Pieter Lodewijk Busschaert was born in Damme and received his secondary school education at St Lodewijk's institute in Bruges, where he was a pupil of Leonard Lodewijk De Bo (1827-1885), teacher in the two senior classes and mainly known as the compiler of the Westvlaamsch Idioticon, a key work on West Flemish dialects. In 1859 Busschaert went for the priesthood at the Minor Seminary in Roeselare, where Guido Gezelle was among his teachers. This poet-priest was to become his lifelong friend, Gezelle's poem Kom e keer hier, flieflodderke (Come on here, Wheedledee), written in 1860, was dedicated to 'Pieter Busschaert from Damme'. During his further studies as a seminarist Busschaert conducted the Schola Cantorum. In those days he also composed a Stabat Mater, which was sung yearly in the Procession of the Holy Blood in Bruges. He never 'studied' music, however, which according to Edgar Tinel's article in Musica Sacra remained one of Busschaert's frustrations. As an autodidact he did indeed copy several Masses of the sixteenth-century composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina with a view to making himself familiar with the latter's style. Later he also got acquainted with the oeuvre of Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms.
On 17 December 1864 Busschaert was ordained as a priest, on the same day as Hugo Verriest. Both of them were appointed shortly after as teachers at St Lodewijk's in Bruges. In 1877 Busschaert became curate in Blankenberge, and in 1883 parish priest in Vichte. On all these locations he was highly appreciated as a connoisseur of music, his reputation ranging from 'L’artiste professeur de poésie au collège de Bruges' or 'Le musicien vicaire de Blankenberghe' to 'Le fameux musicologue curé de Vichte'. As a good friend of the Brussels Conservatory director François-Auguste Gevaert (1828-1908) Busschaert regularly adjudicated there in the board of examiners at organ competitions. Also for the final exams of the 'Ecole de musique religieuse' in Mechelen he frequently served in the judging-committee.
Evidence of the great interest Busschaert attached to the presence of music in the church is the fact that he looked for 'sponsoring' to replace the old organ of the church in Vichte. The hour had come on 12 March 1891, the new instrument being inaugurated by Alphonse Mailly. Unfortunately enough, it was not granted to Busschaert to enjoy it for long: he passed away on 10 January 1892.
Apart from a considerable number of poems Busschaert mainly wrote vocal sacred music. These works were published in anthologies such as 30 Gezangen voor Congregatiën (Brugge: Edward Gailliard, 1870) and 42 Gezangen voor Congregatiën ook dienstig voor scholen (Brugge: Karel Beyaert-Storie, 1881), the latter congregation songs also useful for schools. The compositions are characterised by the use of early Gregorian chant enriched by modal or contrapuntal accompaniments. His Vijf oude liederen voor de kersttijd (O Schepper God; ’t Is geboren; God zij lof gegeven; Aan U, O Jezus; Tussen os en ezel) / Five ancient Songs for Christmas Time (O God Creator; It was born; Praise to God; To Thee, O Jesus; Between Ox and Donkey) and his Vijf Jezusliederen (Wat is de naam van Jezus; Aan Jezus denken; Mijn zonden hebben menig keer; Jezus mensgeworden God; De Godheid woont in mij) / Five Jesus Songs (What is the Name of Jesus; Thinking of Jesus; My Sins are plentiful; Jesus the Incarnation of God; God lives within me) were arranged by Herman Roelstraete for a choir of four mixed voices a capella.
© Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek vzw - Adeline Boeckaert (translation: Jo Sneppe)