The St Paul Chamber Ensemble recently embarked on a concert tour of Poland under the direction of its principal conductor HE Chev Mro Mark Agius.
This tour took place upon the initiative of the Maltese Embassy in Warsaw, in collaboration with the Special Needs School in Slupia, the Apertus Association, the parish of St Pio di Pietrelcina, Poznan and the Medina Foundation for Music, of which the St Paul Chamber Ensemble is the performance programme, as part of the celebrations of the 100th Anniversary of Polish independence and the 100th Anniversary of the Greater Poland Uprising. The tour was the culmination of the joint project, Concert of a Patriotic Song, which was being organised by the Apertus Association, and the Zespół Szkół Specjalnych w Słupi pod Kępnem.
St Paul Chamber Ensemble – one of Malta’s foremost musical ensembles
Established in 2015 under the direction of Mro Agius, the St Paul Chamber Ensemble has established itself as one of Malta’s foremost musical ensembles, bringing together some of the finest musicians and singers our island has to offer. With a number of prestigious performances to its credit, the orchestra’s repertoire features works by classical composers as well as contemporary works and works by Maltese composers and ranges from sacred works to lighter numbers from musicals and movies.
The week long concert tour saw the 45 piece orchestra, accompanied by leading soloists Karen Gatt Darmenia (soprano), Miriam Camilleri (mezzo soprano), Joseph Aquilina (tenor) and Louis Andrew Cassar (baritone) and further complemented by eight young Polish musicians, engaged in an intensive week, of rehearsals and performances on a daily basis.
Messa da Requiem in Poznan
In collaboration with the Rotondo Choir of Poznan, the tour included three orchestral recitals, two of which, held at St Martin’s Church in Kepno and at San Padre Pio di Pietralcina Parish Church in Poznan respectively, showcased specifically Mro Agius’s recent work, the Messa da Requiem. The orchestral and vocal work, which was originally premiered at St John’s Co-Cathedral last March to high critical acclaim, was well received by appreciative audiences at both venues. In his welcoming speech at the official opening of the tour in Kepno, HE the Ambassador of Malta to Poland, Dr John Paul Grech, expressed his appreciation of the initiative and of the collaboration between the respective entities to make it happen. Upon being called upon to receive a commemorative gift at the end of the evening, Dr Grech further lauded Mro Agius on the emotional intensity of the composition and its sensitive rendering by the orchestra, choir and soloists and augured that this would be but the first of other such initiatives.
A third concert featured a recital of Sacred Music at the Arts and Culture Centre of Kalisz. All three performances which were of extreme high calibre and showed off the orchestra and singers as being in top form, brought the appreciative audience to its feet in long, well-deserved, standing ovations which required Mro Agius to return to acknowledge the applause a number of times both at the end of the performance and after the encore.
The fourth event of the orchestra’s tour was an orchestral appreciation workshop for students with special needs in the Special Needs School in Slupia. Here the orchestra performed a selection of light works from musicals and movies to highlight the various families of instruments constituting the orchestra. Throughout the performance, all students were given the opportunity to participate by handling and playing the instruments, joining in with the percussion section and even conducting. Though in a significantly lighter vein than the other three performances, the workshop proved to be an emotional experience for everyone present, with many of the musicians having to dry their tears in between numbers as they engaged with their young, appreciative audience.
Extensive coverage on media outlets
Throughout their stay, the orchestra was supported by a highly efficient and very professional backline crew which handled the transport of the larger instruments and the setting up and breaking down of equipment at the respective venues. All the four performances were streamed live on social media and extensive coverage was given on the local TV station Radio Sud.
The orchestra’s participation in these celebrations was partly dictated by the fact that Valletta is the Capital city for Culture of 2018. The initiative was supported by the Malta Arts Council, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion, the Malta Tourism Authority and the Archbishop’s Curia and endorsed by the Valletta 18 Foundation.