This year’s In­ter­na­tional Choir Fes­ti­val will be the big­gest Malta has ever seen

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - NEWS -

Re­becca Iversen Since its in­cep­tion in 1988, the an­nual Malta In­ter­na­tional Choir Fes­ti­val has gone from strength to strength and has estab­lished it­self firmly amongst the world’s most pop­u­lar and most unique choir fes­ti­vals. This year’s fes­ti­val will be the big­gest the coun­try has held, with no fewer than 33 choirs tak­ing part.

In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view, com­poser, con­duc­tor and Chair­man of the MICF Or­gan­is­ing Com­mit­tee Christo­pher Muscat and com­poser, con­duc­tor and Artis­tic Direc­tor of the MICF Or­gan­is­ing Com­mit­tee Rev. John Galea, talked to The Malta In­de­pen­dent on Sun­day about the two-day cel­e­bra­tion of mu­sic.

This year’s fes­ti­val will be host to 33 choirs, in­clud­ing The Gentle­men Singers and the Michael Laus Choir, which trans­lates into over 1,100 par­tic­i­pants from 19 dif­fer­ent coun­tries (Bel­gium, Bul­garia, China, Czech Repub­lic, Es­to­nia, Ger­many, Hun­gary, In­done­sia, Is­rael, Italy, Latvia, Lithua­nia, Malta, Poland, Ro­ma­nia, Rus­sia, Slove­nia, Spain and United King­dom).

What is the age range in such a choir fes­ti­val?

“The fes­ti­val brings to­gether young and old (prob­a­bly as young as 10 and as old as 94), cho­ris­ters from var­i­ous back­grounds, cul­tures and na­tion­al­i­ties ... all shar­ing their com­mon love for cho­ral singing.”

Where will the fes­ti­val be held?

Over the years, the Malta In­ter­na­tional Choir Fes­ti­val has be­come one of the most pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions for choirs world­wide, not least be­cause of the unique lo­ca­tions in which the var­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties of the fes­ti­val take place. These pres­ti­gious venues, which in­clude St John’s CoCathe­dral, the Mediter­ranean Con­fer­ence Cen­tre and nu­mer­ous his­tor­i­cal churches around the is­land, of­fer an emo­tion­al­ly­charged at­mos­phere and a dif­fer­ent am­bi­ence to that to which the choirs are tra­di­tion­ally ac­cus­tomed.”

What is the pro­gramme?

In ac­tual fact, the Malta In­ter­na­tional Choir Fes­ti­val is a year-long ac­tiv­ity. Amongst the many ac­tiv­i­ties held dur­ing 2017 is the MICF In­ter­na­tional Com­po­si­tion Com­pe­ti­tion, which this year saw the par­tic­i­pa­tion of 113 sub­mis­sions from 22 dif­fer­ent coun­tries not only all around Europe but also as far afield as Korea, In­done­sia, Aus­tralia and New Zealand. The win­ning com­po­si­tion, Glo­ria by Ar­gen­tinian com­poser Mario Luis Rossi, will be per­formed for the first time at the fes­ti­val.

In April 2017 an in­ter­na­tional sym­po­sium on cho­ral tech­nique en­ti­tled Cho­ru­sol­ogy was held for the first time in Malta un­der the aus­pices of the Malta In­ter­na­tional Choir Fes­ti­val.

CHRISTO­PHER MUSCAT Com­poser, Con­duc­tor and Chair­man of the MICF Or­gan­is­ing Com­mit­tee

First prize win­ner of the Joyce Dixey (2000, UK), the Jaume Do­tras Serra­bella (2006, Spain) and the APS Bank (2012, Malta) com­po­si­tion com­pe­ti­tions, Christo­pher Muscat stud­ied com­po­si­tion and con­duct­ing at the Uni­ver­si­ties of Malta and Sur­rey, where he earned his Mas­ter of Mu­sic de­gree with distinction. His com­po­si­tions have been per­formed in many im­por­tant Euro­pean cen­tres in­clud­ing the pres­ti­gious Ber­liner Phil­har­monie.

As a con­duc­tor, Muscat reg­u­larly con­ducts en­sem­bles and or­ches­tras in Malta and abroad and is equally at home with both stan­dard and con­tem­po­rary reper­toires. He has been a vis­it­ing lec­turer in mu­sic at the Univer­sity of Malta since 2003 and has been in­vited to sit as a ju­ror on var­i­ous na­tional and in­ter­na­tional mu­sic com­pe­ti­tions. He is also very much in­volved in the field of sa­cred mu­sic and is the Mu­sic Direc­tor of the Ju­bi­late Deo Choir.

For the first time ever, this year’s fes­ti­val will con­sist of two con­certs, both in the Repub­lic Hall of the Mediter­ranean Con­fer­ence Cen­tre. The first, on Fri­day, 3 Novem­ber, is an evening of eth­nic cho­ral singing dur­ing which the au­di­ence will be able to en­joy a colour­ful, cul­tural slideshow from around the world. Each of the eleven par­tic­i­pat­ing choirs will be per­form­ing mu­sic from their own coun­try, mostly in folk cos­tume and some also ac­com­pa­nied by tra­di­tional dance move­ments.

