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Uten, Eugeen

Diest, 21/09/1919 > Brugge, 14/05/2001


Uten, Eugeen

by Karolien Selhorst

In his native town Diest, Eugeen Uten received his first music lessons from Herman Meulemans (junior brother of Arthur and organist in Aarschot), in addition following classes at the organ school of Hasselt. From 1945 on he was taught by Staf Nees (carillon) and Jef Van Hoof (harmony and composition) as a student of the royal carillon school in Mechelen, graduating in 1948 magna cum laude. Meanwhile Uten had already started his musical career as organist at Our Lady's Church in Diest, where he also played the carillon. Shortly after graduation Uten was appointed as assistant city carilloneur of Mechelen (together with Piet van den Broek), yet already in June 1949 he changed this function to that of city carilloneur of Bruges. Unrelentingly Uten aimed at perfecting his musical performance, earning him still in 1959 at the carillon school the so-called 'diploma of virtuosity' maxima cum laude.  For 35 years on the Belfry Carillon in Bruges Uten gave some fifty summer evening concerts and some two hundred carillon performances a year until his retirement in 1984.

Uten was a famous carillon virtuoso. His concerts on the Belfry Carillon in Bruges met with great response, resulting in numerous recordings of his playing the Bruges carillon as well as frequent radio and television broadcasts at home and abroad. He also joined the jury at plenty of competitions and exams, and figured among the founders of the Belgian Advisory Board for carillons. However, he acquired permanent significance for the Flemish art of the carillon first and foremost with his compositions, arranging for the carillon at least two thousand works and composing some hundred works of his own. This earned him in 1957 a First Prize at an international composition competition in Utrecht (with his Intermezzo molto capriccioso), while in 1958 he became laureate in the Expo carillon composition competition in Mechelen (with Fantasia on 'Jan mijne man').

In April 1980 Uten otherwise made the newspapers as he got wounded on the Bruges Belfry at an attack by the violent organisation 'Vlaamse Militanten Orde', the since then outlawed private militia of extremist Flemish nationalistic circles. Later sixteen VMO militants were sentenced for this offence.

In 1984 Uten was awarded the Knight's Cross in the Order of the Crown after 35 years of active service and by way of thanks for giving his all to the music scene in Bruges. A selection of his compositions was published in the two-volume Brugs beiaardboek (1984). Other works of his are to this day put at the public's disposal for free at the website, a site maintained by Uten's children and friends.

© Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek vzw - Karolien Selhorst (translation: Jo Sneppe)