Gaston Feremans was taught music for the first time by composer and carilloneur Staf Nees. From 1917 onwards, he studied the violin, the piano and harmony at the Conservatory of Mechelen, after which he went to the Lemmens institute in 1924. Here, he obtained the Lemmens-Tinel prize in 1929. Next, he obtained his teacher’s degree, after which he started his vocal studies and orchestration at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels.
Feremans debuted as a tenor successfully, and tried to thrive as a director with his own orchestra. In 1934, he became the principal of the municipal music school of Aalst, which he would remain until 1944. During the Second World War, Feremans toured throughout Flanders with his choir Het Vendel, with which he also performed for Zender Brussel and other Flemish-nationalist organizations such as the Vlaamsch Nationaal Verbond (VNV), Nationaal-Socialistische Jeugd Vlaanderen (NSJV) and Duitsch-Vlaamsche Arbeidsgemeenschap.
For these instances of cultural collaboration, he was captured on the 9th of September 1944. Ensuing this, he was sentenced to 7 years of prison, a fine and lifelong deprivation of his civil rights. For this reason, the municipal board of Aalst fired him as principal of the music school. In March 1947, Feremans was released, after which he regained his civil rights in 1958. After his imprisonment, he lived in Antwerp, where he was the principal organist of the Saint-August church. In 1964, he died of meningitis.
In 1931, he established the Saint-John’s male choir, for which he composed his first mass. During his period in Aalst, he composed an oratorium, three cantatas, some songs and choral works and his Symphony in C minor.
In 1946, then, he also established himself as a promising symphonic composer. After this, he solely composed vocal music, religious works and six masses in particular. Feremans kept on composing during difficult times: even during his imprisonment, he wrote sixty pieces, and spending his last years in a sanatorium because of his tuberculosis, he was even awarded with the Expo Prize of the City Mechelen for his Sonatine for carillon. Moreover, he won a supporting premium in the composition competition Lodewijk Mortelmans for his Jaarkrans van geestelijke en wereldlijke liederen. In 1961, his oratorium Het Bronzen Hart was performed in Mechelen.
Oratorium Het Bronzen Hart
This work counted as his most important work and was commissioned by the city of Mechelen. The title symbolizing the carillon of the Saint-Rumbold’s cathedral, the piece pays tribute to the carillon, the city of Mechelen and its carilloneurs Jef Denyn and Staf Nees. The oratorium containes 8 parts for soprano, baritone, children’s choir, mixed choir, orchestra and carillon. The 7th part, The Artist, was dedicated to Staf Nees, who also directed the première of this work. The second performance in Brussels on the 8th of April in 1962 was directed by Feremans himself, and was also supported by the Flemish Ministry of National Education and Culture, which eventually counted as his rehabilitation.
Choral works (selection)
- 1934: Johannes de Doper, oratorium.
- 1931: Klokke Roeland.
- 1944: Gebed voor het Vaderland. Listen to it here.
- 1957: Schoon land, mijn land.
- 1961: Het Bronzen Hart, oratorium for soprano, baritone, children’s choir, mixed choir, orchestra and carillon. Listen to it here.
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