Carillonneur Geert D’hollander Honored by The King’s Singers

He has done it again! Long recognized as one of the globe’s top composers, Geert D’hollander is no stranger to international accolades. He can now add winning composer for The King’s Singers to his resume.

The Musical Legacy of The King’s Singers
Formed in 1968 at King’s College in Cambridge, England, The King’s Singers is the gold standard in a cappella singing and has performed on the world’s greatest stages for over 50 years. Their vocal line-up was (by chance) two countertenors, a tenor, two baritones, and a bass, and the group has never wavered from this formation since.

What really distinguished the group in its early years was its musical diversity. The King’s Singers were a weekly fixture on prime-time television, celebrating popular music never usually touched by choral ensembles, and their unique British charm, combined with their precise musical craft, captured audiences’ hearts the world over. The group has consistently been welcomed on the world’s great stages throughout its history – from London’s Royal Albert Hall to the Opera House in Sydney or New York’s Carnegie Hall – as well as being ambassadors for musical excellence across the globe. Two Grammy® Awards, an Emmy® Award, and a place in Gramophone magazine’s inaugural Hall of Fame sit among the numerous accolades bestowed upon the group. This love of diversity has always fuelled The King’s Singers’ commitment to creating new music. An array of commissioned works by many of the great composers of our times – including Sir John Tavener, Toru Takemitsu, John Rutter, Luciano Berio, Nico Muhly, György Ligeti, and Eric Whitacre – sits alongside countless bespoke arrangements in the group’s extensive repertoire.

They can now add Geert D’hollander to that extensive list.

The New Music Prize Competition
In 2018, The King’s Singers launched a New Music Prize to recognize, develop, and encourage creativity in the hope of leaving it a musically richer place. Judging concluded in December 2020 and 350 entries were received. Four winners were selected for each of the contest’s categories. The contest is in association with the Washington National Cathedral and Walton Music and generously supported by The King’s Singers Global Foundation & Ronald C. Gunnell.

To honor the imagination and skill of the four winners, The King’s Singers have partnered with publisher Walton Music, to offer each composter the chance to have their works made available for public performance, as well as awarding them each a $1,500 prize. Their winning compositions will be performed in a celebratory online gala concert, broadcast from both the United Kingdom and the Washington National Cathedral. To commemorate this celebratory occasion, each of the four winning composers will be provided with a recording of their composition.

The world premiere performances of the winning pieces will be held at the Washington National Cathedral and webcast on Sunday, February 28 at 4 p.m. EST. This performance is part of the Sacred Choral Music Online Festival. Tickets for the webcast are $10 and can be purchased here.

The 2020 winning composers are Eli Hooker Reese (Minnesota), Parker Kitterman (Pennsylvania), Jeremy Beck (Kentucky), and Geert D’hollander (Florida). You can learn more about each of the winners here.

When All Falls Silent – A Composition for the King’s Singers
The King’s Singers worked with historian, poet, and leading choral lyricist, Charles Anthony Silvestri, to identify five texts for use in the New Music Prize. The poem, When All Falls Silent, was written especially for the New Music Prize by Silvestri. D’hollander selected this poem and set these beautiful words to music.

When all falls silent,
And the breath of life
Flows from the source
And calms the stormy sea,
My heart-song,
Always sung but seldom heard,
Rises from the mist,
Calling, calling…

Then, slowly,
I turn my gaze,
Drawn toward beauty
And the song’s amber light;
I open my soul,
And I am at peace,
I am in harmony,
Listening, listening.

The jury provided these comments about D’hollander’s entry: “It’s a great pleasure to name Geert D’hollander the winner in this category. The jury all agreed that the closeness and lushness of the chording would suit The King’s Singers very well, and the rhythmic and metrical variations within the music and text-setting gave it a freshness not often seen in this kind of modern writing. Congratulations.”

D’hollander had this to add to his award announcement: “The King’s Singers have inspired me since I was a child. I have followed them and listened to their music for decades. Winning this competition is an incredible honor as a musician and one of their biggest fans. To me, it’s like standing in front of Picasso with hundreds of other people holding a little painting, and he picks yours. How awesome is that!

About Geert D’hollander
Belgian-American composer Geert D’hollander graduated with honors from the Royal Conservatory in Antwerp, Belgium, with degrees in piano, chamber music, choral conducting, harmony, counterpoint, fugue, composition, and he graduated with honors from the Royal Carillon School. He has written more than 80 compositions, mostly commissions for carillon, and was a first prize winner in more than 30 international competitions.

In 1997, D’hollander was appointed as University Carillonneur and Professor of Carillon at the University of California at Berkeley. In 2008 he was awarded the Berkeley Medal for “Distinguished Service to the Carillon.” Before moving to Florida in 2012, D’hollander taught carillon and carillon composition at the Royal Carillon School, and he was the city carillonneur of the historical instruments of Antwerp Cathedral, the belfry of Ghent, and the Basilica of Lier, Belgium.

Today, Geert D’hollander is the carillonneur at Bok Tower Gardens, a National Historic Landmark in Lake Wales, Florida, one of the most unique and prestigious carillon positions in the world. He frequently gives masterclasses in Europe and the U.S. and performs all over the world.
Photograph of Geert D’hollander by Potthast Studios.