Paul Portelli

Residential Composer

paul-portelli-01Paul Portelli hails from Żurrieq, Malta. He commenced his piano lessons at a very young age with his late uncle Rev. Michael D'amato until he managed to get a good result, both in theory and practice, up to grade 8 of the Royal School of Music. At the age of 9, he was already playing the church organ during funeral services. After a short break during the adolescent period, he decided to begin studying again at the age of twenty, now with more conviction. At that time, he studied harmony and counter point with Fr. Albert Borg O.S.A. Later on, he studied orchestration with Mro. Ronnie Debattista until he got 3 diplomas, A.L.C.M. in piano practice, A. Mus. L.C.M., and L. Mus. L.C.M in theory. During this particular time, his love for music had become more widespread and he became more aware of the versatility of music. Consequently, he started studying Jazz improvisation with Mro. Paul Abela at the Johann Strauss School of Music.

In 2002, he was asked to direct the Żurrieq parish choir – ‘Cantate Domino A.D. 1956', after the death of his uncle, who was its founder and director. Besides inheriting all his compositions, he also inherited his love for sacred music. This induced Mr. Portelli to take a 3 year course at the University of Malta which led him to a diploma in this field, with particular emphasis to Gregorian chant and polyphony. When he finished University, he started studying contemporary orchestration and composition with Profs. Charles Camilleri. This made him more open minded and now he can understand better the complexity of works written by contemporary composers such as Oliver Messaien, Luciano Berio, György Ligeti, Pierre Boulez, Giacinto Scelsi, Charles Camilleri, Joseph Vella and so on.

In November 2003, Mr. Portelli was invited by the leader of the ‘Schola Cantorum Jubilate', to accompany the choir during the festival, ‘Rencontres Musicales de Mediterranee', which was held in Corsica. This was the beginning of a long lasting friendship and collaboration after which, this choir gave exposure to Portelli's works in most of its performances. In September 2007, he accompanied the choir in a music-cultural tour in Rome and Assisi. Here Schola Cantorum Jubilate animated the liturgy of mass at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome and at St. Francis' Basilica in Assisi and there again, some of his works where performed by the choir.

Altough he is versatile, his works are mainly liturgical both, in the traditional and contemporary idiom. What is interesting in Portelli is, that he is always in search of fresh sounds in his music. He is very much influenced by minimalist composers such as Arvo Pärt, Henryk Gorecki, Wojciech Kilar, John Tavener etc. and also by composers from Rome, such as Mons. Domenico Bartolucci, Mons. Marco Frisina, Mons. Giuseppe Liberto and others.

Last but not least, Mro. Paul Portelli is married to Catherine and has two daughters, Martina and Michela.

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