The Malta Independent 16 January 2019, Wednesday

A royal command performance

Tuesday, 16 October 2018, 08:56 Last update: about 4 months ago

Dr Lydia Buttigieg

On Friday, 28 September, the St Paul Chamber Ensemble, in collaboration with the Sovereign Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, presented a recital of Sacred Music by Royal Command. The concert was in aid of Ghana Mission Foundation and under the distinguished patronage of Their Imperial and Royal Highnesses Prince Sandor Habsburg Lothringen, Archduke of Austria and Prince of Tuscany, and his consort Princess Herta Margarete.

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Under the baton of H.E. Chev. Mro Mark Agius, the 45-piece orchestra, which consists of both seasoned and up-coming musicians, presented a varied vocal and instrumental recital. Now established as one of Malta's foremost musical ensembles and with a number of high-calibre concerts to their credit, the orchestra accompanied well-established local singers who participated in this delightful concert.

Emerging as one of the leading orchestral conductors in Malta, Mro Agius meticulously directed the orchestra with ease and confidence, retaining various techniques that adequately portrayed different stylistic genres which were presented during the evening and maintaining a distinctive control over the orchestra. The main soloists of the evening were Anita Vella Bondin and Karen Gatt Darmenia (sopranos), Connie Francis Zerafa (mezzo soprano), May Caruana (contralto), Joseph Aquilina and Aldo Zammit (tenors), Louis Andrew Cassar (baritone) and James Vella Bondin (bass).

The concert commenced with an orchestral and vocal rendition of Ut Unum Sint which was very well executed by baritone Cassar. The work was written by the principal conductor himself as the International Anthem for the Sovereign Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem. It was followed by Ave Verum Corpus by Mozart, sung by all the singers. A melodious and sentimental piece Ave Maria by Lorenc was sung by soprano Darmenia, followed by Ave Verum by Jenkins, a duet which was superbly executed by Bondin and Zerafa.

The programme continued to heighten with Mons Marco Frisina's Magnificat followed by I'll Walk with God, which were performed flawlessly by Caruana and Aquilina respectively. The well-known sacred pieces Ave Maria by Bach/Gounod and Panis Angelicus by Franck were well executed by Bondin and Zammit, accompanied by the rest of the singers. Mro Agius' Pie Jesu, from his recently premièred Messa Da Requiem, was sung by Darmenia and Caruana, accompanied by the rest of the singers.

The last part of the programme featured an instrumental interlude Air on a G String by Bach and Antifona lil Beatu Gerardu composed by the conductor himself and sung by Darmenia. The last three works were Pie Jesu by Faure and the Ave Maria based on the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana, a 19th century one-act opera by Mascagni, were brilliantly sung by Bondin and Zerafa. The grand finale of the concert was The Holy City by Maybrick and Weatherly, sung by Vella Bondin, accompanied by the rest of the singers, which brought the appreciative audience to its feet in a well-deserved standing ovation.

At the end of the performance, which was attended by delegations of Knights and Dames of the Sovereign Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem from Malta, the UK, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Hungary, Ukraine and Canada, Mario Cappello, co-founder and director of the HopeXchange Medical Centre in Kumasi, Ghana, was presented with the distinguished Medal of Honour of the Order by the Grandmaster, HIRH Prince Sandor Habsburg Lothringen for his outstanding humanitarian work.

In the meantime, the orchestra is in preparation for its upcoming concert tour to Poland between 3 and 10 November, where it will once again collaborate with the Rotondo Choir of Poznan to present two recitals of Mro Agius's recent work, the Messa da Requiem, which was premiered at St John's Co-Cathedral last March, as well as a recital of Sacred Music at the Arts and Culture Centre of Kalisz and a music appreciation workshop for students with special needs.

This tour is taking place upon the initiative of the Malta Embassy to Poland, in collaboration with the Special Needs School in Slupia, the Apertus Association and the parish of St Pio di Pietrelcina, Poznan as part of the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of Polish Independence and the 100th Anniversary of the Greater Poland Uprising. It is the culmination of the joint project, Concert of a Patriotic Song being organised by the Apertus Association, supported by the Malta Tourism Authority and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion.


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