Gozo´s Gaulitanus Choir has just returned to Malta from England, where it was on its 16th tour abroad. This concert-tour, which was endorsed by the Valletta 2018 Foundation, was held in East Anglia, namely in Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk. Under the musical direction of Gaulitanus´s founder-director, Mro Colin Attard – who was also the key person behind the organisation of this international venture –, the concert-tour included four artistic events in four completely different venues and surroundings.
The first leg was in the charming university city of Cambridge, where a lunchtime concert was held at the gorgeous and historic Corpus Christi College Chapel, University of Cambridge, on Friday 23rd November. This reciprocated a visit to Gozo in July by the Corpus Christi College Choir, whose musical director, Robin Walker, was instrumental in making this event possible. Walker also accompanied the Gaulitanus Choir on the chapel´s grand piano during this memorable and well-liked concert. At the end of the concert, Mro Attard presented Walker with a memento. Whilst in Cambridge, the choir members visited several interesting sights and colleges in the city, and also had the enriching opportunity of attending two evensong services: one at the magnificent King´s College Chapel, which is so renowned particularly for its Christmas repertoire, and another at St John´s College Chapel, where the performance was stunning.
From Cambridgeshire the choir moved east to Suffolk, initially at picturesque Pakefield, Lowestoft, Britain´s most easterly point, where the Gozitan choir was hosted by the Pakefield Singers. The Gaulitanus Choir took part in an evening concert on Saturday 24th at the historic All Saints´ & St Margaret´s Church, right on the cliff top overlooking the North Sea. The concert, organised by the Pakefield Singers and anticipating the Christmas season hence entitled Jubilation, also featured the Pakefield Singers themselves conducted by Vetta Wise and the Waveney Winds conducted by John Flack. The extremely well patronised festive evening ended with a joint rousing rendition of John Rutter´s arrangement of Joy to the World which also included audience participation. The Gaulitanus Choir was very much acclaimed by one and all for its bubbly performance. Towards the end of the concert, Pakefield Singers´s chair Christine Mason and musical director Vetta Wise – both of whom had worked tirelessly to co-ordinate the Gaulitanus visit – were presented with mementos by Mro Attard. After the concert, the Pakefield Singers home hosted the Gozo choir members, whereas on the following morning they organised a visit to Southwold, the stunning seaside town down the coast. The Gozitan choir reciprocated by hosting lunch at one of the restaurants on the Pier, a most iconic landmark in Southwold.
Sunday 25th continued with the Gaulitanus Choir moving inland to Framlingham, where the choir was hosted by Seraphim, the professional female vocal ensemble from Suffolk. Apart from organising a concert at the enchanting Church of St Michael the Archangel, Seraphim also made sure that before the concert the Gozitan entourage experiences a breathtaking walk round Framlingham´s medieval castle as well as coffee in a typical cosy inn in the town square. The full-scale early evening concert in a space resounding with splendid acoustics was another high point in the Gaulitanus´s concert-tour, as well as extremely well-received by all present and the organisers. In recognition of their key role in inviting the Gaulitanus Choir and in co-ordinating this event, Shirley Smith and Vetta Wise, Seraphim´s treasurer and musical director respectively, were also offered mementos by the Gaulitanus´s founder-director. After the concert Seraphim organised some refreshments, during which the audience could mix with the performers and the organisers.
Late in the evening, the choir moved north to Norfolk, in preparation for its final artistic commitment on Monday 26th. This was held at Norwich´s sublime St John the Baptist Cathedral, the Roman Catholic mother church in East Anglia and the second largest RC church in Britain. The concert was organised courtesy of the Diocese of East Anglia Office for Sacred Music, and the Norwich RC Cathedral´s musical director Daniel Justin. Mr Justin himself welcomed the choir, also treating the members to a guided tour of the cathedral. In turn, Mro Attard presented him with a memento towards the end of the concert. The concert itself proved to be a great success with all those in attendance – which, happily, also included quite a handful of Maltese who live in Norfolk as well as members of the Pakefield Singers and Seraphim who drove north specifically to attend the concert. Indeed, this event brought the Gaulitanus Choir´s artistic commitments in this exciting concert-tour to a grand ending. Of course, there was still time for a group meal, sightseeing round Norwich´s cobbled streets and its main landmarks, as well as socializing.
Significantly, during this tour the choir performed a repertoire essentially made up of Maltese music: indeed a mix of sacred, religious, and secular excerpts mostly in the Maltese language. A cappella and accompanied compositions by choir director Colin Attard, Carmelo Pace, Charles Camilleri and Giuseppe Caruana were performed. These were complimented by very few and short Christmas numbers – which rounded up the Pakefield and Framlingham concerts. The choir´s soloists during this tour were Annabelle Zammit, Marthese Borg and Stephanie Portelli, with Joseph Calleja, Jean Noël Attard and Alison Gatt taking on a few lines.
This highly successful East Anglia concert-tour was another learning curve for the choir: collaborating with and working alongside established foreign counterparts, whilst rehearsing and performing in unknown waters and spaces. It was also a very good exercise in capacity building, as well as a very enriching cultural experience to all involved. Besides, this tour offered an excellent opportunity to foster the choir´s ever-growing international networking.
Indeed, this 16th concert-tour rounded up the Gaulitanus Choir´s international commitments for 2018, during which the choir made an unprecedented three foreign ventures in three months. Remarkably, this venture came back-to-back with the choir´s umpteenth appearance at the Rencontres Musicales de Mediterranee in Corsica (France) earlier in November and followed the choir´s London concert-tour this September. 2018 was also the second year running that the choir was involved in three artistic ventures abroad in one calendar year. Truly, being worthy ambassadors of Maltese culture and music abroad has become second nature to the choir hailing from the small, yet culturally rich, island of Gozo.