Aerts, Peter

Kessel-Lo, 21/06/1912 > Stekene, 06/02/1996


Aerts, Peter

by Annelies Focquaert

Peters Aerts received his earliest piano lessons from his aunt Josefa Aerts, a piano teacher at the Royal Flemish Conservatory in Antwerp. At the same institution, the Francophone precursor of which was co-founded by his granduncle Franciscus Aerts in 1843, he studied from 1925 on solfège with Karel Candael and Hendrik Van Schoor, harp with Honorina Bernard-Zelliën (1927-1928) and piano with Jules De Vos (1927-1929). Because of his precarious financial situation he had to interrupt his studies from 1929, becoming a dental technician. Later he took private tutorials with Lodewijk Ontrop, Jef Schampaert and August L. Baeyens (orchestration), earning his solfège degree with Jan Broeckx (First Prize in 1936) as well as his harmony degree with Edward Verheyden (Second Prize in 1943).

Around 1932-1933 he became accompanist of the choir 'Kunst en Vermaak' (Art and Entertainment) in Borgerhout, then conducted by Jef Van Hoof, resulting in a lifelong friendship. Together they roamed all over Flanders, offering musical evenings. Aerts was adopted by the society of artists around Van Hoof's residence 'Spokenhof', among them Prosper Verheyden, Emmanuel de Bom and Edgar Denhaene. In 1939 Aerts became the conductor of the choir 'Jonc Vlaams Vri Vlaems' at Sint-Niklaas. Besides he was prominent as a pianist and accompanist, amongst others at the NIR (National Institute for Radio Broadcast), and he regularly contributed to the broadcasts of the 'Vlanara' (Flemish-Nationalist Radio Society) till 1940. He accompanied countless singers for concerts and recordings.

As a composer he wrote mainly vocal works, using Dutch, German, French, English and South African texts: more than a hundred songs ranging across a wide gamut from art songs, children's songs, and sacred songs to folk songs, some of them published by the cultural societies 'Davidsfonds' (catholic) and 'Willemsfonds' (liberal) or by music publishers such as 'de Ring' and 'de Crans'. Furthermore he wrote choral music, an opera Groen en Grijs (Green and Grey), works for piano, carillon, a Missa Angelorum, chamber music, music for brass band and symphony orchestra. In 1955 he was awarded the Provincial Prize for Music of the province of East Flanders with his choral work Uchtend Hymne (Morning Hymn), followed in 1979 by the Prize for Carillon composition of the City of Mechelen for Metamorfozen (1978), inspired by the Flemish folk song Schoon lief, hoe ligt gij hier en slaapt. He orchestrated several works by Jef Van Hoof and sometimes used the pseudonym 'Piet Pech' (Bad Luck Pete).

The bulk of his compositions has been preserved at the library of the Antwerp Conservatory since 2004.

© Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek vzw - Annelies Focquaert (translation: Joris Duytschaever)