Culver Memorial Chapel  

CULVER - In the interest of encouraging new works composed expressly for the carillon, the Johan Franco Composition Fund of The Guild of Carillonneurs in North America organised in 2003 a Composition Competition. Anyone, regardless of age or nationality, was allowed to enter the competition with one or more compositions on the condition that these compositions had not been performed publicly, published, or awarded a prize in previous competitions.

It was required that each composition should be an original composition for carillon and not a transcription or arrangement of another work. Full-scale compositions based on pre-existing melodies (such as hymns) were allowed, provided the melody in question was not under copyright. Compositions employing additional instruments, pre-recorded sounds, or additional performers (more than one carillonneur) were not considered. The duration of a piece should be between four and ten minutes.

All compositions had to be playable on a carillon of 47 bells (with low C# and D# omitted) with a 2-octave pedalboard and traditional mechanical action. Optional notes (written in parentheses) for instruments larger than 47 bells were allowed, provided the piece could be played effectively on a carillon with that 47-bell range.

A committee consisting of John Courter (Berea, Kentucky), Jeffrey Davis (Berkeley, California), Tin-Shi Tam (Ames, Iowa), George Gregory (San Antonio, Texas - alternate judge) evaluated all entries. The committee had the right not to award either or both of the prizes in case no piece met the criteria. The scoring was for judging purposes only and was not disclosed to the composers.

The judgment of the committee was final and to assure the most objective judging possible, the identity of the composers was not revealed to the judges until after the completion of the judging process.

Judges were asked to evaluate the submitted compositions based on the following criteria:

  • Usefulness: Is this a piece that people would be interested in playing?
  • Effectiveness on the carillon: Is this piece idiomatic to the carillon?
  • Playability: Can a skilled carillonneur actually perform this piece?
  • Originality: Does this piece add something stylistically new to the carillon repertoire?
  • General Musical Interest: Does this piece sustain musical interest throughout?

The results of the carillon composition competition were announced in April 2004 by John Gouwens, chairman of the Johan Franco Composition Fund Committee.

Neil Thornock, a doctoral student in composition at Indiana University, won the first prize of USD 800 with his Sonata in three movements. The second prize of USD 400 was for Geert D'hollander, city carillonneur of Antwerp, Ghent, Sint Niklaas, and Lier in Belgium, for his new piece Two Poems for Children.

A new commissioned work, sponsored by the Johan Franco Composition Fund, was also completed in spring 2004: Pealing Fire, by the American composer Libby Larsen. One of the most sought-after composers in the United States today, Libby Larsen has written for all manner of instrumental and vocal media, solos and ensembles. Pealing Fire is a fresh addition to the repertoire, bringing together numerous idiomatic bell figurations, along with the "Veni creator" plainchant, which is woven throughout the piece.

All three pieces were premiered on June 7, 2004, in the opening recital of the congress of the GCNA at The Culver Academies, Culver, Indiana. Neil Thornock gave the premiere performance of his Sonata. At the composer's request, John Gouwens gave the premiere of Geert D'hollander's Two Poems for Children. Both pieces, in accord with the terms of the competition, have been published by the GCNA. Gouwens also gave the premiere performance of Pealing Fire, which will be published in the near future by Oxford University Press.

The GCNA will hold a composition competition again in two years, with essentially the same rules. The deadline will probably be January 15, 2006.