2022 is also a festive year for carillonneurs for another reason: it is 250 years since the death of Joannes de Gruytters. Joannes de Gruytters (1709-1772) is best known for his carillon book from 1746. This manuscript has been preserved in the library of the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp since 1922 and contains 194 pieces – mostly harpsichord music – that de Gruytters arranged for carillon. In addition to de Gruytters' own works, you will find such names as Locatelli, Lully, Couperin and Vivaldi, as well as some home-grown composers of which Henri-Jacques de Croes (1705-1786), Willem de Fesch (1687-1761) and Joseph-Hector Fiocco (1703-1741) are the best known. De Fesch had been chapel master at the Cathedral of Our Lady from 1725 to 1730. De Croes and Fiocco were colleagues from Brussels.
In 1740, Joannes de Gruytters, born in Ypres, won the competition organised to appoint a new carilloneur at Antwerp Cathedral. He held that position until his death in 1772. In addition to being a carillonneur, de Gruytters was also an organist, violinist, bassist and serpent player. He also maintained and restored organs. For the last twenty years of his career, he was assisted by his son Amandus de Gruytters. Museum Vleeshuis preserves the cathedral carillon keyboard on which Joannes played for many hours.
Reason enough to celebrate Joannes de Gruytters in style, and city carillonneurs Liesbeth and Koen do so by playing a few gems from his carillon book every week.
Starting on 4 July, they will play the carillon again every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon between 12pm and 1pm and, in July and August, they will also hold 6 Monday evening concerts. During the weekend of culture, you can hear and see them at work on a mobile carillon at the Groenplaats (Sunday 28 August).
Reserve a listening spot
You can listen to each concert at any quiet place near the cathedral. You can also reserve a free listening spot on the Schoon Verdiep, or Bel-Étage, of the newly renovated Town Hall. Reserve a spot through the ticket shop. The number of places is limited.
Request a piece!
We will start and end this series of carillon concerts on Monday nights with the highest jukebox in town! On 4 July and 22 August, the carillonneurs will play your requested pieces. Fill in the form and, who knows, you might hear your favourite music at these concerts!
The city carillonneurs
Koen Van Assche (born 1967) is the city carillonneur for Antwerp, Lier, Turnhout and Herentals. He has won several awards at international carillon competitions and holds carillon concerts worldwide. Last year, he released his 8th CD, a publication by the Belgian Embassy in Vienna.
He teaches the carillon at the "Jef Denyn" Royal Carillon School in Mechelen, and at the music academies in Lier and Puurs. In addition, he is an active promoter of the carillon, including as president of the World Carillon Federation. He is also known for combining the carillon with other instruments, especially with the "Bronze Piano" (www.bronzenpiano.com), a highly regarded mobile carillon by Anna Maria Reverté and himself. Together, they have played several special concerts with their instrument, for example in Barcelona with a string orchestra, in the famous Sagrada Familia.
Liesbeth Janssens (born 1971) is the city carillonneur for Antwerp and Lommel, and a piano teacher. She studied the piano at the Lemmens Institute with Levente Kende and Frans Van Beveren, and began her carillon studies with the city carillonneur for Maastricht, then a student at the Lemmens Institute himself. She was awarded the carillon diploma from the Royal Carillon School, and specialised in carillon and chamber music at the Lemmens Institute, where she obtained a Master's degree. Liesbeth was laureate of several carillon contests, including second laureate in the Queen Fabiola Contest, and won gold in Rotterdam (NL) in 1995, and in Springfield (Illinois, USA) in 2001. Since then, she has held carillon concerts in Europe and America, and here with us she has performed with K3, Slongs and WÖR, among others, and played for the Strangers' 60th anniversary. She writes carillon music on commission and gave a virtual masterclass at Yale University last year.