Bewerunge, Heinrich (1862–1923), musicologist, educator, and composer, was born 7 December 1862 in Letmathe, Westphalia, Germany, the second of nine children of Heinrich Hermann Bewerunge (1836–1901), a building contractor from Lüchtringen-an-der-Weser, and his wife, Maria Theresia (‘Therese’) (née Lipps, 1835–1908), from Letmathe. The family moved successively to Solingen, Ratingen, and Düsseldorf (1871), where Bewerunge senior established himself as an expert in building railway tunnels and (later) urban housing. Heinrich was educated at a classical gymnasium at Düsseldorf, then studied theology and music at Würzburg University (1883–5), simultaneously studying for the priesthood at Eichstätt, where he was ordained 19 July 1885. He also attended the Königliche Musikschule at Würzburg and took courses in church music at Regensburg. On his return to the Rhineland he was appointed secretary to the vicar general in the diocese of Cologne and Kantor at Cologne cathedral.
In 1888 Bewerunge accepted an invitation to became the first professor of chant and organ at St Patrick's College, Maynooth, on the recommendation of Franz Xaver Haberl of Regensburg. He held the post until 1923 (with an interruption in 1916–20), and was also the first professor of music at UCD (1914–16). He exerted an enormous influence at Maynooth, where he founded and led the college choir and trained all seminarians in the elements of chant. For the study and performance of more complex works he founded the Schola Cantorum, specialising in sixteenth-century polyphony and music of the Cecilian composers (contemporaries who wrote in the sixteenth-century style idealised by the international Society of St Cecilia). Bewerunge became one of the leading propagators of this so-called ‘Palestrina style’ in Ireland, writing more than a dozen compositions of his own, making numerous editions, and introducing the music of German Cecilians to Ireland. He also had expert knowledge of organ-building, from which Maynooth profited.
Bewerunge was an active scholar and contributed numerous articles to Irish and international journals, including the Irish Ecclesiastical Record, the New Ireland Review, and Musica Sacra. He was editor of Lyra Ecclesiastica (1891–3) and the Irish Musical Monthly (1902–3). In these writings he expressed deeply conservative views on church music, and exposed his growing involvement with Irish music in a number of concert reviews. His profound criticism of the Vatican edition of plain chant by Dom Joseph Pothier (1905), first published in three parts in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record and reprinted as pamphlets in English, French, and German, demonstrate both his scholarship and his strong belief that ‘the original’ should be the sole source for contemporary musical editions, which was not at the time the standard approach to musicological research.
As a member of the Feis Ceoil committee and the Incorporated Society of Musicians, Bewerunge engaged in Irish musical life, contributing to various journals on aspects of music in Ireland. He was instrumental in bringing German and central European organists to Ireland, for whom there was great demand at catholic churches throughout the country; many of them settled permanently in Ireland. At the same time he strongly advocated the training of Irish-born musicians to fill church music posts, and it was in his efforts on behalf of catholic church music that he exerted his greatest and most lasting influence.
After travelling to Germany in 1916 Bewerunge, as a German citizen, was refused permission to reenter Ireland and, despite attempts by the Maynooth and church authorities, had to remain until 1920 in Germany – years that he spent mainly at Cologne. His health declined during this time, and on his return to Ireland he was considerably weaker than before. He died 2 December 1923 at Maynooth.