The name

The International Queen Fabiola Carillon Competition was first organised in 1987 by the Jef Denyn Royal Carillon School, International Institute for Carillon art. The ambitions were very high, as the new competition aimed for the very highest level. The objective: establishing an "Elisabeth competition" for carillon. The driving force behind this initiative was former director Jo Haazen. Queen Fabiola, who is the patroness of the said institute, was willing to connect her name to the competition. She attended the finals in 1990 and 1998 and personally awarded the first prize.



Originally, the competition was planned every three years. As of 1998 there was a switch to a cycle of every five years.

An exception will be made for the seventh edition, as the conference of the World Carillon Federation will take place in Antwerp and Bruges in 2014. All the more reason to postpone the International Queen Fabiola Carillon Competition a year. The competition is included as a pre-conference event in consultation with the Flemish Carillon Association in the conference's programme so more foreign carillon players can take part in the competition or attend the competition as audience.


High level

In 1987 a new competition was planned as an alternative to the earlier contests of the Carillon School, including the Leon Henry prize and the Prosper Verheyden prize. The bar was, however, set a lot higher. A music committee, consisting of teachers of the Carillon School and prominent musicians, developed a contest of the very highest level. Entrants are asked to present a repertory of nine pieces of the highest level of difficulty, divided over three style periods. This is supplemented with a compulsory piece that is especially composed for the occasion.


The course

In the preliminary round the jury selects the finalists, who will compete during the two rounds of the final. Since the 2003 edition the jury limits itself to five finalists instead of six. A carillon player who reaches the final has to prove himself/herself three successive days on the monumental concert carillon of Sint-Rombouts. This makes the International Queen Fabiola Carillon Competition the most difficult and hardest carillon contest worldwide. The entrants are expected to provide a top performance musically and with regard to playing technique. Their stamina and power of concentration are seriously put to the test.


Compulsory piece

Every time renowned composers, who are familiar with the carillon, are appealed to for the compulsory piece:

  • 1987: Sonata for carillon by Jos Van Looy, teacher at the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp and principal of the Music Academy in Lier.
  • 1990: Ballade for carillon by Peter Cabus, teacher at the Royal Conservatory of in Brussels and principal of the Municipal Conservatory of Mechelen.
  • 1993: Prelude, Adagio and Fugue by John Gouwens, carillon player and organist of the Culver Military Academy, Culver (Indiana, USA). This piece was the winner of the composition prize that was organised by the Royal Carillon School that year.
  • 1998: Fairytale on the name Fabiola by Kristiaan Van Ingelgem, teacher at the Royal Flemish Music Conservatory of Antwerp and renowned concert organist.
  • 2003: We ring, we chime, we toll by Geert D'hollander, teacher at the Royal Carillon School and municipal carillon player of Antwerp. This piece was the winner of the composition prize that was organised by the Royal Carillon School that year.
  • 2008: Soliloquy by John Courter, carillon player of Berea College, Berea (Kentucky, USA) and one of the most important composers of carillon music in the USA.


For the seventh International Queen Fabiola Carillon Competition the compulsory piece was composed by the internationally reputed Belgian composer and conductor Frédéric Devreese. This time, a second compulsory piece will be introduced: a composition for strings and orchestra…by Geert D'hollander. With this, a new development in the art of the carillon is being followed. Thanks to the development of small mobile carillons, the classic tower instrument is entering concerts halls. It is now possible to play music along with other instruments or ensembles.



Each time, the jury consists of a select group of carillon players and musicians from various countries. The three main carillon countries, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United States are always represented, completed by carillon players from, among others, Germany, Spain, Portugal, France, Norway or Australia. The jury also includes musicians who do not play the carillon. While carillon players often judge on a technical level, they listen unbiased. During the previous editions the jury included, among others, Vic Nees, Peter Cabus, Wilfried Westerlinck, Frédéric Devreese and Jan De Maeyer.


International attention

The fact that the International Queen Fabiola Carillon Competition is reputed worldwide is indicated by the major diversity of entrants. Since the first edition, carillon players from a variety of countries have taken part: Belgium, the Netherlands, France, the United States, Russia, Denmark, Australia, Poland, Portugal and Spain. Several laureates currently occupy prominent positions as teachers in carillon schools or are titulars of the main towers.


The first winners of the previous editions:

  • 1987: 1. Geert D'hollander (Belgium)
  • 1990: 1. Boudewijn Zwart (The Netherlands)
  • 1993: 1. Gideon Bodden (The Netherlands)
  • 1998: 1. Tom Van Peer (Belgium)
  • 2003: 1. Twan Bearda (Belgium)
  • 2008:
    • 1. Kenneth Teunissen (Belgium)
    • 2. Toru Takao (Japan)
    • 3. Malgosia Fiebig (Poland)
    •  4. John Lehrer (USA)
    • 5. Monika Kazmierchak (Poland).