The Malta Independent 20 May 2024, Monday
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The Gaulitanus Choir returns from a Venezia-Padova concert tour

Sunday, 13 August 2023, 08:15 Last update: about 10 months ago

Gozo's Gaulitanus Choir has recently returned from its 21st venture abroad, where, between the 27 and 31 July, it was concert-touring Venezia and Padova, Italy. Whereas this was the choir's eighth trip in Italy, this was its first in the Veneto region.

This concert tour, part of the Gaulitanus' envisaged broader programme of international events, followed an invitation from the Associazione Vivaldi Festival and its founder and artistic director, Enrico Castiglione, ensuing from the choir's international networking as a result its Gaulitana: A Festival of Music. Indeed, the choir was invited to participate in the third edition of the prestigious Vivaldi Festival, which also featured an impressive line-up of international artists.

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Very prestigiously, the Gaulitanus Choir actually brought the Vivaldi Festival to an end with a concert on 28 July - the 282nd death anniversary of the great Baroque Venetian composer Antonio Vivaldi. Held at the San Salvador Church, a historic church with fine acoustics in the very heart of Venice, the concert also featured the Vivaldi Festival Orchestra (leader: Marco Nicolussi), up-and-coming Gozitan violinist (Gaulitanus choir member) Pierre Louis Attard and the choir's soprano soloist, Anna Bonello. All were under the baton of the Gaulitanus' musical director Colin Attard.

The well-chosen programme - alternating instrumental with vocal numbers - was, fittingly, principally devoted to works by Antonio Vivaldi, il prete rosso and complimented by works by other composers from the late Renaissance or the early Classical eras. The concert opened with two Vivaldi works: the Sonata a 4 in Eb (Al Santo Sepolcro) followed by the Concerto in D (Per la Lingua di San Antonio) for solo violin and orchestra. This execution was highly acclaimed, with solo violinist Pierre Louis Attard recalled on stage various times. The Gaulitanus Choir then appeared for its first contribution, performing a cappella works by Praetorius, Arcadelt and Mozart. The orchestra continued with instrumental works by Handel and Pachelbel, eventually joining the choir in works by Bach, Pergolesi, Mozart and Cherubini as well as the choir's soprano soloist Anna Bonello in a very expressive rendering of Alessandro Stradella's Pietà Signore. The concert was then fittingly brought to its official ending with two other works by Vivaldi, the Laudate Dominum Omnes Gentes and the Gloria in Excelsis.

The response of the audience, which packed the church, was simply gorgeous, with lengthy applauses and a standing ovation necessitating two climactic encores: Pierre Louis Attard's own O Salutaris Hostia (in classical style) also featuring solo soprano Bonello - and which gave a Maltese touch to the programme - followed by a reprise of Vivaldi's Gloria in excelsis.

The choir complemented the concert tour with the animation of two masses in two iconic and monumental churches in the Veneto region. On Saturday, 29 July the choir animated the main Saturday evening mass, which was also streamed live, at the Basilica di Sant'Antonio in Padua, popularly known just as Il Santo, the devotional pilgrimage basilica where the remains of the great saint lay. On Sunday 30th the choir rounded up its commitments at the Basilica Cattedrale di San Marco in Venice, the seat of the Patriarch and one of the main symbols of the Veneto region worldwide, by singing the evening mass. At the end of both masses, the visiting Gozitan choir was afforded warm rounds of applause by the big congregations present on both occasions.

As always in its performances abroad and reflecting the Gaulitanus Choir's ambassadorial role as the main choral promoter of Maltese culture and music abroad, the choir made it a point to include Maltese music along with other sacred excerpts from the standard international repertoire in the two masses. Indeed, it sang (in the Maltese language) two of the most wonderful hymns penned by the Giuseppe Caruana-Dun Karm Psaila tandem (as arranged for unaccompanied choir by Colin Attard), as well as an a cappella setting of the Pierre Louis Attard work performed during the festival's concert.

The concert tour, particularly the concert, received wide media coverage, with a slot about the Vivaldi Festival's final concert also appearing on RAI's TGR Veneto the day after the event. Moreover, it was no mean feat that the Venezia-Padova concert tour saw the choir performing yet again at another three highly prestigious venues/events - so shortly after the choir's reputable Vienna concert tour last December.

Performing apart, all the participants also made the most of this concert tour to engage in culturally very enriching experiences: whether exploring the inimitable Venetian charms and the Serenissima's surrounding isles, the artistic wonders of Padova or Palladio's sumptuous Vicenza.


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