The Malta Independent 13 July 2024, Saturday
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Young artists at The Imperial

Marie Benoît Sunday, 7 January 2024, 08:25 Last update: about 7 months ago

I was invited to a concert in December, near my home, at The Imperial in Sliema. No driving, no taxis. Perfect.  My sister and myself arrived well on time but the concert hall was already full with the parents and relatives of the performers and residents of the popular Imperial.

I had no idea that this was a Malta Cultural Institute event. In my teens and twenties I was a regular at MCI concerts which then took place at the Phoenicia ballroom.

The evening at The Imperial was presented by the director of the Malta Cultural Institute, Dr Chev Maestro Mark Agius, himself a conductor. He explained to me later that now it is The Imperial which  is the headquarters of the MCI.


The variety of the evening's programme and the talent of the young people kept everyone interested throughout. There was ballet and an occasion for the Mary Jane Bellia Ballet School students to show off their talents. From tutus to colourful costumes the students happily danced away and entertained us. Ms Bellia did not take her eyes off them, slipping in and out of the temporary 'greenroom'to make sure their costumes were worn properly and that they were not over-excited and looking their best.  

They gave us an Irish dance, Lord of the Dance and a colourful Disney Medley. Later on there was an excerpt from the Ballet Etudes accompanied by the music of Czerny and a Maltese dance. My favourite: Masquerade Waltz to Kchachaturian music. Exuberant. Uplifting.  Now that's one piece of music I may want buried with me together with Piaf, Liszt and Chopin.

The girls entered into the spirit of the music and of the evening. One really wanted to get up and join in the dancing, hardly possible as I am still with a crutch.

There was a String Quartet, a prominent instrumental genre which originates in the Classical era and which consists of two violins, one viola and a cello. Mikaela de Guzan Baluyot from the Phillipines, who plays the viola,  has an interesting story. She came to study in Malta thanks to a Maltese priest who when she was a 13-year-old provided Mikaela the chance to study theory of music and the viola in the Phillipines. She is now in Malta studying at the School of Music and is also a member of the Malta Youth Orchestra. It's a lovely story.

Also playing strings that evening was 'cellist Christopher John Mercieca, and violinists  Matthew Zammit and Bernard Curmi who is the youngest son of the popular violinist Il Pusé. Both his brother and sister are musicians as well. Bernard made his public debut  at the Auberge de Castille at the age of just six years.


There were also three interesting pianists, the youngest being Gabrijel Cordina, an eight-year -old whose parents are both musicians. He has already composed a lullaby for voice and piano. His mother, Mariella Cassar Cordina, too, is a composer. Gabrijel played Haydn's Concertino with great confidence. His feet could barely reach the pedals.


Sixteen-year-old pianist Christine Muscat too impressed me. I heard her play again yesterday at Isouard Hall, at the last concert in the series Twelve Days of Christmas, and conceived by Adrian Mamo the relatively new Artistic Director at the Manoel Theatre. Christine played J.S. Bach's Piano Concerto in F minor, BWV 1056.

The third pianist, Danial Joseph Mercieca played Mozart.
All three pianists were accompanied by the String Quartet. There were one or two misunderstandings which were quickly smoothed away. It was lovely just listening to these young people tackle the music, some of it difficult.      Think of the hours dedicated to studying instead of on their iphone, without which playing like that is impossible.


Last but not least a Sicilian Ensemble gave us an impressive and enjoyable show. There are no names on the programme. Best of all I enjoyed the Astor Piazzolla music which included the famous and popular Oblivion and Libertango.

There were two singers, one a rather 'green' soprano; the other sang and recited in a very slick manner. Something Sicilian but I don't know what. The accordionist was most impressive of all and gave us some truly inspired playing.

This recital was by no means concert level playing but it was a well spent evening of live music by dedicated young people many of whom will become very good musicians given time.


A contribution for Sister Agnes

I haven't made an appeal to your generosity for Sister Agnes for a long time. She called me the other day, apologising for not sending me her handmade Christmas card. She is no longer able to see properly, is in a wheelchair but still looking after the refugees. A common friend and one of her helpers tells me that in spite of her age people still ask for her specifically.
Please send her some money to keep her and her refugees going. She can no longer go to the bank so address the cheque to Dorothy Bonello, another volunteer. The address is: Good Shepherd Convent, Idmejda Street, Balzan. If you  happen to be passing that way ask for Sister Agnes and she will probably show you round.  Thank you for helping out.


The third pianist at the MCI concert at the Imperial was Daniel Joseph Mercieca who played the 1st Movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto nr.1, KV 37. Just in case you have ever wondered what the occasional K number stands for, well, it stands for Ludwig von Köchel, who compiled the catalogue of Mozart's music.


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Photos: Antonella Caruana

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