“A Musical Omnivore from Limburg”
                     Translation John deJong/Sonja

The reception in the house of carillon player Frank
Steijns is totally different than one would expect from
a musician of his generation. His house at the edge
of the city (the last house in Maastricht) looks
spotlessly white and is spic and span. The
self-renovated dwelling at the edge of a beautiful
nature area presents a mix of taste and orderly
discipline. A black Steinway piano commends itself
as our host presents an enormous slice of vlaai.
(Limburger pastry) What follows is just a small part of
the story in which violinist/carillon player Frank Steijns keeps his visitors, between their arrival
and departure, on the edge of a well made seat.

As soon as the coffee perks, Frank starts because he is some one who has a lot to tell. Within
the first fifteen minutes of my visit, it is apparent that I have to pay close attention. The many
faceted life of Frank Steijns cannot be covered in just one hour. Luckily he speaks, walks and
eats fast, so that after a very eventful day, in which a lot took place, we were still able to catch
the train, even though is was only at the very last second.

When Frank finally sits down, making sure that his guest has been well cared for, the
conversation quickly focuses on his father, Mathieu Steijns, (no longer active as a musician, but
very healthy and in good shape) who took Frank as a little boy up into the tower and during his
playing explained to him how he created music from behind his stick-piano. How melodies
became complete symphonies.

                                That is what the little Steijns wanted to do too, playing with the music
                                material and then awaiting the outcome, and of course learn the limits
                                of this instrument. It would take Frank quite a while before he would
                                be that far along. Although he also attended carillon school in           
                                Mechelen (city in Belgium) during his secondary school days, the
                                violin became his primary instrument. Frank speaks very highly of the
                                instruction he received at carillon school from Jos D’Hollander, who
                                inspired him very much. And that ultimately led to his studies at the
                                Lemmons Institute in Leuven (Louvin), where he, along with his violin
                                studies, also studied music theory and orchestra conducting. Around
                               1994 he finished his studies at the Lemmons Institute and earlier that
                               year received his final diploma from Carlo van Ulft in Mechelen, with

As we can see, Frank does not shy away from any challenges. Who ever surfs the Internet will
find him in all sorts of success. What is notable here is that the manifestation of his work quite
often differs from the image he portrays with some of his colleagues.

Chuckling he admits that he has contributed to his image. Recently, during the autumn
gathering of the Nederlandse Klokkenspel Vereniging (Dutch Carillon
players Association) in Weert, he lightheartedly pleaded for a
more professional image. When Andre Hazes died last year,
his signature bearing repertoire could strongly be heard from
the tower all over Weert, resulting in a mad dash to the steps
of the tower by SBS6 and several other regional television
networks so that they could confirm as to who was playing this
spontaneous bell homage for this beloved singer. Of course
his connection with Andre Rieu’s Strauss orchestra also gives
the impression that he is associated with everything that is
popular. So what? When last summer more than ten thousand
people attended a mega performance of Andre Rieu and his orchestra at the Vrijthof, Frank as
city carillon player and the orchestra stole the show when they performed a gigantic piece of
music featuring both the carillon and the orchestra. The TV airing of this concert attracted more
than one hundred million viewers in fifteen countries. What better way than to give this carillon
player any more recognition than that.

Ever since then, he has to be careful not to come home every night slightly inebriated, because
all of the sudden he has been elevated from an unknown carillon player to the versification of
Maastricht’s pride; the man who can bring the treasured city bells to life. Such an appreciation
in the south goes hand in hand with an offer of at least one beer.

But there are other matters which Frank is passionate about. Not only does he like to play a
huge repertoire during his concerts when he performs throughout the country, but he is often
involved in matters of a more serious nature. Just to mention one: during his studies at the
Lemmers Institute, he wrote an extended composition about Henk Badings. Composing comes
easy to Frank. His “Fantasy of a Russian Folksong” has been placed in the excellently
maintained Weerter Carillon scores, and is one of many pieces played often. Also “Avant-
Garde” is frequently found in his repertoire. In Maastricht and Innsbrueck he performed the
“Concierto Capanae Oenipotanae” by Llorence Barber for carillon with 130 bells. Just as Frank
would not
                                             turn down a piece of Limburger vlaai, he does not turn down
                                             any kind of “musical bone” coming his way. He seems to
                                             devour it. Just like a true omnivore he puts his teeth into it,
                                             literally and figuratively, from rock to heavy metal. When
                                             recently a group of school children visited him during one of
                                             his carillon sessions, it was a requested he play something
                                             from Metalica. Not knowing any of this music he managed to
                                             obtain a CD, and told the requester to come back in a week.
                                             And than the Hemony bells of the city carillon promptly played
                                             that trendy piece of music. This kind of gift is aided along with a
well-trained ear that projects the sheet music in his head the second it is played.

Frank is a man who works about three hours away from the Border City that is one hour further
than Mechelen. The southern (Limburgs) mentality, well known for its good natured people,
manifests itself in the perception of the almost thirty-five year old Limburger. Many Western
problems escape him. He works in harmony with many of his colleagues in the area. The envy
of several carillon players about his proper or non-proper playing is foreign to him, and the
commotion about the challenged status of amateur carillon player totally escapes him. “If an
ingenious individual just happens to come by a piece of paper (e.g. diploma) he will be viewed
by the orchestra and soloists as some one from the second order”. In the world of carillon
players it is so that those exceptionally talented individuals have little difficulty obtaining a
diploma-and rightfully so-which is required in the pursuit of a profession as a carillon player. But
why would some one passionate about his profession perform in an inferior manner? You have
people with a passion and talent, and than there are people where these are totally absent.

Maybe that is the reason why Mr. E.S. Raadjes from Soest, a man who needs to be mentioned,
shows much interest when it involves the carillon player from Weert, Frank Steijns.  Their
passion for carillon music and their urge to accommodate people with this music, has since their
first meeting been a double sided inspiration. It is very evident that our Limburger has no
immediate plans to stop playing in the near future, as either a violinist or carillon player.  He
talks about it enthusiastically, boldly and……….at length. Only after an enormous sprint, in
which I just barely managed to catch my train, and waving goodbye thru the closing doors, did I
come to the realization that this informative and chatty conversation came to an end.  

Frank Steijns still has a lot to offer to Limburg.  
On the mobile carillon at an Andre Rieu concert.