Omer Van Puyvelde spent his youth in rural Wachtebeke. He was initiated into music by his senior brother by six years Remi, who studied at the Lemmens Institute. When Remi died at the age of twenty-one, Omer took over his function as sexton in Eksaarde. In 1927 Van Puyvelde went to the Royal Conservatory of Ghent where he took organ lessons from Léandre Vilain and Flor Peeters. He also studied under Oscar Van Durme, Georges Lonque, Joseph Ryelandt and Jules-Toussaint De Sutter. Van Puyvelde obtained the first prizes of solfège and organ (1933), harmony (1935), counterpoint (1937) and fugue (1938). In addition he took classes in conducting, composition and orchestration.
In 1933 Van Puyvelde became sexton-organist in Geraardsbergen. However, in 1935 he graduated to an appointment in Our Lady St Peter's church of Ghent, where he stayed on as sexton-organist until his death. In 1939 he founded the Ghent chamber choir Crescendo, which he directed until 1958, obtaining numerous awards at home and abroad. The choir for the first time stepped into the limelight in 1943, with a performance for Radio Brussels (NIR, the National Institute for Radio Broadcasting). The varied repertoire of the chamber choir included works by Lassus, Palestrina, Arcadelt, Peeters, Hullebroeck and Duvosel.
In 1949 Van Puyvelde became director of the music academy of Ledeberg, which was later named after him. From 1960 to 1978 he was teacher at the Royal Conservatory of Ghent, first for solfège and starting 1967 also for harmony. For his solfège lessons Van Puyvelde wrote the ten-part solfège course: Theoretische en praktische methode in notenleer (Theoretical and Practical Solfège Method). From 1960 he was a member of the jury in the NIR school choirs jury and from 1967 also director of the conducting course of the province of East Flanders. After his death in 1982 the Foundation Omer Van Puyvelde-Crescendo was founded, with a view to organizing concerts and promoting the composer's work.
Van Puyvelde was the founder of ‘Liederavonden voor het volk’ ('Singing evenings for the people'), bi-weekly singing meetings in Ghent, just like the Flemish national feasts aiming at familiarising the populace with native songs. At those evenings a varied programme was offered of classical songs, popular songs and songs for the masses, supplemented with information about the composers and their music. For these occasions Van Puyvelde also wrote songs of his own such as Ons Vlaanderen (Our Flanders), which were then learned and performed by the public.
Omer Van Puyvelde composed over 200 works. His oeuvre consists of profane and religious songs and choral works (both for children and adults) with piano or orchestral accompaniment, organ works, piano works and orchestral works. For his vocal compositions he mainly chose texts by Guido Gezelle, Alice Nahon and Jozef Simons. Many of his works exist only in manuscript form and are kept in the Royal Library of Belgium.
© Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek vzw - Evy De Smedt (translation: Jo Sneppe)