The meaning of Nieuwpoort

The origins of Nieuwpoort are to be found in the locality called Sandeshoved. This sandy promontory was the result of a constant reshaping of the Flemish coast in the estuary of the IJzer, a process that took water and wind centuries to accomplish. The higher reaches of the dune were already occupied by the 9th century. The monks of the Duinenabdij at Koksijde built dykes which managed to keep the fickle influences of the sea at bay.

Filips van den Elzas, count of Flanders, had realised that the settlement of Nieuwpoort would be of major importance because of its strategic position, both as an trading seaport and a military fortress. He therefore granted the citizens of Nieuwpoort a municipal charter in 1163. The rights and duties invested in this document enabled the establishment of an orderly society. The authorities in the town were also given leave to administer jurisdiction.

Over the centuries, the community of Nieuwpoort has always defended these acquired freedoms and rights with the utmost vigour. A, by necessity very complex, system of water management proved able to fend off the ever present threat of inroads through the open access towards the sea. The town was also being secured with bulwarks and ditches.

Thanks to the endeavours of the count Gwijde van Dampierre, the Burgundian duke Philip the Bold and the French architect Sébastien le Prêtre marshal de Vauban, Nieuwpoort became an almost impregnable town - until the fortifications were dismantled at the end of the 18th century.

The water-ways to Brugge, Ieper, Diksmuide, Veurne and other places caused a lot of trading to pass through the town. In this way, Nieuwpoort became a flourishing port, a crossroads in the connection between the wealthy hinterland and countries overseas.

Some fifteen major sieges, some of which resulted in the total destruction of the town as was the case in 1383 and 1914, have never managed to break the will for survival. Nor did they stop the town from being constantly rebuilt by its people.




The first carillon


Market square, about 1875, by François Musin (1820 - 1888) ; illustration from 'Volksliederen en Gedichten' by F. Morael, Inventory of Art Collection Nieuwpoort nr. 01746 LDK/O

It was almost inevitable that Nieuwpoort has played its part in the origins and development of the carillon in our provinces.

For a town like Nieuwpoort and for so many other medieval towns, the belfry was a visible sign of jurisdiction, freedom and prosperity. The city tower, the so-called Halletoren, was constructed at the end of the 14th century, after the English had completely rased the town in 1383. The municipal accounts, which have been kept since 1388, show that public life came into its own after the reconstruction of the town.

The times of the day in Nieuwpoort were regulated by an hour bell which was positioned in the city tower. From 1413 onwards, the accounts mention payment for a '...machine with bells' - the precursor of what nowadays would be the automatic carillon.

There is also a mentioning of payment for repairs to '...a manikin that chimes and indicates the hours of the day'. The bells were brought over by barge from Brugge (in 1440 by Willem vande Wiele), but also from Amsterdam. In 1582 Adriaen Jonas manufactured a new and larger drum for the city tower.

The carillon does not appear in the municipal accounts between 1582 and 1608, in which year Jan dela Porte received payment for '...repairing and tuning of the bells in the belfry at the market square, in order that they can be played upon'.

Jan dela Porte was followed by a succession of carilloneurs, amongst whom are noted Hendrik Grard, Jan Blampain and Joannes de Gruytters. This went on till 1914 in which year a total destruction of Nieuwpoort set in that would last for four years. In the meantime, the set of bells in the belfry tower had grown to such an extent that around 1680, due to lack of space, the complete carillon installation had to be transferred to the churchtower. The more spacious campanile allowed for a better disposition of the carillon. As for the tower itself, it was never completed as an edifice.




The second carillon

Churchtower constructed in 1632

By 1735 the (first) carillon was no longer up to standard. It had, in fact, always been an amalgam of all sorts of sound qualities and, because of that, it can never have been very euphonious. Very likely this carillon was no example for purity of tone.

The city council was quite aware of this and on 25 August 1735 an order was placed with Pieter Vanden Gheyn, bell founder at Leuven, for a new carillon as a replacement for the old one which was '... very ill-sounding...'. The higher authorities, not having been consulted over this matter, could hardly agree to such an expenditure and made this known to the 'gentlemen of Nieuwpoort' in a quite outspoken letter. The 'gentlemen' promised never to do this again, but by that time the second carillon had, of course, already been made.

Between 1760 and 1777 Georgius Dumery from Brugge made delivery of a further ten bells in order to complete the set. This carillon became fully integrated into the public sphere in Nieuwpoort.

'Sunday, 24 June 1860:
At six in the morning the opening of the fair will be announced by ringing of the bell, music from the carillon, firing of the canon, decoration of streets and buildings and by flagging of the ships in port'.

The Great War of 1914-1918 brutally put a stop to all this. The engineers of the Belgian army mined the churchtower on 17 October 1914.

At that time, the carillon of Nieuwpoort consisted of 44 bells, with a total weight of approx. 8793 kg bronze. The Bass bell was a D sharp1 with a diameter of 150 cm and weighed about 1890 kg. The smallest bell was a B4 approx. 20 cm in diameter and with a weight of about 10 kg.

