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As customary the Gaulitanus Choir has presented the final Gozo Yuletide concert in what has proved to be another very busy musical period in the sister island. Indeed, in collaboration with the Culture & Information Office (Ministry for Gozo), the choir has given an Epiphany Concert on Friday 6th January. This year, this End-of-Festive Season concert – which has reached its 7th edition- was given a religious slant and was held at the San Lawrenz Parish Church, where a very sizeable audience was in attendance despite the extremely hostile weather.

The concert kicked off with Charles Romer’s Christmas Gloria, a joyful excerpt scored for choir, organ and (synthesized) handbells – the latter played by Jean Noël Attard. Two lullabies followed: Geoffrey Bush’s Little Jesus sweetly sleep and H. Alexander Matthews’ Sleep, Holy Babe featuring soprano Joainne Callus and mezzo-soprano Marthese Borg respectively as soloists.

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It was then the turn of Noël! Noël!, a medley for 2 sopranos & choir specifically adapted for the occasion by Colin Attard followed. Featuring sopranos Annabelle Zammit and Rita Dimech, this included the traditional The Babe of Betlehem, Adolphe Adam’s O Holy Night,John Goss’s See amid the winter’s snow, the traditional God rest ye merry gentlemen, andFranz Gruber’s Stille Nacht in arrangements by Colin Attard, David Cashmore and the Quantum Publishers.

As explained by the concert’s musical and artistic director Colin Attard, being in San Lawrenz – one of the foremost villages in Gozo traditionally promoting Christmas culture – one could not avoid presenting some local quasi-traditionalistic numbers, entitled A Maltese Christmas. Indeed, the choir’s organist Stephen Attard moved to the organ loft to play the Emmanuele Galea’s ever-popular Sinfonia Pastorale, thus also exploiting the recently restored organ. Antonio Buhagiar’s Alma redemptoris mater followed also featuring soprano Rita Dimech, tenor Joseph Calleja and baritone Joseph Buttigieg. This section was concluded with Colin Attard’s own Ninni…..ninni, which seems to receive a very enthusiastic reception whenever it is performed. The soloists in this number weresoprano Josianne Callus, soprano Annabelle Zammit (who deputised for indisposed alto Stephanie Buttigieg), tenor: Joseph Calleja, and baritone Joseph Buttigieg.

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Another Maltese number, albeit complete different in style followed. This was Carmelo Pace’s Ode on the morning of Christ’s nativity, set to John Milton’s famous ode and performed by the choir’s female section and soprano Annabelle Zammit.

The style changed completely with two semi-classical excerpts from the musical A simple Christmas. Hence Pete Carlson’s A child is born in Betlehem with alto soloist Francesca Sciberras – and the duet If he were born today by Dale Matthews & Ed Kee – with soloistsmezzo-soprano Marthese Borg and baritone Joseph Buttigieg – were performed.

This was followed by another innovity, another medley compiled for the occasion by Colin Attard entitled A David Willcocks Celebration, featuring arrangements, compositions or descants by the British composer so famous for his Christmas works.IMAG0948

This consisted of F. Mendelssohn’s Hark the herald angels sing (partly arranged by C. Attard), While shepherds watched their flocks (from the Este’s Psalter), Good King Wenceslas (from the Piae Cantiones and featuring mezzo-sopranoMarthese Borg and baritoneJoseph Buttigieg),H.J. Gauntlett’s Once in royal David’s city (partly arranged by C. Attard),J. F. Wade’s O come all ye faithful (partly arranged by The Engish Hymnal), Unto us is born a child (from the Piae Cantiones) and Willcocks own A Birthday carol. For this grand medley the Gaulitanus Choir was joined by the Gaulitanus Children Voices, adding tonal and aesthetic sparkle to the interpretation! In a few numbers the audience was also invited to join in.

This vocally very tough concert, during which quite a few excerpts were also receiving their Malta and/or Gozo premiere, was brought to a rousing and climactic end withTom Fettke’s highly rhythmic and bouncy Alleluia! Gloria!.

After the concert the members of the choir drove off downhill towards (the Azure Window Restaurant in) Dwejra for their annual dinner …….Where better to spend the rest of the evening in potentially the stormiest day during this Yuletide?!!!

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