On the fol­low­ing day, Sat­ur­day, 4 Novem­ber, the sec­ond con­cert will fea­ture the main guests of the fes­ti­val: the Gentle­men Singers (Czech Repub­lic) and the Ar­sis

REV. JOHN GALEA Com­poser, Con­duc­tor and Artis­tic Direc­tor of the MICF Or­gan­is­ing Com­mit­tee

Rev. John Galea re­ceived his mu­si­cal ed­u­ca­tion at the Sem­i­nary and later from pri­vate tu­tors. He at­tended mas­ter classes in or­ches­tral prac­tice and con­duct­ing in Vi­enna and at the Academia Chi­giana in Siena. Be­tween 1965 and 2000 he di­rected the St Julian’s Choir. In 1990 he was nom­i­nated Mu­si­cal Direc­tor of the Cap­pella Di­a­cono, whose main ac­tiv­ity is the per­for­mance of litur­gi­cal mu­sic com­posed by Carlo Di­a­cono.

Be­tween 1993 and 2000 he served as Mae­stro di Cap­pella of the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Cathe­dral and estab­lished the Cap­pella Cathe­dralis choir to per­form dur­ing the prin­ci­pal litur­gi­cal feasts at Md­ina Cathe­dral and St John’s coCathe­dral. In re­cent years he was en­trusted with the APS Bank project for the re­al­i­sa­tion, edit­ing and per­for­mance of re­li­gious mu­sic by Mal­tese com­posers, which was also pub­lished on CD. Hand­bell En­sem­ble (Es­to­nia). The for­mer is a choir com­posed en­tirely of male singers who will be pre­sent­ing an eclec­tic pro­gramme of clas­si­cal, con­tem­po­rary and jazz se­lec­tions. The Ar­sis Hand­bell En­sem­ble de­vel­oped from the cham­ber choir Ar­sis in 1993. To­day it con­sists of eight pro­fes­sional play­ers who make use of one of the most per­fect sets of in the world con­sist­ing of seven plus four oc­tave sets of hand­bells and a seven-oc­tave set of hand­chimes. The en­sem­ble has per­formed all over the world and has re­leased seven CDs. Their ap­pear­ance at the fes­ti­val is an­other first, since it is be­lieved that no other hand­bell en­sem­ble has pre­vi­ously per­formed in Malta.”

Will this year’s fes­ti­val in­volve a com­pe­ti­tion and judges?

This year’s non-com­pet­i­tive el­e­ment is also un­prece­dented in its di­men­sions. It will run not only through­out the four days of the fes­ti­val but also, due to pop­u­lar de­mand, there will be other con­certs around the is­land in the days both before and af­ter the fes­ti­val it­self.

From 1 to 4 Novem­ber a tra­di­tional festa planċier (dec­o­rated stage) at City Gate, Val­letta, will be the main venue for a num­ber of Singing in the City friend­ship con­certs. On 5 Novem­ber, var­i­ous choirs will also be per­form­ing the Liturgy of the Sun­day Mass in no fewer than 17 churches around the is­land.”

What was your vi­sion for this year’s fes­ti­val?

The teach­ing as­pect is cen­tral to the fes­ti­val’s ethos. Build­ing on the suc­cess of the Cho­ru­sol­ogy con­fer­ence held last April, three of the ad­ju­di­ca­tors (Jenevora Wil­liams, Branko Stark and Jan Vicar) will be hold­ing in­di­vid­ual work­shops on vo­cal and cho­ral tech­nique on the af­ter­noon of Sat­ur­day, 4 Novem­ber.

What fea­tures will be re­turn­ing or will there be some­thing new or spe­cial in­tro­duced?

“Amongst the most an­tic­i­pated events of the fes­ti­val is the unique open­ing cer­e­mony be­ing held on the evening of Thurs­day, 2 Novem­ber at St John’s co-Cathe­dral. All the choirs will first make their way down Repub­lic Street, singing, before unit­ing in the awe-in­spir­ing co-Cathe­dral in a cel­e­bra­tion of songs and prayers for World Peace. Lead­ers of var­i­ous re­li­gious de­nom­i­na­tions in Malta will be of­fer­ing their prayers to the mu­si­cal ac­com­pa­ni­ment of choirs from dif­fer­ent cul­tural and spir­i­tual back­grounds. Over the years, the or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee has also learnt that choirs cher­ish every op­por­tu­nity to get to­gether, share ex­pe­ri­ences and make new friends, which is why a lot of at­ten­tion and prepa­ra­tion goes into the ‘non-mu­si­cal’ as­pects of the fes­ti­val, such as the open­ing and clos­ing re­cep­tions, the mid-day lunches, the prize-giv­ing cer­e­mony on Sun­day evening and the Grand Har­bour By Night tour that will fol­low it.”

“It all looks ex­tremely promis­ing for us to con­tinue or­gan­is­ing a fes­ti­val that attracts so much in­ter­est and at­ten­tion from in­ter­na­tional choirs and me­dia alike, yet it is al­ways a chal­lenge to en­sure the par­tic­i­pa­tion of lo­cal choirs. Nev­er­the­less, the ever-in­creas­ing stan­dards achieved by the Malta In­ter­na­tional Choir Fes­ti­val over the years have put Malta very promi­nently on the in­ter­na­tional map of cho­ral ac­tiv­i­ties. It gives the or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee a great deal of sat­is­fac­tion to note that the statis­tics for this year’s fes­ti­val are the best that Malta has ever seen over the past 22 years since its in­cep­tion in 1988.”

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