This weekend sees the annual Malta International Choir Festival (30 Oct – 1 Nov). Annabel Mallia is a veteran of the competition, but even for her, this year is a whole new challenge. Here, she talks about what goes into the event and why it’s a delight for the audience.
‘This is an intensive period’ reads the memo from our conductor, Hugo Agius Muscat, and it certainly is with something going on six out of the seven days which end in a ‘Grand Closing Concert and Prize Giving’ on Sunday 1 November at 5.30pm at the Catholic Institute, Floriana. Nineteen choirs will be taking part in the event, including three choirs from Malta. The international contingents come from Germany, Bosnia Herzegovina, Spain, Hungary, Croatia, Latvia, Norway, Sweden and Slovenia.
My choir is St Paul’s Choral Society and we have been practicing for weeks. We are going to sing five pieces a capella; unaccompanied. We will feel very exposed, standing on the large stage at St Publius Church, Floriana, at 1pm Saturday, singing pieces in Russian, Latin, Italian and English not only unaccompanied but off-by-heart: bringing our music is strictly forbidden by Hugo. It certainly makes for a better performance if we all know the pieces perfectly and can then watch the conductor rather than bury our faces in our scores and ignore his frantic arm-waving. And we do know the pieces well; we’ve even been coached in Russian pronunciation by the Russian daughter-in-law of one of the choristers.
A highlight for us is meeting the other choirs and having the opportunity to sing with them all together in the spectacular setting of St John’s Cathedral on the Saturday at 8pm. We’ll be nearly 600 choristers in total, all ‘singing together for peace’; it’s a moving, hopeful and uplifting joining of people from different walks of life, different beliefs and nationalities: our common and binding interest being the making of music, sacred and secular.
We have studied and we want to do well. But as the event dawns, the worries set in: will the other choirs be full-time professionals, or are they like us – housewives, architects, bankers, doctors, students and teachers? They are on holiday in Malta; we have to fit in our commitments to the competition around the routine of work and family. It’s an ambitious challenge and may the best choir win!
For more info, and to download a detailed programme of the event see: Malta Council for Culture & the Arts