Dirk Bertels

The greatest malfunction of spirit
is to believe things (Louis Pasteur)

Alfons Stout - Antwerp Organist and Composer ✝1975

Last updated 07 October 2013

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Introduction

This page is dedicated to Alfons Stout, a man related to my family, who was a well established organist and composer in Antwerp, Belgium. I got to know him quite well when I still lived in Belgium during my teenage years. I always had great admiration for his great musicianship and impressive personality.

This page is in fact a compilation of some previous paragraphs from my blog and some articles of people who contributed to the topic on my previous forum, which has now been replaced by individual comment sections. It would be great for people who have known Alfons to leave a comment at the end of this page.

Alfons Stout

me with Alphons Stout

From an early age I have been drawn towards Bach's organ works - I vividly remember my uncle, Frans Stout (the ever gentle man we used to call nonkel Sus), taking me several times to visit his brother's home, followed up with a trip to one of his organ concerts. His name was Alfons Stout, and I was so full of admiration I didn't dare speak to him. On a more personal level I remember both him and his wife displaying warm affection towards each other - not the custom in those days! He also had a very deep voice - I distinctly remember the furniture vibrating when he spoke!

At these organ concerts, I had the privilege of being allowed to stand behind him, watching him perform - Even though I couldn't comprehend much of this music, I knew I was witnessing something great and didn't dare miss a beat. At one of these concerts, his wife accidentally skipped a page when turning the sheet music - his head became bright red while this music just kept on flowing - eventually the mistake was rectified, and no one ever knew that this little catastrophe ever took place. That, I thought, was quite cool.

If anyone knows more about this amazing organist that lived in Antwerp, Belgium - please add a comment at the end of this page.

The image shows a youthful me with Alfons at his Ehrard grand piano.

Addition 06 July 2007

And a note has been dropped - thanks to my father who remembers a little more about him. So here is a translated and slightly adapted version from Flemish.

He (Alfons Stout) was indeed a musician pur sang. He studied at the Lemmens Institute, originally located in Mechelen (roughly halfway between Antwerp and Brussels). The Lemmens institute was the brain-child of Jaak Lemmens, who lived in the Kempen in the Flanders. It was originally a school for organists but soon grew to a more general school of music of high repute. The school eventually moved to Leuven, one of Belgium's greatest university cities.

Alfons, or Fons as people used to call him, was organist in the Kristus-Koningkerk in Antwerp. His income was very modest but this didn't discourage him from living his music - though it may have contributed to the disolution of his marriage to Irma, his first wife who bore him two daughters. He soon lost contact and seldom saw his daughters since.

Some years later he became acquainted with a new lady who became his 'soul-mate'. She bought him a church-organ which they installed in their hired appartment in Antwerp.

[I remember seeing this organ, pipes and all, which looked enourmous in their living room which also sprouted an Ehrard grand piano. They apparently had to knock out a wall so they could move it in to their living room].

I witnessed several of his concerts at the Carolus Borromeuskerk in Antwerp. It was a very beautiful and well-known Jesuit Baroque church, located at the Conscienceplein in Antwerp. It regularly featured masses performed by famous musician artists. Alfons Stout played there with the internationally renowned violonist Versmissen.


Legacy

After some enquiries to the KBR (Belgian Royal Library) I received a very helpful reply regarding the 81 works from Alfons Stout donated to the KBR by Arno Schoof (see the comments section):

The works of Alfons Stout can be found in our retrospective catalogue (= digitized card catalogue) . The main catalogue contains all acquisitions since 1st January 1985 .

After filling in 'Stout' in the author field and choosing "Alfons", you receive a list of 81 works by Alfons Stout

Also, the following information was given re purchasing copies of the compositions:

If you would like to have copies of some compositions, we advise you to use the Order Form which can be found on the website of the Royal Library of Belgium.

Please make a print of this form, fill it in and send it back to the Music Department - the address can be found at the bottom of this email. As soon as we receive your order form, we will deliver it to the Photography Service of our library. They will first make an invoice and send it to you. The tariffs of the copies can also be found on our website. As soon as the invoice is paid, the Photography Service will make your copies and send them to you. On the order form you will also have to fill in the work's class mark. Please make sure you also indicate the 'type of copy required' in the column on the right.

