Born in 1897 in Antwerp, Belgium, Anton Brees gained an early appreciation of the carillon from his father, Gustaav, organist, and carillonneur of the Antwerp Cathedral. Anton studied carillon under his father for a number of years before attending the Royal Flemish Conservatory in Antwerp, eventually graduating with distinction. His first professional position was as an organist at the town hall in Antwerp, but the word of his carillon virtuosity soon spread. After serving two years in the Belgium military, Anton traveled to England in 1923 where he became the carillonneur at Queen’s Park, Loughborough. During this time, Anton also developed an association with the John Taylor Company, bell foundry, that lasted long into his career. This association may have contributed to the fact that Anton dedicated every Taylor carillon built in the United States between 1928 and 1963.
After traveling to South Africa to dedicate the carillon in Capetown in 1925, Anton sailed to New York City, dedicating the Rockefeller Memorial Carillon. The same year, he was hired as a carillonneur at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania. He remained there until 1928 when he was selected by Edward Bok to serve as the Bellmaster of the Singing Tower in Lake Wales. The Singing Tower remained his dedicated carillon until 1932 when he started playing a winter season in Florida and a summer season at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina (also a Taylor instrument). This arrangement lasted until 1956 when Anton made the decision to stay permanently in Lake Wales with the occasional guest performance at other carillons. From 1929 to 1933, Anton served as the director of the Campanology Department at the Curtis Institute of Music, hosting eight students in the Singing Tower in Lake Wales, Florida, including famed composers Samuel Barber, Gian-Carlo Menotti, and Nino Rota. After the dissolution of the Curtis program, Anton continued to instruct students informally in both Lake Wales and Durham. His lengthy career saw him circling the globe for dedication concerts, guest appearances, and several European tours. The great majority of his time, however, was spent advocating for the carillon to his adopted country and making sure that his audiences always heard something to which they could relate and with which they were familiar.
Anton died unexpectedly in March of 1967 in Lake Wales during his playing season. The legacy that Anton left to the carillon world was not one of original composition or musical publication but rather one filled with his contributions as a teacher, innovator, advocate, and inspirational performer. In honor of Anton, the Brees family left his professional library to the American Foundation (known today as Bok Tower Gardens, Inc.). This gift was the impetus for the formation of the Anton Brees Carillon Library, now one of the world’s largest collection of carillon related materials.
Milford Myhre retired in June 2004 after 36 years as the Gardens’ carillonneur. His musical training was obtained at the University of Nebraska, the University of Michigan and briefly at the Royal Carillon School “Jef Denyn” in Belgium. His carillon mentors were Ronald Barnes, Staf Nees and Percival Price. He has performed recitals in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand and many of his carillon arrangements have been published. During his distinguished career of more than 50 years, he served as president for both the GCNA and the World Carillon Federation. Honors include the Berkeley Medal, honorary membership in the GCNA and Guilde des Carillonneurs de France, and an honorary doctorate from the University of the South in Tennessee.
Two CD recordings by Myhre are available at the Tower and Garden Gift Shop, “A Carillon Recital at the Bok Singing Tower” and “Christmas Carillon from Bok Tower Gardens.”
William (Bill) De Turk
William De Turk resigned in October 2011 after 7 years as the Gardens’ carillonneur. He was an assistant carillonneur and librarian from 1993 – 2004 before being promoted to carillonneur. A native of the Philadelphia area, he received a bachelor of music degree cum honore from Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio, and master of music degree in organ performance from the University of Michigan, where he studied the carillon with Percival Price, university carillonneur and noted campanologist. In 1974, he was invited to become the first carillon scholar at the Bok Singing Tower and worked for one year with Milford Myhre.
De Turk was carillonneur (1981-87) for the University of Michigan and hosted the 1986 World Carillon Congress, the first held in North America. Activities in The Guild of Carillonneurs in North America include four years as president and archivist since 1972.
De Turk has performed recitals throughout the United States and in Canada and Europe. His interest in research in the field of carillons and bells has resulted in 11 published articles. Honors include the Berkeley Medal from the University of California at Berkeley for distinguished service to the carillon and a plaque and bell for his extraordinary contribution to the art of the carillon at the combined 12th the World Carillon Federation Congress and 39th International Carillon Festival in Springfield, Ill. In 2001 he played the closing recital for the 59th Congress of the GCNA. In 2002 he performed in Denmark and for the 13th International Carillon Congress in Cobh, Ireland.
Geert D’hollander (Current)
Belgian-American composer and carillonneur Geert D’hollander was named Bok Tower Gardens’ fourth full-time carillonneur in October 2012. He has studied, performed, taught, arranged and composed carillon music for more than 35 years. He has held permanent and guest teaching positions of carillon performance and composition at the Royal Carillon School in Mechelen, Belgium, the Dutch Carillon School in Amersfoort and at the University College Roosevelt in Middelburg, both in The Netherlands. From 1997-1999, Geert was the Carillonneur and Professor of Carillon at the University of California at Berkeley, succeeding Ronald Barnes. He has made numerous carillon arrangements and composed more than 50 works for carillon, published world-wide. He was a first prize winner in more than 30 international competitions for carillon or composition; was awarded the University of California Berkeley Medal for “Distinguished Service to the Carillon”, and the prestigious Dutch “ANV-Visser Neerlandia Prize” with his carillon composition “Ciacona”. He frequently gives Master Classes in Europe and the USA and performs all over the world.