Paul Rans, Philippe Malfeyt, Piet Stryckers and Paul Van Loey focus on the popular songs and instrumental music from the Low Countries, ranging from medieval times to the 18th century. Their interpretations are characterised by an expressive, lively and often improvisatory approach.
Together they form RANS, founded in 1989 as the Paul Rans Ensemble when they recorded their first CD with Flemish Nativity songs, Mit desen nyewen iare.
Their second CD, Egidius waer bestu bleven, was the first to be devoted to the Gruuthuse Ms, a 14th century collection of songs and poems from Bruges, well-known for their literary merits but seldom heard as they were intended to – as songs. This was followed in 1993 with another first, a CD with songs from the Antwerp Songbook of 1544. According to reviewers at the time the spirited performances which characterise the recordings are further enhanced during live concerts thanks to the often very amusing but informed commentaries, an original combination of instruments and exciting improvisations.
In 1995 RANS produced an intercultural programme with the Moroccan trio WESHM. Both ensembles, RANS & WESHM, put together their individual past experiences and mixed them in new music with roots in Flanders and Morocco.
RANS & FLAGEL is a cooperation with the French singer and hurdy-gurdy player Claude Flagel in De la Seine à l’Escaut/ Van Antwerpen tot Parijs, a meeting of Germanic and Latin cultures where traditional songs show the many links between Flanders and France. The CD was awarded a CHOC! by the leading French music magazine Le Monde de la Musique.
In 2003 RANS was invited to take part in the Bozar Music and Poetry series in Brussels. In the company of film and stage actress Antje de Boeck they brought a programme where medieval Flemish songs were confronting the poetry of today’s best-known writer in Flanders, Hugo Claus.
Meanwhile RANS & FLAGEL are preparing a new disc featuring songs on the wars in Flanders’ Fields throughout the centuries. This programme - 'Trois tableaux de guerre / Drie oorlogstaferelen / Three Scenes of War' - was premiered at the Church of Passendale. A CD was released in January 2009.
For Christmas 2008 there was also an Anglo-Flemish cooperation with the well-known British A Cappella Trio Coope, Boyes & Simpson, reinforced with singers Fi Fraser, Jo Freya & Georgina Boyes.
The year 2010 brings a new programme:
"RANS" - Paul Rans, Philippe Malfeyt, Piet Stryckers & Paul Van Loey
deliver 'Paxkens van minne' - Parcels of Love. Music and Songs from the past Five Hundred and Twenty Years.
Musicians in heart and soul - De Standaard, Brussels
A heart-warming concert - Amerfoortse Courant, Netherlands
An agreeably forthright and unaffected way of singing and expert lute playing - Early Music, London
Solid proficiency and musicianship - Lute Society of America