The most important part of Hendrik Cartol’s musical career happened in Turnhout from the late 1860s on. There are very few sources about what he did before or where and when he spent his formative years. At any rate he was active in the music life of Antwerp temporarily, serving as director of music societies such as the ‘Vlaemsch Zanggenootschap de Scheldezonen’(Flemish Singing Society the Sons of the River Scheldt) and becoming a member of the ‘Nederlandsch Kunstverbond’(Dutch Arts Association). In August 1848 Cartol conducted a concert there for the ‘Association royale de Sociétés Lyriques’ (1848-1852). Between 1854 and 1861 he was allegedly the director of the ‘Société Mozart’ (1852-1861) in Borgerhout, a suburb of Antwerp, as successor of Alphonse Lemaire. The book Historique des sociétés chorales de Belgique (1861) mentions that Cartol was to settle down in the province of Hainaut as director of the ‘Société de musique’ in Wasmes. Later sources also identify nearby Pâturages in addition to Wasmes as his working environment.
After his Walloon period Cartol relocated to Turnhout. The precise time of this decisive career move is not known, but it can be safely said that he left his imprint on the music life of Turnhout. He was a member of the association Amicitia, where he was well-known as professor of music, as composer and performer. He was music teacher at the state secondary school for boys from June 1869 to October 1871 as well as conducting the choir of the association Orpheus in Turnhout. Furthermore he was appointed as the first director of the Municipal Music school in Turnhout. In this capacity he served from December 1868 to May 1872, teaching solfège, woodwinds and brass as well as violin to boot.
In addition to his duties as director, teacher and choir conductor Cartol also found time to compose. He lived in a period when the awareness of the people’s language came to the fore, witness his preferential choice of texts in Dutch for his choral works. While sources about his compositions are rare, at least mention is made of such choral works as De Boschgeuzen (The Beggars of the Woods), Op de Schelde (On the River Scheldt) and De Waterloosche Leeuw (The Lion of Waterloo). He also composed some comedies: Theodoor van Rijswijck, of schuw de plaetsen waer de plagen vallen (Theodoor van Rijswijck, or Keep aloof from the Places where Calamities happen) and Au drapeau de l’Echo de la Campine (To the Flag of the ‘Echo de la Campine’, i.e. a music society established in 1862). In 1896 his Vrijheidslied (Freedom Song) was performed on the occasion of the inauguration of the new train station and of the local tramway in Turnhout. Finally his oeuvre also includes some orchestral works, an aria for saxophone Souvenirs et Regrets and a piano work Souvenir et Regret: Elegie which is preserved in the city archives of Turnhout.
© Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek vzw - Lien Alaerts (translation: Joris Duytschaever)