‘Con­certo di Natale’ at St Patrick’s Church

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - LIFESTYLE & CULTURE -

Imiss the Christ­mases of my child­hood and even those of my teenage years and twen­ties. Ev­ery­one was still at home, all seven of us for our par­ents were both alive and healthy and the world was our oys­ter with many joys and sor­rows yet to come.

Christ­mas and Easter were im­por­tant feasts in the Church cal­en­dar and we looked for­ward to them, but es­pe­cially Christ­mas for we were al­lowed to fly the fam­ily nest for a cou­ple of hours and go carol singing with our friends on the pro­viso that any money col­lected went to char­ity. I saw one group of carol singers in B’Kara this year but that is all. Per­haps it is no longer con­sid­ered ‘cool’ to go carol singing. But I wouldn’t know as I am not into ‘cool’. But I do miss those carol singers. ***

We looked for­ward to mid­night mass some­times at the Con­vent where Mother De Barra, who was sacristan, made sure that the chapel looked mag­nif­i­cent. Mother O’Duffy lead the singing – a mix­ture of traditional English and Latin carols. Mother Chris­tiansen, Dan­ish who also had a lovely voice, com­peted with her.

Apart from the traditional carols still sung to­day, I par­tic­u­larly liked Puer na­tus. There are sev­eral ver­sions of this on You Tube but not the one we used to sing and which was so beau­ti­ful. ***

Some­times mid­night Mass was at St Gre­gory’s – a vast, to me at least, cold and some­what soul less church and where the par­ish priest at the time, would not al­low women to wear colour­ful head scarfs as he felt that the Eif­fel tower or horses on a head­scarf were dis­tract­ing and might lead us to eter­nal damna­tion. It had to be black veils. One of my sis­ters used to take but­tons with her and put them in the sacristan’s ‘sack’ to get her own back for not be­ing able to dis­play her lat­est scarf. ***

We liked Mid­night Mass at St Patrick’s, too: a more in­ti­mate church and where we could par­tic­i­pate in the singing in English. My young one now tells me that she hated the dresses with smock­ing I made her wear as many of her school­friends were al­ready wear­ing jeans, so she used to try hid­ing be­hind one of the col­umns. I still have some of those de­light­ful dresses but I can guar­an­tee that nei­ther of my grand­daugh­ters will be wear­ing them. It’s leg­gings and ca­sual wear these days.

So St Patrick’s church was very much part of our lives for apart from Mid­night Mass that is where we went to Sun­day Mass and Holy Com­mu­nion, Con­fes­sion too, and par­tic­i­pated in the Cor­pus Christi and Our Lady of Chris­tians pro­ces­sions. ***

Once again The Ital­ian Em­bassy and the held their Christ­mas con­cert at this very church

Isti­tuto Ital­iano di Cul­tura which was beau­ti­fully dec­o­rated with poin­set­tias and green gar­lands, putting us all in a Christ­mas mood.

As last year the mu­si­cians were the Orches­tra Da Cam­era Ital­iana a Malta. This en­sem­ble was cre­ated for the first Con­certo di Natale back in 2015. The idea be­hind OCIM is to re­in­force the cul­tural ties be­tween Italy and Malta through the uni­ver­sal lan­guage of mu­sic. Four of the eight mu­si­cians are Ital­ian and all form part of the Malta Phil­har­monic Orches­tra.

They are young, at ease with their in­stru­ments and have a sense of fun.

They played Vi­valdi, Han­del, Re­spighi, Grieg and at the end de­lighted us with a Pot­purrie di Natale. ***

An­to­nio Vi­valdi was re­spon­si­ble for what many peo­ple reckon is the most recorded piece of classical mu­sic of all time: The Four Sea­sons. Ev­ery year new ver­sions are re­leased. It’s all the more re­mark­able that this work has achieved the suc­cess it has when you con­sider that Vi­valdi’s mu­sic was hardly played at all from his death in 1741 un­til the mid­dle of the 20th cen­tury. This is down to a rather strange de­ci­sion by a noble­man, Count Gi­a­como Du­razzo. He pulled to­gether all Vi­valdi’s orig­i­nal works and sim­ply locked them up. In his last will and tes­ta­ment, Du­razzo or­dered his fam­ily to make sure that none of this mu­sic by Vi­valdi should ever be per­formed or pub­lished. Af­ter many years these lu­di­crous in­struc­tions were over­turned and Vi­valdi’s mu­sic was once more heard. The pub­lic lapped up his catchy melodies, and a star was reborn, some 200 years af­ter his death.

