Jules Van Nuffel




Jules Van Nuffel was born into a well-to-do, musical family: his father was the mayor of the commune Hemiksem, and his mother taught him his first lessons in music theory and piano. As a young teenager, he went to the Small Seminary in Malines, where he was able to practice his musical passions further. This is how he learned to play violin and organ. Moreover, in 1898, he was appointed as organist of the school. In 1901 he began his priest education, after which he would be consecrated by the cardinal of Malines. In addition to this, thanks to his musical talents, he was appointed as music teacher for the seminary and he received the explicit permission to take classes at the Lemmens Institute.

Choir conductor 

Already during his student years, Van Nuffel was intrigued by choral music. This is why he founded a small student choir, which he directed and for which he composed. This motivated him to found the St. Rumbold’s choir in 1916, which he conducted until 1949. Van Nuffel had a lot of success with this choir: they were regularly invited to provide accompaniment for church services at the Royal Court, and undertook many international concert trips such as to Italy in 1934, where they could count on the attendance of the Pope. In addition to this, Van Nuffel was often invited to international congresses on church music, because he was esteemed as a true expert. 

Music director 

In 1918, Van Nuffel was appointed as the director of the Lemmens institute, a function which he would fulfill until 1952. The Lemmens institute completely flourished again under his wings after a period of decay caused by the First World War. After all, he appointed many of the Flemish greats, such as Lodewijk Mortelmans (1868-1952), Flor Peeters (1903-1986) and Staf Nees (1901-1965).


Van Nuffel can also be considered as one of the founders of musicology in Belgium. He revitalized Musica Sacra, a leading journal concerning liturgical music, of which he became editor in chief in 1927. In that same year he started a publication of the Malines polyphonist Philippus de Monte (1521-1603). Thanks to these academic activities, Van Nuffel was named lector of the Catholic University of Leuven in 1933. In this role, he made sure that in 1943 a complete musicology department was set up at the university.  


As a composer he mostly wrote religious music, of which a large proportion consists of choral pieces in function of the set-up of the St. Rumbold's choir. Because of the religious characteristics of his music, it was often influenced by the Gregorian style, and his music was well received because of his original take on this influence. His music reached an international audience because a part of his oeuvre was published by the German music publishers Schwann.


What is most striking about Van Nuffel’s career is the fact that he was a self-taught composer. Although during his years at the Seminary and his private classes at the Lemmens institute he took lessons from Edgar Tinel, Oscar Depuydt and Alfons Desmet, he was never an official, fully fledged student of the conservatory. At a young age, however, Van Nuffel schooled himself by becoming familiar with the works of Bach, Beethoven, Weber, Wagner, Grieg, Debussy and Benoit.

Choral works (selection) 

  • 1910-1911: Motet O sacrum convinium in As. SATB a cappella. Published by Musica Sacra, Mechelen.
  • 1910-1911. Motet sicut credus. SATB and organ. Published by Musica Sacra, Mechelen.
  • 1916. Super flumina Babylonis. SATB and organ. Published by L. Schwann and Edition Peters.
  • 1926: Psalm 125: In convertendo Dominus op. 32. SATB and organ. Published by Edition Peters.
  • 1937. Ave Maria. SATB. Published by Edition Peters.
  • 1937. Sub tuum praesidium. SATB and organ. Published by L. Schwann, Düsseldorf.
  • 1944. Te Deum in C mineur. SAATTBB and organ or brass. Published by Euprint, Heverlee (2013). 
  • Pater noster. SATB/ SATbarB. Published by L. Schwann and Edition Peters.
'Te Deum' door het Leuvens Universitair Koor, o.l.v. Koen Vits.
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