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STREJC, JIŘÍ (1932-2010)
Jiří Strejc (pron. YIH-zhee StrrAITS), was born in in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in 1932; he died in Hradec Králové, Czech Republic, on December 8, 2010. Unbelievable as it may seem, he entered the arena of becoming a church musician—choir director and organist—in 1943 at the height of World War II at the age of 11 out of sheer necessity. The inhabitants of Bohemia and Moravia were sent to the Reich (Germany) as slaves in the military industry to slow down the defeat of the forces which included the organist and choir director from his parish, the Church of Mary, Queen of Peace in Praha-Lhotka. This church was built just before WWII to atone for the offence caused by rabble, who after the First World War demolished a historical column of the Holy Virgin. In time of war, since nobody could immediately take over this function, musically gifted, 11 year-old Jiří Strejc, was appointed to be the church's music director. He remained the choir director and organist at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Hradec Králové all of his professional life.
It is understandable that he had immediately educated himself to fulfill at least minimal demands of this important church position. Before reaching adulthood, he was able to study at the State schools of music. He took private piano lessons from Professor Marie Vojtchová and studied harmony, counterpoint and other theoretical subjects from Vojtěch Říhovský, the famous composer and organist at the Church of St. Ludmila in Prague. Further studies in music education were done at the Conservatory of Music and Academy of Music—Organ Performance with Professors M. Kampelsheimer and B. A. Wiedermann, and Composition with O. A. Tichý.
The publishing house Anton Boehm and Son, Augsburg, Germany, published "Ciacona brevis," which is the first-fruit of Jiří Strejc's musical composition, outside of his school works. Its success initiated Jiří's creative work which is approximately 80 opuses in the area of sacred music, masses, motets, liturgical music, as well as vocal and instrumental works of different genres from folk to serious concert works. His organ works are published by Alliance Publications, Inc., USA.
Jiří Strejc lived in Hradec Králové in the Czech Republic. He had two sons; the older one, Martin (1957), is also a professional musician, a choir director, and organist. Together with his father, they collaborated on many musical endeavors—liturgies, recordings, concerts. In his lifetime, Jiří Strejc delighted many an audience with his organ concerts in Prague and elsewhere. Martin, now follows in his footsteps having had a significant concert tour to St. Paul Cathedral in London; Methuen Memorial Music Hall, Massachusetts; Holy Trinity Church, Boston; St. Patrick Cathedral, New York; and Aachen, Germany. The younger son, Cyril (1983), became a musician specializing in the area of computer music notation and mathematics.
In the 1970's after Vatican Council II, a reformed liturgy was introduced which demanded deep changes even in music, bringing about the need for a new hymn book for the church. Jiří Strejc won the competition for organ accompaniment harmonizations and was appointed a member of the music section of the diocesan liturgical commission.
At that time, he founded and directed a vocal chamber choir of 12 singers, Cantores Artis Antique, which reached professional level. Because of its extraordinary quality performance, this choir which gave concerts in the time of the communist era, was able to be defended.
From 1993-2008, Jiří Strejc had been educating young organists at the Episcopal Grammar School of Bohuslav Balbín in Hradec Králové. A number of these organists are engaged in the churches of Hradec Králové diocese, while especially talented students studied at the University School of Music.
Beside leading choirs, Jiří Strejc's strengh has been in choral composition and the interpretation of organ works with a special emphasis on forgotten works as well as of organ transcriptions to build a unique organ repertoire. One of his profile choir compositions is "Hradčany" ("Prague Castle" AP-1563) which was dedicated to the first President of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel. This work was awarded the medal of the Society of Jan Masaryk and is published by Alliance Publications, Inc.
In February 2008, his organ work, "Invocation on C-H-E-B" won first prize in a competition sponsored by the city of Cheb in the Czech Republic.