As the son of a repetitor at the Flemish Opera, Frits Celis grew up in a musical family. He obtained his music degrees for music theory, harmony, counter point, fugue, music history and harp at the Royal conservatories of Antwerp and Brussels. At this last school, he was taught orchestral direction by René Defossez. Afterwards, Celis completed his director education at the Mozarteum in Salzburg and the Statliche Hochschule für Musik te Keulen. Moreover, he became teacher of music theory and transposition at the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp. Since 1989, Celis devotes his life to composition entirely, mostly on commission.
Musician, director and music director
In 1946, Celis started is music career as harpist of the Flemish Opera’s orchestra in Antwerp. He remained in this position until 1954, which was an important year for Celis. After all, in this year, he did not only win a directing composition organized by the BRT, but also one organized by the Royal Theatre of The Mint in Brussels. Because of his everlasting passion for opera, he accepted the position offered by The Mint, where he remained second director until 1959. Afterwards, he returned to the Flemish Opera of Antwerp, where he directed many important productions as principal director. During this time, he valued the promotion of Belgian composers very highly, which is why he constantly attempted to perform opera’ by Arthur Meulemans, Willem Kersters, August Baeyens, Vic Legley, Frédéric Devreese and Peter Benoit. Between 1981 and 1988, he was appointed as music director of the merged Flemish Opera in Antwerp and Ghent.
Since 1989, Celis devotes his career to composing solely, which he only did sporadically during his career as a director. His oeuvre ranges from symphonic pieces and chamber music to vocal pieces and choral works.
His style evolved from a romantically inspired expressionism to a period of serialism, which eventually resulted in free atonality. Today, his style is characterized by accessibility, as he claims that the goal of music should be “to be listened to”. Therefore, Celis eschews cerebral music that aspires to sort sound effects solely, and embraces lyrism and consonance in his atonal music. In 2018, Celis was rewarded with the Benoit price for his oeuvre and effort in the music scene.
Music should be listened to
Choral works (selection)
- 1953: De Geestelijke bruiloft (song-cycle, text by Pieter G. Buckinx), for soprano, piano/small orchestra, Op. 4, 1953
- 1950-58: Vier Liederen (text by Felix Timmermans), for soprano and piano, Op. 2.
- 1981: Drei Lieder (text by Josef Baert), for any voice, piano.
- 1983: Preludio e Narrazione (text by Anton van Wilderode), soprano and orchestra, Op. 18.
- 1994: Melopée (text by Paul van Ostaijen), soprano/mezzo-soprano, flute (+ alto flute), bass clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano, percussion, Op. 52, 1994 (also version for soprano/mezzo-soprano, string quartet)
- Als een bries (tekst van Claudia Cornelissen), voor sopraan, alt, tenor en bas.
- 1995: Dit voetjen en dat voetje (text by Guido Gezelle), children's chorus, piano, Op. 54 No. 1.
- 1998: Kukkuu, Kukkuu, Kaukana Kukkuu (text from a folksong from Finland), mixed chorus, Op. 63 No. 1.
- 1998: Slaapt, Slaapt, Kindtje Slaapt (text by Guido Gezelle), children's chorus, piano, Op. 54 No. 2.
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