Gaulitanus Choir a hit at Corsica Festival

Annabelle Zammit

Gozo’s Gaulitanus Choir’s latest international venture was representing Malta in the 20th edition of the Rencontres Musicales de Mediterranee in Corsica, France earlier this November, following an invitation from the Jeunesses Musicales de Mediterranee of Bastia.

This annual festival featured artistic groups from various Mediterranean countries, namely Italy, Spain, Greece, France, Monaco, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Malta and Corsica itself.

En route to Corsica, the choir was in Paris where it was received at the Maltese Embassy for a courtesy visit to H.E. Helga Mizzi, Maltese Ambassador to France. During this very cordial visit, the choir´s founder-director Mro Colin Attard gave a background on the choir and its artistic commitments including its international programme of events, while H.E.  – who also made it a point to make the choir feel extremely at home – explained her embassy´s role in fostering Maltese culture, amongst others, and also referred to potential future collaborations.

The formal part ended with the maestro presenting H.E. with a memento and the choir treating Ms Mizzi with an ad hoc performance of a Maltese excerpt. H.E. then invited the choir for some drinks. Following this, the choir had the opportunity to visit a few Parisian landmarks.

Annabelle Zammit

The choir’s first full day in Corsica was mainly spent in Cervione. The first artistic commitment was at the Collège Philippe Pescetti where the choir gave two presentations in the afternoon as part of the festival´s educational programme.

While Mro Attard gave a background on music-making in Malta to the students, the choir illustrated all with the interpretation of several Maltese numbers in different genres. Both presentations ended with some of the college´s students interpreting a Corsican song. The choir was then taken round Cervione moving to the Salle des Fêtes where it gave a  fully-fledged concert. This was kicked off by the Corsican ensemble A Ricuccata, which presented a varied a cappella repertoire in the Corsican idiom.

The Gozitan choir then took the stage interpreting several Maltese works, principally compositions by its founder-director Colin Attard, as well as ones by Carmelo Pace, Charles Camilleri and Giuseppe Caruana. Ranging from the sacred to the secular and from a cappella to accompanied works, the Gaulitanus Choir was extremely well received by the very receptive audience and was given a very warm standing ovation at the end. The choir reciprocated by performing an encore. Very fittingly, the maestro also dedicated an excerpt to the memory of the festival´s late founding president, Guy Dongradi. Significantly, the concert was also very positively reviewed on the Corse Matin. After the concert, the choir was treated to a sumptuous dinner at one of Cervione’s leading restaurants before returning to the hotel in Bastia.

The next two days were devoted to some sightseeing and principally to rehearsing – whether individually or with the festival´s orchestra – for the Rencontres’ concluding Gala Concert at Bastia’s Theatre Municipal. As with all the other participating groups, the Gaulitanus Choir had its own slot in this event during which it interpreted two semi-folkloristic works by Carmelo Pace and Charles Camilleri respectively. Eventually, the choir featured in the grand finale which brought the festival to a rousing end with the interpretation of Corsica, composed by Georges De Zerbi, who also happens to be the festival’s new president.  Corsican singer Mai Pesce was the soloist accompanied by the festival’s symphonic orchestra directed by Italian Alessandro Bombonati. The packed theatre incessantly asked for an encore, which was consented to.

At the end, JMM president De Zerbi called Mro Attard on stage specifically to acknowledge the work done by him and the choir. The cherry on the cake was the choir being invited to return to the Rencontres next year. This beautiful evening, indeed the whole festival, came to an end with a standing buffet dinner for all the participants in the festival and the organisers – symbolising the spirit of fraternity and tolerance between different peoples in the region, thus offering a pledge of peace and serenity to all.

During this tour, the choir was conducted by Colin Attard and its principal soloist was soprano Annabelle Zammit, with Patricia Buttigieg, Madeleine Gruppetta, Christian Tanti and Jean Noël Attard taking over some minor solo parts.

The Gaulitanus Choir was appearing at the Rencontres for the fourth time following three previous highly successful appearances in 2001, 2002 and 2007. This was the Gaulitanus Choir´s fifteenth foray abroad and anticipates the choir’s upcoming concert-tour in the UK later in November.