The Malta Independent 19 January 2020, Sunday

75 years since the establishment of the St Mary Orchestra in Mqabba

Tuesday, 14 January 2020, 13:53 Last update: about 5 days ago

2020 is a historic year for the Society of St Mary and King George V Band of Mqabba where it will celebrate its 75th anniversary since the formation of the St Mary Orchestra, today known as the King George V Band. This Society has been on the forefront of cultural advancements on the Maltese islands, with innovations in the fireworks industry in the early 1900s, thereafter, post the end of the Second World War, it developed the musical culture in Mqabba.

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The art of music within the village and the Society of St Mary had its origins way before the official formation. It was Guzeppi Galea, a local musician, who in 1939 took the initiative and started teaching music at the King George V Club. The club was established back in 1910 with the principle aim being the celebrations of the St Mary feast. Less than a year after starting this project, WWII hit our islands and music teaching was forced to stop due to heavy bombardments. It wasn't until early 1944 when Galea commenced teaching music once again. Soon after Galea, together with Profs Pawlu Carabott, Charles Schembri, Antonio Mamo, Espedito Deguara and Francesco Azzopardi, established the St Mary Orchestra in June 1944 as publicised in the Maltese newspaper Il-Berqa dated 16 February 1945, showing the official photo of the orchestra. The St Mary Orchestra made its debut in public on Sunday, 12 August 1945 on the second day of the Triduum of the feast of St Mary of Mqabba. During this debut, set in the parish square, various music themes, produced by Ketèlbey and Von Suppé were displayed.  This was the first ever concert by a local music formation in the village. 

The transformation from orchestra to a band took place shortly after, in October 1946, bearing the name of the club, that of King George V Band led by Mro Joseph M. Barbara. This band kept on progressing, as invites from other village feasts started to pour in, with the band establishing performances also in events held on a national level. During the 1990s international relations were established with bands from the United Kingdom, Italy, Israel and Greece, among others. A notable performance was delivered during 1998, where the association with the Corpo Bandistico Santa Vittoria di Matenano bore fruit, with this twinning awarded the highly regarded honour Les Etoiles d'or du Jumelage by the European Commission. During 2007, the band also played live performances in Rome and the Vatican City enhancing its relationship with other Italian bands.

Nowadays the school of music, within the King George V Band, has more than 33 students, developing their studies in music and instrumental techniques utilizing modern technologies made available to them through investments by the band club. Through the progress and milestones achieved throughout the years, the band has evolved, thereby keeping the aim of promoting music in the local community and the organisation of the feast of St Mary at heart.

'Il-Berqa' photo: The newspaper 'Il-Berqa' of 16 February 1945, depicting the inception of the St Mary Orchestra back in 1944


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