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Van Dycke, Jules

Eeklo, 13/10/1871 > Temse, 25/03/1954


Van Dycke, Jules

by Adeline Boeckaert

Though Jules Van Dycke was born in Eeklo, virtually his entire musical life was spent in Bruges. At the Municipal Conservatory there he studied organ with Louis Maes, counterpoint with Leo Van Gheluwe and piano with Ernest De Brauwere. Subsequently he continued his musical studies at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, where he took harmony classes with Joseph Dupont and organ classes with Alphonse Mailly. In 1895 he obtained a first prize for organ maxima cum laude, upon which the city of Bruges honoured him with an official reception in the council house.

Van Dycke earned his living as a teacher, consecutively employed by the Royal 'Atheneum' (secondary school) in Bruges, the Bruges Municipal Conservatory and the Teachers' Training College in Torhout. In addition he was also a private tutor for several wealthy families in Bruges. He combined his teaching task with a function as Kapellmeister at the Carmelites' church and at St Saviour's Cathedral in Bruges, as well as being organist at St Giles' church for some time. In 1898 Van Dycke as a pianist was one of the founders of the Brugsch Quintet, along with August Vander Looven and Oscar De Busschere (violin), Theo Delarivière (viola) and Adolf De Vlaemynck (cello).

Only later in life did Van Dycke start composing, actually at age 49. Between 1920 and 1953 he wrote 52 works in all, his oeuvre mainly consisting of vocal works with the emphasis on choral music and unison strophic songs with piano accompaniment. Van Dycke's songs are mostly in the Dutch language, while he often preferred to use texts by fellow countrymen. Half of the sixteen poets found in his oeuvre are from West-Flanders. For some ten compositions he based himself on texts by his wife Jeanne Lefebure, a woman of letters and teacher of diction whom he had married in 1906. His best-known songs are Aan Jezus’ Hart (Near Jesus' Heart) and Bloei in mij, Heer! (Blossom within me, Lord), respectively after a French text and in a translation from the French. Both works were published by the Antwerp music publisher De Ring and reviewed in the periodical Muziek-Warande. According to the critique these compositions have ‘undeniable merits’, only is ‘the singing somewhat banal’, with ‘the persistent uniform accompaniment eventually tipping over to monotony’. Yet the composer is praised for his dramatic bent and for the emotions he is able to convey in his songs. This is how Jaak Maertens described the compositional style of Van Dycke: “Undoubtedly the composer is by nature endowed with a dramatic talent. His range of colouring is characterised by dissonant chords including as many as five notes, resulting in a fine, compact and colourful harmonisation. Countless are the many pedal notes, chromatic connections and modulations, broken cadences and the expressive chromaticism. Though initially still somewhat awkward technically, the compositional and expressive aspect of his work is much varied and rich in contrast.

In the instrumental field Van Dycke composed three small organ works, four short piano pieces, a string quartet and an arrangement of his piano piece Kloefjesdans (Little Clog Dance) for symphonic wind and percussion band.

© Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek vzw - Adeline Boeckaert (translation: Jo Sneppe)