Sunday, 19 January 2014

A concert with a different touch

by Albert Storace


Albert Storace’s soul is soothed by Schola Cantorum Jubilate’s performance.

The Sunday Times 190114A concert with a different touch was that presented by the Gozitan Schola Cantorum Jubilate of Xagħra at San Lawrenz parish church.

A number of restoration projects have recently been completed at the parish church, which was packed for the concert.

Two of the projects concerned the restoration of four paintings by the renowned Giuseppe Calì and the prestigious organ.

The latter was heard in its full glory when Joseph Camilleri performed Costante Bossi’s Pastorale in two movements: Nenia and I Pastori Davanti alla Capanna. He also accompanied soprano Maroushka Attard in a perennial favourite, Adam’s O Holy Night, and followed it with Atkinson’s Ave Maria, completely different in style but interpreted in a most accomplished way.

The great difference lies in that a very prominent role was given to the five-man brass ensemble, Brass Tubes, directed by their founder Mark Gauci.

The ensemble normally consists of two trumpets, three euphoniums, tuba and percussion. On this evening, they performed without the latter. The zestful and dynamic Gauci also co-arranged some of the carols, while the arrangement for Silent Night was completely his own. I liked the touch of the contemporary idiom about it, while never losing sight of the main theme.

 Bass Albert Buttigieg was in his usual top form as sole singer, and the combination was a winning one.

Brass Tubes opened the concert with Phillips’s Ding Dong! Merrily on High and the Steadman-Allen arrangement of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. The balance and warm smoothness of texture established here lasted throughout the evening.

So did the quality of the singing by the choir of young, highly committed enthusiasts, who responded equally well to the direction both of their founding-director Attard and that of Gauci.

Since Attard started reading for a Master’s degree at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Gauci has taken over the direction of the choir. It seems that the transition is a smooth one and this augurs very well for this choir, which dominated the second half of the programme.

The choir sang unaccompanied, as well as to organ or brass accompaniment. Leontovich’s Carol of the Bells came first, followed by Dion Buhagiar’s arrangement of Indrì Schembri’s tender Ninni la Tibkix Iżjed. Wilcocks’s arrangement of Away in a Manger presented a fine, treble conclusion by Bernadine Attard and Rutter’s Christmas Lullaby was beautifully performed to organ accompaniment.

Gauci arranged for the choir and brass parts in Vaughan Williams’s of O Little Town of Bethlehem, Wilcocks’s God Rest you Merry Gentlemen and Mason’s Joy to the World.

Earlier, Stanley Portelli had recited Milton’s On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity; there was also a message of hope and glad tidings from San Lawrenz parish priest Fr Ignazio Borg. The evening ended with everybody joining in for O Come all ye Faithful.


This article was published on The Sunday Times of Malta on the 19th January 2014

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