After the progress made by musical societies during the 20th century, they started to contribute more socially, culturally and educationally to their towns and cities. In each of these locations, the societies were making an effort to distinguish themselves and establish their society. The good reputation of some of them was not only known locally, but also internationally. This led to some of them being invited to perform abroad. The St Lawrence Band Club was one of these, as it had shown it was one of the best equipped and popular bands on the island. Wherever it went it always left with full honours, and this was reported in the media both locally and abroad.
The first one of these trips was a pleasure trip together with the musicians, who had to perform a programme in Catania. The contingent should have travelled on 3rd September 1898 and return the following Monday. This trip, however, was cancelled.
Tal-Palma’s reputation in Catania remained consistent in the following years. During the summer of 1903, it was invited again to perform a programme in the city. The invitation was very near the feast of St Lawrence and thus a number of issues had to be tackled. Among these, the main issue was that there was only enough time for 4 concerts, since the invitation was for the last week of August. However, the committee and the musicians challenged this head-on and the preparations started immediately.
Funds for such a trip were a problem. Due to the timing there was a fear of a lack of interest. This was very important as it was the source of part of the funding. Thanks to 2 admirers of the society, who offered the funds in advance, the boat could be rented in advance. Early on the morning of Saturday 22 August, the Duke of Edinburgh, along with a number of admirers, were on their way to Catania.
On the quay in Catania, a large crowd was awaiting the Society’s arrival. As soon as the boat moored, the band saluted the crowd with the national anthem of Italy, which the crowd received to great applause. Both the Maltese and Sicilians joined behind the band and on their way to the municipal palace, they played joyous marches to the overall joy of the crowd. On their arrival at the palace, the contingent was welcomed by the authorities with a reception.
On Sunday the band performed a programme on the parvis of St Agatha Cathedral. In the evening the musicians were sitting on the bandstand in Villa Bellini to perform the main programme they were invited to perform. This was given prominence by the local media, and a large crowd gathered in front of the bandstand. The band started performing Mercadante’s symphony ‘Ricordo a Bellini’, followed by other pieces composed by Band Director Grech. His pieces were hugely popular, which led to his appointment to ‘Membro Accademico Circolo Real Bellini’.
Next was a selection from Boito’s ‘Mefistole’. The band continued with the programme ‘Preghiera alla Beata Vergine’ followed by a selection from the opera ‘Faust’. Their interpretation of Hume’s serenata ‘The Warbles’ was described as impeccable. This can be credited to the fact that some of the musicians put their instruments aside and whistled. It’s known that this part was was highly awaited, due to the wonderful way in how it was whistled. As soon as this finished, the crowd started applauding without stop, asking for encores. Although it was already late at night, band director Grech continued accommodating them. The cheers were even louder as pyrotechnics were lighted. The programme ended with Italian national anthem, and since we were still a colony and Malta still did not have a national anthem, the band performed the ‘God save’.
Although it was late at night, the band continued playing festive marches all the way to port. The contingent arrived back in Malta early Monday Morning and was welcomed by a large crowd of relatives on the St Lawrence Quay.
In Palermo and Messina
In mid 1904 the Band Club was invited to perform in Palermo and Messina, two of the largest cities in Sicily. This trip was highly covered in local media. The band ‘Duke of Edinburgh’, along with a number of admirers left the island on 21st July and arrived in Palermo the following morning. The Palermo Municipal Band was awaiting them on the quay. The Band started playing the Italian national anthem from the ship’s deck, and the Sicilians reciprocated with the ‘God Save’.
After disembarking, the two bands started playing festive marches on their way to Count Roger’s burial place, amongst applause from the crowd that had gathered. They were welcomed by Mons. Mazzola on their arrival at the Cathedral. From there, the band was invited to the ‘Palazzo Municipale’ where it was welcomed by the Pro Sindaco. The following day, the ‘Duke of Edinburgh’, under Band DIrector Gaetano Grech, performed at ‘Teatro Biondo’. During the interval, after an address from Prof. Enrico Scala, a banner with the crest of Palermo was presented to the society with the inscription in golden thread:
“Impresa del Teatro Biondo e Cavalier Pierantoni alla Filarmonica Duke of Edinburgh – Luglio 1904”
The following day, the band performed in ‘Piazza Foro Umberto’. At the end of this performance the band left for Messina. They were welcomed by the Municipal Band, which accompanied them to the famous Duomo for mass. On their last day in Sicily, it performed again for another hour and a half until it was time to board. The programme ended to huge applause and shouts of ‘Viva l-Maltin!’ from the crowd that had gathered. The band and its admirers left Sicily highly satisfied they they were worthy ambassadors to high standards the Maltese band clubs and the high level that it was reached in musical arts.
Trip to Tunis
The band club’s reputation had also reached Africa under Mro. Artz. In April 1927 they were invited to Tunis by the Maltese residing there for the religious feasts which were to start in May. The Committee accepted the invitation and on May 31st a contingent of musicians and admirers left for Tunis. On their arrival they were greeted by the Maltese, who accompanied them when they visited the Governor, British Consul and Tunisian Nobility.
