[ENSOR & FRIENDS | Ensor festival]

Henry De Groux, "James Ensor", 1907 © Mu.Zee, Oostende

Benjamin Haemhouts conductor

La Mer: an endless source of inspiration for artists from Claude Debussy to Charles Trenet. It really doesn’t have to be the Côte d’Azur or the Mediterranean coasts. Ostend was Europe’s leading seaside town in the late 19th century. A place where you could enjoy sun, sea and beach. Where one could parade among the beau monde. Where you could simultaneously listen and be seen at the Kursaal’s renowned concerts and recitals. They had the very greatest conductors and composers on the rostrum and the largest stars in classical music were visiting… and one James Sidney Edouard Ensor was in the loyal audience. The quirky painter was a loyal guest at the Théâtre Royale d’Ostende.

Over three days, we revive the glory days of yesteryear, with the native of Ostend as guide and signpost. There is a whole year’s worth of events coming up: Kurt Van Eeghem launches a new book on the period, fine musical moments are planned at the Ensor church and Casco Phil briefly becomes the famous Kursaalorkest, the orchestra of the Kursaal. We zoom in on three aspects of these miracle years in as many concerts.

Not only was James Ensor a painter, he was also a very intuitive composer of music. He could not read notes, but with the help of his friend and Kursaal director Léon Rinskopf, the ideas still took shape, and were executed in Ostend. The third day of the festival focuses on these creations, combined with inspiration in the opposite direction: Flor Alpaert’s Ensor Suite, which he wrote based on the artist’s canvases.

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