If the order is meant to be published, please also fill in the following form


Material from Joz. Bal's archives

I received the following material from Joz. Bal who very kindly organised for someone to scan some of his photos and sheetmusic he has in possession from Fons Stout.

Pilgrimke

Fons Stout in 't Pelgrimke, Berchem in 1966


Mechelen

Sint-Kathelijnekerk organ concert in Mechelen


Kint Score

Score: Een Kint geboren in Bethlehem


Maria Score

Score: Maria die soude naar Bethlehem gaan


Readers' contributions

From: Joz. Bal - Posted: 2008-12-23

Giving "Alfons Stout" in Google I was very surprised finding a photograph of him with notes of 29.5, 6.7.2007, 7.10.2008. (Admin note: refer Remembering Alfons Stout through Helmut Walcha)

I have no idea where to locate Dirk Bertels, using dutch is not appropriate I presume.

Knowing almost nothing of his past, quite a lot of years I knew him as organist at the Sint-Laurentiuskerk and conductor of the chruch choir (1954-1973).

The recordings I made of his concerts, I don't know if I can play them. Memories and photographs of him, I have quite a lot.

He died 1975. His musical archive was transfered to Brussels was told to me.


From: Dirk - Posted: 2008-12-24

Hi Joz, I've been living in Australia for 30 years now - and originally come from the Flanders in Belgium - so I still speak Dutch - but it's easier for me to converse in English.

This is great news - to get to hear about someone who knew Alfons Stout - and it seems you have a lot of information about him ... I honestly don't know where to start.

I wouldn't mind devoting one of these pages to him and adding some images and maybe digital excerpts of some of his playing. I believe his musical contribution was too great to be ignored - this way he has an on-line legacy.

I don't know how much of that is possible - Like, can your recordings be set to digital form? Of course you will retain the rights to these recordings and photographs - for the sake of a website I just need digital formats of images and audio tracks... I know how to do this, but I assume you live in Belgium, and that may make things a little difficult.

Another possibility is that I will be in Belgium in 2010 - so maybe we could meet up then ...

Anyway just some thoughts - if you think you can help me with this or some general information, please feel free to contribute ...


From: Joz Bal - Posted: 2008-12-25

Goede dag, Dąt weten we dan, zo groot is de afstand. En de technische beperkingen bij mij zijn niet gering (thuis geen internet, digitale fotografie bijna niets).

Mijn opnames van een halve eeuw geleden... de banden bestaan ja, maar zijn die nog wel bruikbaar?

Zeker is dat ik van Alfons Stout heel veel niet weet. In 1954 was ik 10 jaar en van dan af heb ik heel regelmatig contact gehad met hem.
Mijn vader zong in het parochiekoor, onderpastoor De Bont werd pastoor in Hove, Fons Stout werd dirigent.

Zelf ben ik in het koor gekomen in 1959, en was er bij toen zijn Missa Te Deum werd uitgevoerd voor het derde eeuwfeest van de parochie.

Van zijn kamerkoor ben ik geen lid geweest. Zijn woonplaatsen kende ik wel: Markgravelei, Desguinlei, Isabella Brantstraat.

Enkele maanden geleden vernam ik dat zijn orgel in Meise is terecht gekomen. Een klavier electronisch, een klavier pijporgel met 5 registers. Een Steinway had hij bij mijn weten niet, wel een Ehrard.

In november 1973 nam hij ontslag in Sint-Laurentius, maar ging dan nog regelmatig naar Mechelen om te spelen in de Sint-Kathelijnekerk.

Hierbij laat ik het voor deze keer (OK voor het nederlands? In al de informatie op het web heb ik mij nog niet verdiept).


From: Dirk - Posted: 2008-12-25

Hi Joz. Magnetic tapes last about 50 years (if stored properly), so that shouldn't be a big problem.

Would be great if you could put it in digital format before it deteriorates any further. The same goes for your images, they also deteriorate and would be better put in digital form for prosperity. I have a relative in Belgium who is a computer expert, I could find out if he wants to do this for you.