The first programme they performed was in Phjara. Mro. Artz trusted his assistant Pacifico Scicluna fully, and let him lead the first programme. Here the Assistant Band Director directed the musicians who performed various pieces from Maltese composers, Verdi, Brahms and Gounod.
The second programme was to be performed in one of the leading theatres in Tunis – ‘Teatro Alhambra’. This evening was attended by the city’s highest officials. Mro Artz presented his composition to Malta, Nicolo Isuoard’s ‘Avviso ai Mariati’ and Strauss’s Rosenkavalier. Mrs Artz performed various arie and songs accompanied by her husband on the piano. The concert was concluded by various speeches for the occasion, a presentation of a number of gifts and the performance of the God Save and the French National Anthem. Afterwards the Maltese community hosted a lunch for the committee members and the musicians, to which Tunisian officials and the British Consul were invited.
The last programme was in the Belvedere in Tunis, where in the repertoire Artz included the composition ‘Respighi Le Fontane di Roma’, which was received to huge applause and which was played for a long time. Also, the band club was presented with a banner from the local Maltese community.
Due to the great success of these trips, the society received a number of invitations, which unluckily could not be fulfilled, due the outbreak of the two world wars. Amongst these was an invitation from J.C. Bonnici to Tunis, 2 years before the Second World War to participate in the International Music Concours between the 16 and 18 April 1938. Due to further difficulties which emerged after the war, the band tried to go abroad once again for the first time in 1998, but wasn’t successful and the trip was cancelled.
The band was also invited to participate in a contest which was going to be held in July of the same year in Como, Italy. However, the band couldn’t attend since the contest was canceled due to difficulties encountered by the organisers.
Many years had to pass before the band could experience once again another trip. Nevertheless, this time was different since the musical society of St lawrence invited a foreign band for the feast of St Lawrence in 2010, the Philharmonie Royale Concordia from Ottignies, Belgium. This belgian band came to visit Malta from the 5th till 12th August whilst the St Lawrence Band Club went to visit Belgium from the 11th till 18th December.
During their visit, the Philharmonie Royale Concordia played in the St Lawrence village in Gozo, twice in Birgu as part of St Lawrence’s feast and performed another musical programme held in Marsaxlokk. Apart from that, the band went to different cultural excursions including Valletta, Mdina, Cottonera, Blue Grotto and Ħaġar Qim and Imnajdra Temples. One has to mention the Musical Programme ‘Vittoriosa in Festa’ held on the 7th August where the two bands played together on the marvellous bandstand in front of an enormous crowd covering the whole square. In honour of this exchange, a function was organised for the officials and band members of both bands on 10th August.
Philharmonie Royale Concordia
In 1860, a small group of people in Ottignies city wanted to create music. Their dream came true after only two years since in 1862, this group formed a small band named “Fanfare des amis réunis et de la concorde”. This new band began to participate in different musical festivals, one of them being the celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of Independence of Belgium. After a short period of time, the same band changed its name to “Fanfare Concordia”. In the beginning of the 20th century, the band “Fanfare Concordia” celebrated their 40th anniversary from their foundation and the Belgian’s King, Leopold ll entitled them as “Royale”. In the early 60’s, Marcel Ancion, graduated in the Conservatory of Brussels, became the Soloist in the La Monnaie Theatre and became the conductor/principal director for the band “Royale Fanfare Concordia”.
The dynamics and professionalism of the conductor / principal director of the band, gave a new energy to the band members which helped them to further improve. In fact, this band started to increase its activities by organising different concerts, participating and organising musical competitions, organised tours and also recorded music for films. They became much more popular and successful after the recordings for the film “The Smurfs”. During this period, the band opened its doors to both children and youths from musical schools in the same area. In 1978, the band was renamed as the “Philharmonie Royale Concordia” (their present name) and participated in a popular game show in Arosa, Switzerland called “The games without frontiers”, very popular in all Europe. In 1985, the PRC participated in an International Musical Competition in Luxembourg. In this competition the band was ranked in the highest category.
The band played in different countries around Europe such as Sheffield and Hyde in England, Chenôve and Rennes in France, Trier in Germany and Clervaux in Luxembourg.
Apart from that, the PRC was involved in different musical exchanges, in Germany (Emmerthal and Esslingen) and France (Jassans). It was precisely during this period, in 1984, that the “Philharmonie Royale Concordia” recorded their second Album. In 1987, this band celebrated its 125 years anniversary from when it was formed and for this particular occasion, they recorded another album in collaboration with the famous Pianist Daniel Blumenthal which is considered as a prestigious album.
In the late 80’s, the PRC competed again for the highest category in the music competition held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. It was of a great success since they qualified for the final and won with the highest scores being 120 of 120. Further in the years, the band played the difficult but popular music the “Carmina Burana” a musical composition produced by Carl Orff. This symphony was played accompanied by different choirs and soloists from Wallonia and Brussels.
Nowadays the PRC is a famous established band which takes part in various popular activities, performs various concerts and takes part in various musical exchanges both in Belgium and in other countries. Amongst their recent successes one can’t fail to mention their participation in the Boleil Music Night in 2005, the organization of the Tour “Chœurs et orchestre” and the oratory on the legend of St George in October 2006, where two soloists joined the Belgian band from “La chapelle Reine Elisabeth”.
