The Malta Independent 22 September 2021, Wednesday

Lack of harmony: Valletta’s L’Accademia Cafe asks not to be treated as an underdog

Janet Fenech Wednesday, 15 September 2021, 11:47 Last update: about 6 days ago

Live music at cafe clashes with ‘Aghti Widen’ Malta Philharmonic Orchestra at Pjazza Teatru Rjal

Following a conflict last Saturday between orchestra music played at ‘Agħti Widen’ concert in Pjazza Teatru Rjal in Valletta and live music played at nearby L’ Accademia Cafe, cafe owner Clifford Gauci  is asking not to continue being treated as an underdog.

‘Agħti Widen’ composer Ruben Zahra had earlier taken to Facebook to voice his distress, stating that the music being played at L’Accademia Cafe on Republic Street had “disrupted” the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) concert, and that the cafe had allegedly breached their live music permit.

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The lack of harmony as two events being held close to each other at the same time is evident.

Due to the pandemic resulting in hard times for Gauci’s cafe, he told The Malta Independent that in trying to attract more customers to his café he had decided to extend the cafe’s opening hours and start hosting live music in the evenings.

Hence, he had recently applied and received a permit from the Valletta local council which stipulated the condition that the music being played at the cafe would not compromise any event at the open air theatre.

Both Zahra and Gauci confirmed that they had managed to work well together on previous occasions when there was a concert at the open air theatre.

Gauci told this newsroom that he could not afford to completely mark off live music nights at his cafe whenever an event is planned at the theatre since he has to adjust to several other continuing hindrances to his business.

He noted how besides a concert being held on a particular night, he has to adjust his live music sessions on all the rehearsal days leading up to it.

Moreover, during the many protests that take place outside parliament or in the nearby surroundings the police make him remove all his outside tables as a safety precaution.

On this particular night, however, the live music being played at the cafe was reaching the concert stage such that it was said to be hindering the performance.

“The experience inside Pjazza Teatru Rjal was two concerts going on at once!! This created a very difficult situation for the MPO musicians …and most absurd for the public who paid the ticket to attend the concert; so much so that some left!!” noted Zahra.

The local council condition [for the permit] was completely ignored,” he added.

MPO conductor for the concert Pavel Šnajdr said: “The live music at L’Accademia Cafe on the evening of Saturday September 11th during the performance of AGĦTI WIDEN was so loud that I was actually considering stopping the orchestra completely. The music coming from L’Accademia Cafe was disrupting the concert. MPO musicians had a very hard time performing the music and it was very difficult for me to conduct the orchestra.”

As Gauci told this newsroom, Valletta Cultural Agency’s (VCA) project manager and CEO of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) Sigmund Mifsud had come over to the cafe during the concert, telling him to stop his live music, which he stated was unjust.

George Curmi Puse, one of the two musicians playing that night told this newsroom how he offered to lower the music volume and turn their speakers towards the cafe.

He added that he personally sent a message to one of the organisers to confirm that music at the cafe could no longer be heard at the concert stage and it was confirmed that all was fine.

A short while later, Puse was messaged back and asked if he had turned up the volume as the cafe’s music was again reaching the concert stage, such that several members of the concert production stated that the concert was compromised.

Puse told this newsroom that, as a musician, he would never do something against another musician, especially after going out of his way to adjust his musical programme, despite the police present at the cafe not asking that of him.

Following the event, Zahra told this newsroom that he understands that everyone needs to focus on their business especially due to the pandemic’s negative impact but that the Valletta local council needed to take further measures to ensure no further disruptions at the open air theatre, Pjazza Teatru Rjal take place.

He suggested that the local council install a dB device at Pjazza Teatru Rjal to measure sound levels at any nearby establishments to ensure the levels remain monitored.

Riccardo Bianchi MPO Chorus Master, Malta National Choir Assistant conductor and artistic director at KorMalta who was an audience member at the concert defended that the cafe had lowered their music. He made the point that “a creative and shared ingenious solution” needed to be created since when outdoors, even at low frequencies, sound travels far and thus when attending an event at Pjazza Teatru Rjal, one should expect to experience any kind of sound pollution.

“I'm sure the volume of the band was lowered, mainly because at a certain point the high frequencies were perceived less. Despite this, outdoors the low frequencies have a wavelength that propagates very well even with reduced db. In fact I also enjoyed a lot the bass line that the band played for "Gloria" by Umberto Tozzi. As an audience member I was prepared to attend a concert that could have been polluted by external sounds, and I don't complain. But the problem exists and requires a creative and shared ingenious solution,” said Bianchi.

Valletta mayor Alfred Zammit told this newsroom that this was the first time he had received a complaint from concert organisers at Pjazza Teatru Rjal and that he will be organising a meeting to find the best solution.


Photo: Darren Agius

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