Reflections from Stefano Colletti, Composer in Residence Spring 2022

This spring, Bok Tower Gardens welcomed Stefano Colletti as the 2022 Blanchard Fellow and one of our International Carillon Festival performers. Like Geert D’hollander, Colletti is also a prolific composer, and his time was split between his incredible performances and composing new works for the carillon.

Recently Colleti was interviewed by Francis Crépin for an article in the L’Art Campanaire, the official journal of the Guilde des Carillonneurs de France.

Please note: The translation comes from an online source. We apologize for any potential translation errors.


Our colleague Stefano Colletti, master carillonneur from Douai, was invited to the U.S.A. for a residency as a composer, from February 4 to April 21, in Lake Wales (Florida), on the Bok Tower Carillon.

Beyond having to play all 60 bells on one of one of the most iconic carillons of the United States, we wanted to know about Stefano Colletti’s personal reflections on the history, environment, and musical influence, he experienced during his residency in this exceptional place.

So we asked him about it, by email, during his stay.

Francis Crépin (F.C.} for the G.C.F.: What is behind this residency? How did you find out about the opportunity? Did you receive an invitation? Who welcomed you there?

Stefano: Geert D’hollander is the current carillonneur of Bok Tower, here in Lake Wales, since 2012.

He initiated a special program that started in 2014 providing the possibility for carillonneurs to be here in residence (with courses that can be centered on different aspects: technique, arrangement, composition, etc.). He is responsible for reviewing applications and chooses the carillonneurs and/or composers who may be in residence at Bok Tower Gardens over a period of 1 to 6 months. It is the most unique program in the world!

These are generally musicians in their advanced studies preparing for important competitions such as the Queen Fabiola competition organized by Mechelen (Joey Brink and Alex Johnsson both prepared for their Queen Fabiola competition here and received 1st prize in the contest).

For my part, I am in residence as a composer. The last Composer in Residence here was Geert D’hollander, himself in 2012, preceded by John Courter in 1996, and Ronald Barnes before him in the 80s.

F.C.: You already have a lot of experience with American carillons, but you told me in your last message that you were delighted with the incredible conditions available to you during this residency (reception, working conditions, instruments, etc.). Can you share more?

Stefano: With a little humor, I would say that there is an elevator!

In the tower, about fifty meters high, I share an office with Geert D’hollander. This is located just below the cabin of the bell ringer (19 steps above our heads!). Here we have partitions related to activities currents of the carillonneur, an upright piano, a digital piano, recording equipment and permanent broadcast of the chime, wifi, printer, etc. The audio device allows to record any concert or broadcast recordings of live concerts via a system with permanent speakers, as well.

30 steps down we have a practice keyboard in a studio, and 10 more steps below we have at our disposal, a library dedicated to carillon (scores, various works on the chime and music, programs, archives etc.). A librarian works here, and of course, we have a copier and scanner…

I also have evening access to the music room of the El Retiro (former villa of the Buck family), which has a magnificent Steinway piano.

Bok Tower is also located in a magnificent garden, offering optimal conditions for the public to listen, with no vehicles circulating around the tower.

The carillon itself is an instrument of more than 60 tons, with a keyboard beautifully conditioned allowing all the nuances.

F.C.: What is the purpose of this residency: To compose? To share? To teach? What have you been doing during the residency?

Stefano: I don’t have any particular work to do, but my goal is to write as much as possible, to transcribe, to edit certain old handwritten compositions, and to expand my repertoire etc. During the first three weeks, I already composed two pieces. Three more are in preparation. One of the pieces composed while at Bok Tower Gardens is called “Trouble Waters.” This composition was commissioned from the School of Carillon at Mechelen in Belgium. I have set myself the task of writing six pieces in total by the end of my residency scheduled for April 20, 2022. I also made some transcriptions including “Aquarium” taken from Saint-Saëns’ “Carnival of the Animals” and which borrows piano techniques. Time flies…

Quite unique in the carillon world, there are two 30 minute concerts daily, at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Many people visit the splendid gardens and come to listen to these performances.

For my part, I give concerts three days a week at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Geert D’hollander plays the remaining 4 days. We both prepare three different programs of 30 minutes each, which is 1 hour and 30 minutes of music over two weeks… To be honest with you, that’s a lot of repertoire to prepare and offer! (about 7 hours 30 minutes of music during my stay…). The programs are made available to the public.

I took advantage of my residency to expand my repertoire. It is great, as I said in response to your previous question, there is at our disposal, a library dedicated to carillon (with its appointed librarian! and a photocopier, etc.)

F.C.: Did you connect with other carillonneurs in the area? Or other carillons?

Stefano: Yes of course. I had the pleasure of meeting visiting carillonneurs on the Bok Carillon, but above all I am lucky to be able to have rich connection and conversations with my host, Geert D’hollander.

F.C.: Did your stay provide the opportunity to give concerts at other carillons of the region?

Stefano: I participated in the Florida Carillon festival organized by Wylie Crawford (Venice, Clearwater, Gainesville, Bok Tower) from March 10 to 13, 2022.

F.C.: What is your opinion on the treatment of campanary art in the United States, in the field of city chimes? or university carillons?

Stefano: Personally, of course, I don’t know all the chime sites in America, but there are some remarkable places like this, offering a full time position for the carillonneur and real working conditions allowing the muscian to be dedicated to his art.

I will add, in the form of a joke, that for my particular case, on the Bok Carillon, it’s still very pleasant to work with favorable weather conditions…

Reprinted with the authorization from the Guilde des carillonneurs de France.

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