Hendrik Van den Abeele descended from a musical family, one of his uncles being Kapellmeister in Bruges, while his mother, Irish by birth, was quite a good amateur singer.
At the municipal Music School of Bruges he studied with the violinist-composer Accolay. Subsequently he went to the Conservatory of Brussels, where he studied for two years, following organ with Alphonse Mailly and harmony with Huberti, and then pursued his studies in Ghent, taking organ classes with Tilborghs and counterpoint with Adolphe D’Hulst.
Upon graduation he became Kapellmeister-organist at St Walburga's church in Bruges, a position he held for ten years. Then he became singing master in Ypres at St Martin's Cathedral and director of the music school. In this capacity he paid great attention to the school concerts, performing cantatas of Benoit, Gilson and De Boeck.
In 1913 four of his compositions won a prize in an international composition contest in Genoa: Twelve voorspelen voor orgel (Twelve Preludes for Organ), Missa Idesbaldi, Perfice for mixed choir and organ, and Romance for cello and piano. One year later his Poolse dans (Polish Dance) was awarded a prize in Lyon. During the war he fled to Rognac in the French Charente. In his absence his music library with plenty of manuscripts and unfinished compositions got lost. Yet in France he composed quite a lot, including several songs on French texts, a hymn for Jeanne d’Arc and the popular cantata Wie is als God (Quis ut Deus?) on a text by the Flemish priest-poet Guido Gezelle, which was performed several times in France and England.
Ypres being completely destroyed after the war, Van den Abeele found a position as organist in Kortenberg and subsequently as teacher at the Royal Atheneum in Ghent. In 1920 his Requiem won a prize among 226 entries in an international composition contest in Paris and in 1923 he was nominated as officier d’académie. After a failed attempt to become director of the Municipal Music School of Kortrijk, he retreated to Loenhout in the Campine region. In 1926 he relocated to Mol, where he taught at the new municipal music school and became sexton-organist of St Peter's church until his death.
Hendrik Van den Abeele wrote somewhat sweetish songs such as In ’t diepste van mijn herte (In the very Depths of my Heart), Lieve zuster (Sweet Sister), Avondmuziek (Evening Song), Hand in hand, Kermislied (Song of the Fair).
© Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek vzw - Jan Dewilde (translation: Jo Sneppe)