Vi­valdi cer­tainly rat­tled out the con­cer­tos, with more than 500 of them to his name. Un­kind crit­ics sug­gest that he ac­tu­ally wrote the same tune in a slightly dif­fer­ent way 500 times. Who knows? ***

An­to­nio was a bit of a char­ac­ter. He chose to fol­low in his fa­ther’s foot­steps and learned to play the vi­o­lin. He played the in­stru­ment while un­der­tak­ing his re­li­gious train­ing, be­com­ing known as The Red Priest be­cause of his bright red hair.

He was ex­cused from hav­ing to say mass be­cause he claimed to suf­fer from asthma. This ill­ness cer­tainly did not stop him from con­duct­ing or from trav­el­ling all over Europe. It also didn’t pre­vent him from en­joy­ing a close re­la­tion­ship with at least one of his trav­el­ling com­pan­ions, a young so­prano called Anna Girò and quite pos­si­bly with her sis­ter Paolina as well. He was cen­sured for un­priestly con­duct in 1737, de­spite deny­ing that his re­la­tion­ship with the two women was in any way im­proper. Any il­licit af­fairs cer­tainly never got in the way of Vi­valdi’s com­pos­ing. As well as the 500 con­cer­tos, he also wrote more than 50 operas, well over 80 sonatas and more than 120 other sa­cred and sec­u­lar vo­cal pieces. That evening the cham­ber orches­tra played one of his con­cer­tos Rv 121. ***

Ed­vard Grieg’s most fa­mous con­cert work is his beau­ti­ful Pi­ano Con­certo with its dra­matic open­ing with notes pour­ing from the pi­ano.

That evening OCIM played the Hol­berg Suite com­posed to mark the 200th an­niver­sary of the play­wright Lud­vig Hol­berg, who like Grieg was born in Ber­gen. Per­haps not as well known as his mighty Pi­ano Con­certo or the lyri­cal Peer Gynt Suites it drives home Grieg’s sta­tus as one of Europe’s most im­por­tant Ro­man­tic com­posers. ***

There were two of Han­del’s com­po­si­tions: Alla Horn­pipe and La Re­jouis­sance. Al­though Ger­man by birth Han­del came to be con­sid­ered as one of Bri­tain’s great com­posers. He was a big man and loved his food. In one restau­rant he booked a ta­ble for four and or­dered four meals. When the waiter ar­rived with the food he en­quired af­ter his other guests. Han­del asked him to put the food down, and gob­bled all four feasts. I won­der what he died of. ***

Ot­torino Re­spighi was the sec­ond Ital­ian com­poser on the pro­gramme that evening. The young mu­si­cians played a se­lec­tion from his An­tiche Danze, so pleas­ant to lis­ten to and played with a sense of joy and vi­tal­ity.

And to think that these mu­si­cians had no con­duc­tor but man­aged so beau­ti­fully.

As far as I am con­cerned mu­sic, like books, are there to be en­joyed not eval­u­ated. At the end of the evening, as we were full of Christ­mas spirit es­pe­cially af­ter the Pot­pour­rie di Natale, we walked down the stairs to the re­cep­tion below where, ap­pro­pri­ately Pan­netone, too, was served.

My ob­ser­va­tion: an evening well spent. Both the ambience and the mu­sic were great. It was well worth drag­ging my­self away from my warm liv­ing room. *** Sis­ter Agnes and her refugees I’d like to ap­peal to our read­ers to send some money to Sis­ter Agnes Az­zopardi for the many refugees she is look­ing af­ter at The Good Shep­herd Con­vent in Balzan. She is now in her late 80s but per­sists in her en­deav­ours to make their life as pleas­ant as pos­si­ble. Even a small sum of money will help with her many ex­penses. Please ad­dress your do­na­tion to: Sis­ter Agnes Az­zopardi, Good Shep­herd Con­ven, Id­me­jda Street, Balzan.

Thank you so much.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.