Oelbrandt, Kris

Kris Oelbrandt was born on November 13 1972 in Sint-Gillis-Waas (Belgium).

The world of music opened up for him as a child through the violin, the piano and music theory. It was especially the latter, the background of music, that fascinated him: how can you tell a story with music, what harmonies and sounds are possible, how does mathematics turn into poetry? Composing and theorizing became his great passion, much more than playing an instrument. When he was nineteen, he had a small pipe organ built by the Pels-d’Hondt company according to a ‘dual’ 13-tone system he had designed.

At the Antwerp conservatory he obtained first prizes in music theory and harmony, then in 1996 at the Brussels conservatory he became master in music writing (option composition) magna cum laude under Rafaël d’Haene. In 2001 he completed his training with Luc van Hove as graduate in composition at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel.

From childhood on Kris felt also attracted to something completely different besides music: a life of prayer, stillness and solitude. That’s why at 29 he decided to follow his heart: he entered the Trappist Abbey Maria Refuge in Zundert, where he felt at home since a long time. He continued to compose as a monk and built up an oeuvre of idiosyncratic religious concert music: solo works, chamber music, oratorios, choral music and orchestra. In doing so, he always strove for narratives (instrumental or vocal) that make the bridge between the religious and the musical, two worlds that coincide in his thinking. He received a bachelor’s degree in theology magna cum laude from the Leuven Catholic University in 2009. His thesis focuses on the (im)possibility of translating theological concepts into music, with particular attention to the vision of Olivier Messiaen.

Many internationally renowned musicians and ensembles have already enjoyed performing his music. In 2000 he won the composition prize of the Muizelhuis Concerts with his piano trio Resonances and in 2010 he was laureate of the Weimarer Frühjahrstage für zeitgenössische Musik with his Concert Rhapsody for violin and orchestra.

There came a moment when Kris felt that he could not hold both the abbey, which wants to create an oasis of silence and prayer, and the music, which strives for sound and communication. That is why he exited the abbey in 2021 with pain in his heart. From then on he continues to work outside the abbey walls on his oeuvre of religious music, intended for church or concert hall. Since this period he has been composing according to a self-designed tonal system, based on melodic atonality and harmonic modality. Because silences are constitutive in it, he calls this music auditio divina.