As far as known nowadays, only one single bell of the set of 1735 escaped undamaged from the disaster, a F sharp2; 31,9 cm in diameter and with a weight of 23,5 kg.

Besides this, all that remains are some fragments of bronze, two damaged bells (by Georgius Dumery) and the handprotectors of Louis Deschieter, the last pre-war carilloneur.




The third carillon

Belltower constructed in 1952 ©

In 1949 a decision was taken to pick up again with the tradition of carillon-playing in Nieuwpoort - and this after an interruption of more than 35 years. There is a big difference though: the architecture of the tower as well as the composition and tuning of the diachromatic carillon with its four octaves differ greatly from the previous situation.

The present churchtower is a completed structure erected on the foundations of its predecessor. In style it fits the Church of Our Lady next to which it stands.

The set of 67 bells (Bass: E flat, 1407 kg) was cast in 1952 by Marcel Michiels Jr., bell founder in Doornik. The tuning was executed according to the Pythagorean scale.

This delicate undertaking was successfully accomplished thanks to the quality of the founder's technique and the supervision of Victor Van Geyseghem, himself a carilloneur and former teacher at the Beiaardschool, but foremost an internationally renowned expert in bells.

The installation of the carillon was envisaged with its function as a musical instrument in mind. It was placed in the bellchamber and no longer, as was customary, in Nieuwpoort too, as a mere decorative feature in the campanile.

In 1992 Clock-O-Matic from Holsbeek has updated the whole installation (with exception of the bells), using the latest techniques.




List of the bells of the (diachromatic) third carillon

Click for the list.

List of the carillon players in Nieuwpoort

The accounts and other documents that are kept in the municipal archives of Nieuwpoort have made it possible to draw up an, almost complete, list of carilloneurs who were remunerated '... for performing well with the carillon and the bells in the belfry at the market square':
       

?

 

-

1608

Jan dela PORTE

1608

-

1619

?

1619

-

1628

Hendrik GRARD

1628

-

1629

?

1629

-

1643

Jan BLAMPAIN

1643

-

 

? ?

 

-

1700

Joris RANTS

1700

-

1707

Andries BOUDEN

1708

-

1721

Cornelis BEGEREM

1721

-

1737

Joannes de GRUYTTERS

1737

-

1742

Joannes GEERT

1742

-

1753

Pauwel CARLIER

1753

-

1781

Hendrik MAEGERMAN

1781

-

1815

Napoleon ROUCHE

1815

-

1840

Michel DESMEDT

1841

-

1863

Clement CELESTIN

1863

-

1879

Louis VLIEGHE

1879

-

1887

Louis DESECK

1887

-

1894

Karel DEDEYSTER

1895

-

1907

Louis DESCHIETER

1895

-

1914

Cyriel MICHIELS

1907

-

1914

And after the interruption

by the Great War of 1914-1918:

Paul BOURGOIS

1954

-

2004

Els DEBEVERE

2003

-

 



The carilloneur

P. Bourgois at the keyboard ©

The carilloneur Paul Bourgois (°1933) got acquainted with the piano at an early age. He studied the piano and the organ under Joris Porteman, a very able and sensitive musician. After secondary school, he became a student at the Lemmensinstituut (formerly in Mechelen). This had as a 'side-effect', of course, the discovery of the carillon and its technique.

Staf Nees and Jef Van Hoof, who were his teachers at the Koninklijke Beiaardschool Jef Denyn, have initiated him in all the aspects of the subtle art of the carillon. Campanology was taught by Victor Van Geyseghem.

Since 1953, Paul Bourgois has been converting this knowledge into resounding music, not only in Nieuwpoort where he was nominated in 1954, but also in other cities, both in Belgium and abroad. Over the years his musical interpretation ripened and has gained expressive power.

The best way to experience this is to wander about in the quiet surroundings of the churchtower during a recital on a summer's evening, when the actual notes are only a means to create a musical atmosphere.

After 50 years activity in the carillontower, he is pleased to let the instrument in the hands of his successor, Mrs Els DEBEVERE,carilloneur (dipl. 2004).

Since 2000 he performs with the harpist Anne-Sophie BERTRAND. (Paris) as the duo TOCANDO.

A.S. BERTRAND, harpist ©




Carillon recitals -Guided tours

During the summer, between 16 June and 15 September, carillon recitals by Mrs.Els DEBEVERE incumbent carillonneur, are scheduled each Wednesday evening at 8.30 pm.

Els DEBEVERE at the keyboard ©


Any recital will contain original compositions for carillon, as well as adaptations of contemporary or classical music and popular songs. A copy of the programme of the recital in progress can be found at the foot of the churchtower or in the garden reserved for the listeners.

