Music will do as a side issue, as a profession it is too risky: that was the principle in the parental home of violinist Ivo Ceulemans. While the talented young man was studying to obtain his secondary school certificate, concurrently he earned a first prize for solfège magna cum laude. And yet advanced musical studies were not taken into consideration: Ceulemans must perforce become a school teacher! At age nineteen he is appointed as teacher at an Antwerp municipal school. However, music is not forgotten, and stimulated by his violin teacher Peter Saenen (1879-1961) at the Antwerp Conservatory, who also through concerts exposed him to the music of such composers as Milhaud, Franck and Pizetti, he passed his music certificate exam for the central examining board. Starting in 1925 Ceulemans becomes a music teacher, giving lessons at the music academy of Hoboken. Meanwhile he rounds out his musical education taking harmony and counterpoint classes with Frans D’Haeyer and later also fugue, composition and orchestration with Karel Candael at the Royal Flemish Conservatory of Antwerp.
Ceulemans didn't pass unnoticed either as first violinist of the Nieuw Vlaams Kwartet (New Flemish Quartet), which he founded together with composer Peter Frans De Puysseleyr, and as violist in the chamber orchestras of Peter Saenen and of Löwenstein, an Austrian-Jewish conductor exiled in Antwerp. Only in the nineteen-forties did his first compositions come into existence. Ceulemans wrote remarkably much instrumental music, his oeuvre for chamber music comprising some seventy compositions for the most diverse strengths. These include an Octet for violin, viola, cello, flute, clarinet, horn, trumpet and piano (opus 113) and the saxophone quartet Colloque Condissonant (opus 177). In addition some eighty songs were published, mostly on texts by his friend Johan Daisne, as well as a number of pedagogical choral works for children's choir, underscoring his activities as solfège teacher. Ceulemans' compositions for that matter regularly were among the winners: in 1954 he earns the Karel Boury prize of the Royal Academy for Dutch Language and Literature in Ghent with his Negen kinderliederen (Nine Children's Songs). This is followed two years later by the second prize of the Sabam competition with his string quartet Labor et Constantia. In 1968 his Violin Concerto wins an award and Ceulemans receives a grant from the Ministry for Dutch Culture. In the nineteen-seventies his choral compositions earn wide acclaim and in 1980 he obtains the Jef Van Hoof prize with his Quintet for Brass Instruments.
With a view to being able to devote himself entirely to composing Ceulemans in 1956 applies for his pension as a teacher. In 1959, however, he still becomes director of the music academy of Hoboken, a position he combines with teaching violin, choir and ensemble. Yet composing remains his core business, concerning which he writes as follows: "In judging a work of art, I relegate into the background any philosophical bias or applied procedure. Only the artistic content in my opinion defines the value. In the field of music I find to my liking the most diverse forms, but I detest the dictatorship of -isms. Soundness of the musical substrate remains sovereign. My main line of thought, aspiring at producing thorough work, is to compose for unprejudiced ears without any partiality whatsoever."
Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek vzw - Veerle Bosmans & Adeline Boeckaert (translation: Jo Sneppe)