The Malta Independent 12 July 2024, Friday
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With a song in my heart

Marie Benoît Sunday, 28 January 2024, 09:10 Last update: about 7 months ago

I will say it and say it again. There is plenty of culture which comes in several forms, in Malta and Gozo for those who are interested. The truth is that this government in spite of its many flaws has given a boost to culture, not only in Malta but in Gozo too. So, if life at the office or at home is a cultural desert there are several oases in sight.


I enjoyed a concert of light music, this time, at Palazzo de la Salle, which is slowly being restored to its former glory. So good to get away from Sliema where the terrible architecture (if you can call it that) has spread like foot and mouth disease. Ugliness is contagious.


The evening of 17th January Frank Bonnici on the piano and his friends, Anthony Saliba on the Double Bass, Percussionist Joe Camilleri and Yuri Charyguine on the accordian, gave great pleasure to a full theatre of young and old, playing for one-and-a-half hours non-stop, 20th and 21st Century film music.  The evening at Palazzo De La Salle, was a complete success.

I am well acquainted with Frank's piano playing from the days when he played at The Phoenicia and before he left for Prague some ten years ago. I have always admired his piano playing. He is a natural and I cannot see him doing anything else for a living. Prague has provided him with chances he would never have had here where the cake is simply too small and too many people are after a piece.


I have heard Yuri play his accordian several times, most memorably at the Corinthia Attard where they had more events than they do now, especially when Signor Rota was GM.  Yuri has been living in Malta  for many years and is very much part of the Maltese cultural and social scene with his accordian.

Overall the effect of a variety of light music has a soothing effect. I purred with pleasure that evening. Much as I love classical music this was an evening of relaxation and mostly familiar tunes which brought back memories. Over the years we all have to deal with the inscrutable treacheries of the human heart. Some music brings back memories and memories are not always happy ones. Dante: Nessun dolor maggiore ricordarsi del tempo felice nella miseria. Later on Shakespeare in Othello wrote: "There is no greater pain than to remember in our present grief past happiness." Absolutely. I never look at old photos because it is too painful. Corneille in Le Cid writes: Je cherche le silence et la nuit pour pleurer. So many of us do.

The mind replays what the heart cannot delete, and you cannot get away from it.



The programme was very well put together.  When you listen to Lara's Theme, the name given to a leitmotif written for the 1965 film Doctor Zhivago by composer Maurice Jarre, my age group, then in our early 20s we wanted to go to Russia, meet and marry a Dr Zhivago (Omar Sharif). The leitmotif of Lara's theme soon became the basis of the song Somewhere My Love sung by Al Martino.


Music is the best way to forget until you want something to remember. So, in Cocteau's words: "Each day in the mirror I watch death at work." There is no way out of it. We are all dead in the end but beautiful music is one way of surviving the onslaught of old age, the ravages of time. I enjoyed the theme music from Phantom of the Opera, Mission Impossible, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones and many other pieces.


With the exception of Yuri, the three are essentially Jazz musicians, especially Frank. That is his speciality so inevitably A Night in Tunisia was on the 'menu'.  It is a very important jazz standard composed by Dizzy Gillispie, the trumpet virtuoso and improvisor. The ever popular Somewhere Over the Rainbow originally sung by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz is so famous and still popular. It brings tears to my eyes as my young one had played the leading role at her school all those years ago.

Then there is the main theme by Maurice Jarre, from that great film Lawrence of Arabia. When friends send me photos of them 'dune-bashing' from Abu Dhabi I immediately hear the score in my head... such rousing music.

Also on the 'menu' that evening was Nino Rota's theme music for The Godfather and  Astor Pizzolla's Libertango. Without Yuri Charyguine on his accordian, this would not have been possible.


We know that the very successful film Midnight Express which was largely set in Turkey was filmed almost entirely in Fort St Elmo as permission to film in Istanbul was denied. The music by Giorgio MorodorI must have contributed in no small way to the success of the film.

I thought one piece they played was Frank's composition and I said so to a neighbour but she said that this was the theme from Harry Potter. Hmm. Not my scene at all.


In his Letter to Artists Pope John Paul II (I am quoting from a reprint by the Salesian Press dated 1999): "The history of art is not only a story of works produced but also a story of men and women. Works of art speak of their authors; they enable us to know their inner life, and they reveal the original contribution which artists offer to the history of culture."

Call them artists, call them craftsmen - they use something that already exists and give it form and meaning... interpretations of music are numerous. Just listen to a piece of music or a song on You tube. Listen to the same song or piece of music interpreted by different musicians and you will see what I mean.

"By god I play better here than in Berlin," cried Mendelssohn, "and that's because people listen better." It was the start of his long love affair with England and Scotland.

We were a very good audience. Look out for another concert in March. Like Cole Porter said of a colleague: If they ever put a bullet through your brain, I'll complain, Frank. And I will not be the only one either.


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