Dirk Snellings, the founder and Artistic Director of Capilla Flamenca, has died at the age of 55. Snellings was the bass singer of the quartet that lies at the heart of the Flemish vocal ensemble – an ensemble specialising in music of the 15th and 16th centuries.
Snellings graduated with a First Prize in voice from the Antwerp Conservatory and, in addition to his duties with Capilla Flamenca, sang as a soloist with many ensembles including La Petite Bande and Il Fondamento. He also taught voice and early music history at the Lemmens Institute in Leuven, Belgium.
Snellings specialised in searching for vocal techniques appropriate to each stylistic period – particularly in polyphonic music from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. His recording of Agricola’s Mass for Ricercar was shortlisted for a Gramophone Award in the Early Music category in 2011. Earlier that year, he spoke to Gramophone about the complexities of Agricola’s music: ‘We studied the Mass for several months before performing it for the first time last year,’ he said. ‘Every time we perform it, it surprises us…His writing is rhythmically so rich and inspired; he is one of the most magnificent virtuoso masters we’ve ever encountered from the 1500s.’
Jérôme Lejeune, Artistic Director of Ricercar, paid tribute to the bass singer and musicologist: ‘[Like] Johannes Ockeghem, whose bass voice was described by Erasmus as ‘Vox Aurea’ – the golden voice – [so] Dirk Snellings had a voice that was recognisable by all…A tireless researcher, he created, with his Capilla Flamenca, the ideal instrument to promote the rich repertoire of Franco-Flemish composers.’
Concluding his tribute, Lejeune said: ‘I will never forget his smile, his dedication, the memories of a passionate and fabulous musician, but more than anything the warmth of a friend with whom what is called work turns into pure pleasure. Maybe where he is now, he has joined his ancestor with the golden voice, Johannes Ockeghem?’