de Villiers, Jan

DE VILLIERS, Jan Stephanus


b. Paarl, 15 March, 1827

d. Paarl, 2 May 1902


Jan Stephanus was the eldest son of a Paarl blacksmith and wainwright, directly descended from the Huguenots on both sides of his family. As a small boy, Jan often attended his mother’s organ lessons from the Paarl organist Pieter Hugo. Soon he was included in the lessons, and overtook his mother. Sir George Napier, the Cape Governor, offered to send the boy to Europe at his own expense in order to study music (after January 1838). His father declined the offer because his son was still so young. Jan’s tuition was then entrusted to Frederick Logier, with organ as his main instrument. However, he also had piano, violin, harp and theory lessons. When he was 18, Jan Stephanus de Villiers gave two concerts in Cape Town, in which he performed several of his own compositions. 


De Villiers also taught music. In order to reach his pupils, he used to ride his dapple-grey horse to their homes. One of them was the daughter of Rev. Van der Lingen, Johanna, who was his pupil for seven years before becoming his wife. They had thirteen children together. This marriage into a minister’s family greatly influenced his career. His father-in-law supported De Villiers’ music by cooperating in the writing of a text for an oratorio, and by arranging for a performance of De Villier’s Philharmonic Society before the Dutch Reformed Church Synod. The influence of the church is also attested to by the 13 new tunes that De Villiers wrote in 1883 for the new hymnbook, entitled Hallelujah, psalmen and gezangen der Ned. Geref. Kerk van Zuid Africa. Four of these tunes were eventually used in the Afrikaans Psalter of 1937. Apart from his duties in the church, De Villiers strove to advance music in Paarl, and created the Paarl Philharmonic Society in 1864. It was essentially a choral society, whose singing was supported by organ or piano. The members sang mainly sacred music, including the first performances of De Villiers’ four oratorios: De Epiphanie (1856), Zion and Babylon, De Sulamith and Maranatha. 


Dev Villiers’s endeavours to advance the cause of Afrikaans music in an Afrikaans town were motivated by the same ideals as those announced by the Afrikaans Genootskap. Other works with a specific Afrikaans tendency were the piano piece, De Transvaalsche jager, a festival song to words by Celliers, Sestien Desember and Slaap rustig to words of Theo Jandrell. De Villiers was naturally a citizen of a colony under British control, and so he honoured Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, with four occasional works on his visit to South Africa: Africa’s Welcome to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Alfred’s Grand March, Prince Alfred’s Quick March and Prince Alfred’s Gallop. For the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887, De Villiers wrote a Jubilee fantasia. Several of his works had English titles, such as the five songs published as Echoes from the Cape of Good Hope. 


J.S. de Villiers composed an estimated 80 works, of which 48 were published. Of his total number of compositions, 46 are sacred pieces. His main contribution to Afrikaans church music is contained in the collections Gewijde feestliederen, Kerstfeeliederen, Pinksterfeestliederen and Hemelvaart. Although De Villiers worked as an organist for more than fifty years, it appears that he left no organ music.





Sacred Music: Oratorios 


De Epiphanie. Oratorio for soprano, tenor, bass, vocal ensemble, choir and orchestra in two parts and 26 items (1856) 


Maranatha. Oratorio for soprano, tenor, bass, vocal ensembles and choir in three parts, on a text from the Bible (1856-1857) 


Zion and Babylon. Oratorio for soprano, tenor, bass, vocal ensembles and choir, a single composition of 32 items (1866) 


De Sulamith. (18561866)


Choral Collections:


Zes gewijde feestliederen vir koor (1883): 


Hoe lievelijk zijn op de Bergen, for solo and choir 

Wij zullen ingaan in Zijne woningen 

Komt, en laat ons opgaan, with soprano solo 

Want alle volken 

Wij zullen juichen, recitative, duet and chorus 

Slaap rustig 

Pinksterfeestliederen (1880): 


Zend Heer Uw licht, for contralto and chorus 

En te dienzelvden daage, recitative with chorus 

En gijlieden, soprano recitative, aria and chorus 

Juicht en zingt vrolijk, chorus only 

Om Zion’s wil, soprano solo 

De Heer heft Zion verkooren, for female voices 

Hemelvaart (1880): 


God zal opstaan, bass recitative and soprano solo 

Zingt gode, for chorus 

Wie zal klimmen, for tenor 

Heeft uw hoofden, for chorus, solo and chorale 

Dat de rivieren met de handen, for soprano and choir 

Het Lam voor den Troon (1880): 


En ik zag en ziet, recitative and chorus 

En ik zag en ik horde, recitative and chorus 

En alle schepsel, recitative and chorus 

Kerstfeestliederen (1880) 


Hij komt!, for choir 

Wat heerlijkheid straal, for soprano 

Halluelujah, looft den Heer, for mixed choir 

Herders lofzang, for male voice choir 

O Herders, for soprano 

Laat ons met de herders gaan, for choir 

Aan den nacht des heils, for quartet and mixed choir 


Secular Works: Vocal


Op den dood van Prins Napoleon, cantata for soprano, tenor, three-part male voice choir and four-part mixed choir (1879) 


Rorke’s drift, cantata for soprano and mixed choir (1879) 


Isandula, cantata for soprano, tenor and four-part choir (1879) 


Noodkreet uit de Kalahari woestijn, for choir (1878) 


Kom nu, een feestzang aangeheven, for soprano (1890) 


Di Afrikaanse Volkslied 


Ons Klyntji I (1896) 


Twee Transvaalse Volksliederen: 


Di Fiirkleur 

Di Vierkleur van Transvaal (1881) 

Slaap rustig, dapper helde (1896) 


Feestlied (1885) 


Africa’s welcome to HRH, The Duke of Edinburgh (1867) 


Albert and Alexandra, for the wedding of the future King Edward VII to Princess Alexandra of Denmark (1864) 


Echoes from the Cape of Good Hope, a song collection (no date) 


Recollections of home, song. (no date) 


O call it not death, song in memory of Miss Anna Knoblauch (no date) 


Woman’s prayer, for voice, violin, two horns and piano (no date) 


There’s a little mischiefmaking elfin, for violin and three female voices (no date)




Fantasia offertoire, quartet for piano, organ and two violins (no date) 


Jubilee fantasia (1887) 


Grand fantasia, trio for piano, organ and violin (no date) 


Trio for piano, harmonium and violin (no date) 


De Transvaalsche jager, for piano (1875) 


Prince Alfred’s Grand March and Prince Alfred’s Quick March (1860) 


The steam printing press movement, for piano (1855) 


Recollections of home, piano arrangement of the song (no date)

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