dedicated to him, according to his website.

For more music and concerts, the Falcon Band Concert will be at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 10, and the UWRF Band Concert will be at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 12.