St. Rombolds tower  

MECHELEN - The 5th International Queen Fabiola Carillon Contest took place on the carillon of the Saint Rombolds tower in Mechelen from September 3rd to 7th, 2003. Carillonneurs from all over the world were invited to participate. Since its foundation in 1922, the Royal Carillon School "Jef Denyn" in Mechelen has been involved in the support and development of the art of carillon playing. As part of this effort, the school organises this International Contest every few years in cooperation with the City of Mechelen.

All contestants performed on the new carillon of the Saint Rombolds tower, cast by Royal Eijsbouts in 1981. The carillon comprises of 49 bells from B-flat0 – c1 – d1 – chrom. – c5 (c1 sounds like g0). Candidates were given the opportunity to practise on this instrument as well as on the practice keyboards in the carillon school.

Although playing the Saint Rombolds carillon requires considerable effort, the instrument offers the carillonneur a broad range of dynamics. The sound of the bells may vary from barely audible to a mighty thundering - magical music from an impressive tower instrument clearly heard all over the centre of the city.

Candidates were asked to submit nine compositions of a high degree of virtuosity:

  • Three baroque or classicist works, one of them being a prelude by Matthias Vanden Gheyn
  • Three romantic works originally composed for carillon
  • Three contemporary works, also orginally composed for carillon
These scores were not allowed to show any reference by which the name or nationality of the participant could be deduced. The obligatory work, We Ring, We Chime, We Toll composed by Geert D'hollander, was to be performed at the selection test as well as in the finale.

The selection tests took place on Wednesday 3 and Thursday 4 September 2003. For this all candidates were asked to perform the obligatory work, one work chosen by the candidate and one work selected by the jury from the candidate's repertoire.

No less than 12 carillonneurs from 6 countries competed on the carillon of the majestic St. Rombolds tower: Twan Bearda, Roy Kroezen, Henk Veldman (The Netherlands), Stephanie Bruggeman, Sofie Heremans, Liesbeth Janssens (Belgium), Jeremy Chesman (USA), Charles Dairay (France), Ana Lucia Elias (Portugal), and Sergej Gratchev, Marina Nevskaya, Elina Sadina (Russia).

The order of performing was assigned by lot and the identity of contestants was not known to the members of the jury. Only the five competitors who received the highest marks went on to the final.

The final took place on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 September 2003 at 19.30. The arrangement differed from previous contests in that there were five instead of six finalists. All candidates performed on Saturday as well as on Sunday, while in previous contests two finalists played on Friday, Saturday and Sunday respectively.

The five candidates participating in the finals were judged by Jo Haazen (Belgium - President), Geert Bierling (The Netherlands), Jan De Maeyer (Belgium), Timothy Hurd (Australia), Karel Moens (Belgium), Anna Maria RevertÚ (Spain), and Andreas Schmid (Germany).

On the Saturday the finalists were asked to perform three compositions chosen by the jury: one baroque or classical work, one romantic work and one contemporary work. On the Sunday, each finalist performed the obligatory work as the contemporary composition, a baroque or classical work chosen by the jury and a romantic composition also chosen by the jury.

The performances were enjoyed by a few hundred people seated in the garden of the Cultural Centre of Mechelen. The garden offered a quiet listening place and a beautiful view of the tower, having even more atmosphere when the tower became splendidly iluminated the moment dusk fell and the evening grew dark. A neatly edited program book provided the public with information about the contestants and the pieces to be played. On Sunday, Her Royal Highness Queen Fabiola was among the audience. After the presentation of the prizes she spoke with all candidates personally.

The compulsory work written by Geert D'hollander appeared to be a well-composed single-movement composition of about 3 minutes duration; a piece with many variations in dynamics, not only interesting for a carillonneur, but also pleasant for the audience. As always, each one of the contestants had his or her own interpretation.

The prize-giving ceremony was directed by Jo Haazen. Queen Fabiola presented the first prize of EUR 3,000 - that of the Flemish Minister of Culture - to Twan Bearda from The Netherlands. In addition to the compulsory composition, Twan Bearda performed during the finals: Toccata and Fugue in d (Johann Sebastian Bach), Allegro assai from Symphony No. 39 (Joseph Haydn), Toccata, lied en fuga op "Daar staat een klooster in Oostenrijk" (Staf Nees), Ballade (Jef Rottiers) and Diptiek voor beiaard (Arthur Meulemans).

Second laureate was Ana Lucia Elias from Portugal. She received the prize of EUR 2,000 of the Province of Antwerp. The pieces performed by Ana Lucia Elias were: Passacaglia, Koraal en Fuga (Beno´t J. Franssen), Reflexies (Jacques Maassen), Koekoekspreludium (Matthias Vanden Gheyn), Ballade (Jef Rottiers), and Preludium No. 3 (Matthias Vanden Gheyn).

Liesbeth Janssens from Belgium was awarded the third prize of EUR 1,500, presented by the city of Mechelen and the "Gidsenbond Mechelen". Liesbeth Janssens played on the St. Rombolds carillon the compositions: Toccata, lied en fuga op "Daar staat een klooster in Oostenrijk" (Staf Nees), Preludium No. 6 (Matthias Vanden Gheyn), Sonata a cembalo solo (Sybrandus van Noordt), Fantasie op thema's van de Byzantynse ritus (Gaston Feremans) and Battery for Bells (Raymond Schroyens).

Winner of the fourth prize of EUR 1,000 - that of the town of Roeselare - was Charles Dairay from France. On Saturday and Sunday he played: Preludium No. 3 (Matthias Vanden Gheyn), Passacaglia, Koraal en Fuga (Beno´t J. Franssen), Giocoso Frescamente (Boudewijn Zwart), Fantasie in d (Wolfgang A. Mozart) and Impromptu (Ferdinand Timmermans).

Fifth laureate was Henk Veldman from The Netherlands. He received EUR 750, a prize sponsored by the Royal Carillon School "Jef Denyn" and Mr. Alo´s Jans, Honorary President of the "Oudheidkundige Kring Mechelen". Henk Veldman was asked to play for the jury and the public: Chaconne from Partita No. 2 for violin (Johann Sebastian Bach), Toccata, lied en fuga op "Daar staat een klooster in Oostenrijk" (Staf Nees), Passacaglia (Jos. Lerinckx), Preludium No. 10 (Matthias Vanden Gheyn) and Dithyrambe, branle en double over "Die Mey spruut uut den dorren hout" (Werner Van Cleemput).

The results of the contest were toasted during a reception in the Cultural Centre for invited guests. The weather during the finals was fine and did not cause any problems, except for one thunder shower on Saturday evening that lasted for about ten minutes.

Winners of previous Queen Fabiola contests were: Geert D'hollander (1987), Boudewijn Zwart (1990), Gideon Bodden (1993) and Tom Van Peer (1998).