Each Friday morning in July and August, when the weekly market is on, a free and guided tour of the churchtower is provided. Visitors will be able to observe the actual art of carillon playing. To be on such a tour, a prior application must be made to the Tourist Office:

Dienst voor Toerisme; Grote Markt, 7; 8620 Nieuwpoort Tel: 058/22.44.22

At this tourist office the season's calendar of recitals can be obtained, as well as the programmes and any further informations. (E-mail: info@nieuwpoort.be).


Calender of recitals 2005 :


15/06/2005

8.30 pm.

Els Debevere

19/06/2005

2.00 pm

Els Debevere

22/06/2005

8.30 pm

Els Debevere

29/06/2005

8.30 pm

Els Debevere

06/07/2005

8.30 pm

Els Debevere

13/07/2005

8.30 pm

Els Debevere

20/07/2005

8.30 pm

Els Debevere

27/07/2005

8.30 pm

Aimé Lombaert

03/08/2005

8.30 pm

Ludo Geloen

10/08/2005

8.30 pm

Els Debevere

13/08/2005

11.00 am

Els Debevere

2.00 pm

guided tour of the tower

17/08/2005

8.30 pm

Els Debevere

24/08/2005

8.30 pm

Els Debevere

31/08/2005

8.30 pm

Elena Sadina & Sergej Gratchev

07/09/2005

8.30 pm

Els Debevere

14/09//2005

8.30 pm.

Els Debevere


~~~~~~~~~~~~

In June 1996, at the launch of the new CD "Nieuwpoort and her carillon", a first was realised, namely a joint performance by carillon and harp. This was made possible through the collaboration of Chantal BURIE (1941 - 2004), first soloist harp player at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Flanders and professor of harp at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Antwerp.

This simultaneous concert of harp and carillon has been heard for the fifth time in the Church of Our Lady on Monday 28 March 2005 at 8 pm performed by the Duo TOCANDO : Anne-Sophie BERTRAND (Paris) soloist harp player at the Symphonic Orchestra of the Hessische Rundfunk (Frankfurt) performing in the church, and the honorary carilloneur of Nieuwpoort, Paul BOURGOIS, doing likewise in the church tower.

The Duo TOCANDO ©


Duo TOCANDO rehearsing ©

A.S. BERTRAND rehearsing ©

A.S. BERTRAND during the concert ©

A.S. BERTRAND during the concert ©



Duo TOCANDO in concert©



There is a transmission of sound and image organized between both locations and general logistic support will be provided by the municipal services of Nieuwpoort.




Recordings




Carillon music



Intro and  theme from'Vertellingen van Jan de mulder' by P.Bourgois ©
Click on the bell to hear a musical interlude.



Bibliography

  • Rijksarchief Brugge, Fonds Nieuwpoort (Van Werveke).

  • Beschryvinge der stad ende haven van Nieuport. J.B.Rybens 1876.

  • Die Lehre von den Tonempfindungen. H. Helmholtz 1877.

  • Modern Archief van de stad Nieuwpoort

  • Documents Historiques. R. de Beaucourt de Noortvelde. 1904

  • Nieuport ancien et moderne. C Wybo. 1904

  • De Beiaard van Nieupoort. J. Filliaert. 1936

  • Archief klokkengieterij M.Michiels Sr. en Jr. Doornik.

  • Iconografie van het arrondissement Veurne. A. Verbouwe 1950.

  • Beffrois, Halles Hôtels de Ville. J.Lestocquoy 1948.

  • Heemkundig Tijdschrift 'Bachten de Kupe' 5e Jrg nr.4. Nieuwpoort 800 P.Bourgois 1963.

  • Beiaardkunst in de Lage Landen. A. Lehr. 1991

  • De vroegste geschiedenis van Nieuwpoort. R.Degryse. 1994

  • Wandelen in versterkte steden. Provincie West-Vlaanderen 1999.



    Useful addresses

    Provincie W.-Vl., Dienst Cultuur,
    Leopold III laan,41
    B 8200 SINT-ANDRIES
    tel.: 050.40.34.34;
    fax: 050.40.31.00;
    E-mail: muziek@west-vlaanderen.be

    -----

    Koninklijke Beiaardschool Jef Denyn,
    (Royal Carillon School Jef Denyn)
    F. de Merodestraat,63
    B 2800 MECHELEN
    tel.: 015/20.47.92;
    fax: 015/20.31.76
    E-mail: beiaardschool@yucom.be
    Web-site: http://www.beiaard.org


    -----

    Dienst Toerisme & Cultuur, stadhuis,
    (Tourist Office)
    Marktplein,7
    B 8620 NIEUWPOORT
    tel.: 058/22.44.44;
    fax: 058/22.44.28
    E-mail: info@nieuwpoort.be



    Links.

    to the carillons of the world:

    carillon techniques:


    © Paul BOURGOIS,R.Woutersweg,4 B 8620 Nieuwpoort.
    E-mail: paul-bourgois@tijd.com