Photos can be scanned quickly while tapes will take longer since they need to be played in order to be recorded. Just let me know if you're game to do this ... These may be the only recordings we have of Fons - so it would be a shame to lose it.

Anyway - thanks for the info - I will add it to the article soon.


From: Philippe Vermeulen - Posted: 2009-03-04

Hello,
I am pleasently surprised to find some information about Alfons Stout on the internet.

I am the son of his youngest daughter (yes, he's my grandfather), but due to not so pleasant family issues, I met him only a few times. I never heard him play organ, but he did play some piano tunes to me (an he let me even "play" on his piano, which was something no-one ever had the privilege to do so, not even my sister or my niece...)

I also remember his deep voice.

What I most fondly remember are the movies we went to together. I know from my mother that he was an avid movie-freak and had a large collection of autgraphed photografs of many Hollywoodstars from the thirties until the fifties, ranging from Greta Garbo to Marlon Brando. We went to see a few Disney animation films (Bambi being my first film ever). I definitly inherited his love for movies.

I also know he was full of praise for the Beatles and had all their LP's (but my grandmother unfotunattely threw them away after he died).
My grandparents seperated shortly after the war in 1948, but were never officialy divorced.

Since a few years I'm collecting info about my familly for a book I want to write, and of course i also need more info about my grandfather.

For instance, I never heard some of his music (he also was a composer). So if anyone can help me on that, that would be very welcome...


From: Dirk - Posted: 2009-03-05

This is good news, meeting one of Alfons' descendants. As I said in the calender, our family used to know Alfons' brother, Frans ('nonkel Sus') very well as we did his wife, Clara Claes ('tante Clara').

We did see a lot of them and it was Sus that took me to several of Alfons' concerts.

When Sus and Clara planned to celebrate their wedding aniversary, Alfons wrote a composition especially for this occasion. I was at his place when he officially gave his score to Sus and Clara and remember him saying jokingly that they shouldn't expect any other presents from him ...

Alfons performed this composition at their wedding aniversary mass, together with his choir.

As an aside, Sus, who also loved classical music, played violin at this celebration also. I helped him practicing this piece by accompanying him on the piano. Sus hadn't played the violin for tens of years, so it sounded a bit rough.

I don't know what happened to this score - according to Joz Bal (the other contributor on this topic) all his works went to 'the archives' in Brussels (God knows where that is).

I suggest you get in contact with Joz - since he claims to have many tape recordings and photos - shouldn't be too hard to set to digital. And if you do, I am interested in dedicating a web page to Alfons - so any data is welcome.


From: Philippe Vermeulen - Posted: 2009-03-05

My grandmother came to Antwerp at the age of 19 with stars in her eyes, dreaming of Opera. She took singing lessons. It was there that she met a shy young man, only a few years her senior, who played the piano. He too had stars in his eyes, dreaming of a life as a famous and celebrated composer. They fell in love, and Mahler being his great example, he asked his wife to be te become his Alma. Which ment she had to give up her hopes of a career in the Opera, and devote her life to her artistic husband and the raising of their children. She did. They got to daughters: my aunt and my mother.

At first, I believe it was a rather happy marriage. Altouhg I guess that with the years, frustration grew with my grandmother cause she wasn't able to satisfy her artistic ambitions. Unfortunatelly, neither could my grandfather. He did make a living of his music, but not as a famous and acclaimed composer as he dreamed of. But altoughether, they both were quite content.

Then the war broke out. My grandfather was transported to Germany to work on a farm. He was away for almost two years. My grandmother had to raise her daughters alone during this time, where she (re)discoverd her independence. She also had lovers. I'm not shure she collaborated with the Germans, or she slept with one of the officers in the hope to get her husband back out of love for him. This issue is not very clear to me, and I can't ask them anymore now. My grandfather died in 1975, my grandmother in 2001, my aunt in 1992 and I have no contact anymore with my own parents. My family story isn't a really happy one, I guess...

Anyway, when he came back at the end of the war, my granfather was a changed man. And my grandmother a changed woman. Their marriage collapsed, and shortly after the war, in 1948, they went their seperate ways. They never got officialy divorced, so when my grandfather died, my grandmother requested his whole musical archive. She only got a box whith the complete recordings of The Beatles, which she hated, so she trew them away...

My mother and her father never had much contact after the seperation. Is a kid, we only visited our grandfather once a year, shortly before christmas. At that occassion, we often went to see a Disney animation. In fact, the very fist film and my very first visit to a cinema where with my grandfather. It was Bambi, and this is also my oldest memory. He visited us at our home on only two occasions: the communion of my sister and me (my first communion). As a devoted catholic, this was important to him.

He died when I was nine. We read he died in the newspaper, the day after his funeral.


Comments


  • From: Canon Jan Schrooten
  • Date: 2012-05-09 06:00:12
Dear,all this information is a very surprise for me.I was born in the Sint-Laurentiusparish and very close to Mr.Alfons Stout.
I was ordinated priest in 1961 and studies at the Lemmensinstituut.I was duing 32 years choirmaster from Antwerp Cathedral. Now I am retired but I help as priest and musician in my native parish!A few years ago we have celebrated the 450 years of founndation. I tried to find family (I remember his 2 daughters),but we had not succes. Who do you live ? hope to meat you as soon as ^possible. Jan Schrooten

  • From: canon jan schrooten
  • Date: 2012-05-09 10:33:02
Alfons Stout was organist in the int-Laurentiuskerk,not in the Kristus-Koningkerk. My english is terible :also "Where you live ?" Can you give me a mail-adress

  • From: dirk
  • Date: 2012-05-09 18:40:57
Hello Jan
Great to hear from you. Alfons is my uncle's brother, hence the relationship is somewhat distant. I also live on the other side of the world, on a little island, Tasmania, Australia. Philippe Vermeulen who contributed to this page is his grandson and is possibly more accessible.

  • From: Arno Schoof
  • Date: 2013-10-12 08:27:27
Wow, this was a surprise to me: I’ve got to know this incredible musician when I was 16 back in 1970: he was the organist of St.Laurentius and lit my musical fire. His partner at the time was Nelly Zwijsen, a dear and loyal friend who saved him from living from music and jam alone. Her love for him was overwhelming and she made him happy for the rest of his life. When he passed away in his sleep, so broke down and never recovered from the shock until she died of cancer many years later. I’m the one who brought his compositions and musical archive to the “Albertina” Royal Library in Brussels where it must be collecting dust now, since I cannot find Alfons Stout in the general catalog of their website.

  • From: Dirk (admin)
  • Date: 2013-10-16 17:34:16
Thanks for that Arno. I did some enquiries and got a reply with some links to the 81 works currently available from the KBR (Koninklijke Biblioteek). See the new chapter (3rd) called 'Legacy'

  • From: Victor Bertels
  • Date: 2013-10-27 02:38:32
Let me interfere in this strange meeting between Belgian people having met each other by waves over the earth ! I am Dirk's father, now 88 years old, still living in Belgium and I knew Alfons Stout very well at his period with Nelly and before this as well. As brother-in-law of his brother Sus, and being an accountant, he trusted me with the handling of his income taxes.

En vermits we allen toch Belgische Vlamingen zijn, laat ons verder gaan in ons eigen taal. In deze context kan ik jullie verzekeren dat Alfons inderdaad uitsluitend van zijn bescheiden inkomen als organist van Sint Laurentius leefde. En zijn relatie met Nelly, die hem onvoorwaardelijk genegen was, liet hem toe dat huisorgel te installeren in zijn huurappartement.
Ik herinner mij dat wij soms (op initiatieef van Sus) concerten van Fons bijwoonden in de Carolus Borromeuskerk op het Conscienceplein in Antwerpen met Alfons aan het orgel en begeleid door een toen zeer gekende violist (zijn naam ontschiet me). De ouders van Fons en Sus (en hun twee zusters) hadden voor de oorlog een klompenmakerij in Haasdonk, waar met de hulp van enkele knechten nog klompen handmatig met messen en beitels werden vervaardigd.
Dat wou ik nog even kwijt. Mijn beste groeten ook nog.



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