St Lawrence Band Club’s trip to Belgium in 2010
The Vittoriosa Band visited Belgium between the 11th and the 18th December 2010, in a musical exchange with Philharmonie Royale Concordia from Ottignies. The group of musicians, committee members a supporters counted 54 people. This group left for Belgium on Saturday 18 December afternoon and arrived in the Hotel in Louvain-La-Neuve at around 9 o’clock that evening.
On Sunday 19th, the group attended mass in this city and then left for the City of Nivelles, where the St Lawrence Band club performed their first concert in the Collegial church of Nivelles at half past one in the afternoon, the main church of this city. Here the band club collaborated with the Philharmonie Royale Concordia, under the direction of Mro Paul Schembri, and performed the following programme:
|Arr. A. Balent
This programme was highly enjoyed by the people present. At the end of the concert, the two bands were invited to a reception in Nivelles top hotel by the Mayor of this city. After the reception the group had time to visit the local Christmas Market, and afterwards went to an official dinner in Ceroux-Mousty organized by the Philharmonie Royale Concordia for their guests.
The following Monday and Tuesday the musicians did not have any official duties, so the group visited various attractions, such as Maredsous, the local convent, the famous saxophone museum in Dinant and the beautiful city of Bruges in Northern Belgium.
Wednesday 15th was another busy day for the musicians. After the group visited Louvaine-la-Neuve, the band performed in the local main square to the joy of the people visiting the local Christmas Market. The Band performed the following the programme in the cold afternoon:
|F. V. Suppe
|Best of Zucchero
|The Best of Maltese Folklore
|Arr. A. Chircop
|La Vita e Bella
On Thursday 16th the group visited Waterloo. Here they visited the house where the Duke of Wellington resided, the museum, various short movies and the grounds where the famous battle took place.
Friday 17th was the most important day of this trip for the group, where the group left for Brussels in the afternoon, where after the group visited the Grand Place and various other landmarks in the centre of the European Capital, the Band started the preparations for Mass and a concert in ‘Malta House’’. In Fact the St Lawrence Band Club performed various Christmas carols in the first mass ever held in ‘Malta House’. After mass, the Band Club accompanied a number of children from the local Maltese community while they sang Christmas Carols.
Also, the St Lawrence was the first Maltese Band to perform in ‘Malta House’, and appropriately, by invitation of the Maltese Ambassador to Belgium, the band prepared and performed this beautiful programme :
|F. V. Suppe
|Arr. Mauro Farrugia
|Best of Zucchero
|Arr. R. Zammit
|The Best of Maltese Folklore
|Arr. A. Chircop
This programme was very well received by those present. After this programme, there were a number of speeches and presentations to the committee, the director of the Philharmonie Royale Concordia, and the Maltese Ambassador H.E. Pierre Clive Agius. After an official reception for this occasion, the Philharmonie Royale Concordia performed a programme for the occasion as well.
Saturday 18th way the Band’s last day in Belgium, which started early in the morning where the group was invited to a traditional Christmas Breakfast in a Farmhouse in Ottignies. Afterwards, the Philharmonie performed a concert for the group, where the Maltese contingent group could observe how this orchestra
Nevertheless, this trip came to an end, and under threat of a severe snowstorm, the group left Belgium and landed in Malta around midnight of the same day. This trip was a great success in all its facets, musically, logistically and entertainment wise, and this was confirmed by both those who were part of it and in various articles on local media.
Another Musical Exchange
After only 8 years and on the occasion of the 135th Anniversary from the foundation of the Club, the Central Committee believed that in order to mark this occasion, the Saint Lawrence Band shall be once again Vittoriosa’s and Malta’s representative. And for yet another time, the plans were to do a musical exchange similar to the one done in 2010. To this effect, the Saint Lawrence Band was invited to play in the Feast of Saint Mauro in Viagrande, Sicily, between the 13 and 16 January 2018, while on the other hand, the Associazione Culturale Bandistica Synphonica Ciita` di Viagrande was invited for the Feast of Saint Lawrence in Vittoriosa between the 7 and 10 August 2018.
During its visit in Malta, the Associazione Culturale Musicale Bandistica Synphonica Citta` di Viagrande participated three times in the feast of Saint Lawrence. The group arrived in Malta on Tuesday 7 August 2018, and a visit to Rabat and Mdina followed shortly. In the evening, the Viagrande band played for the first time in the Feast of Saint Lawrence by performing a short band march together with the Saint Lawrence Band along Main Gate street, just before the Vittoriosa in Festa Musical Concert. The group was invited to a light reception in Palazzo Huesca and shortly afterwards attended for the Musical Concert where reciprocal presentations between the bands were done.
On Wednesday 8 August 2018, the group from Viagrande visited Malta’s Capital City, Valletta. However, in the evening, the band once again played in the Feast of Saint Lawrence by performing a band march and a concert. In fact, the Associazione Musicale Culturale Bandistica Synphonica Citta` di Viagrande played band marches through Main Gate Street and following that performed a musical Concert on the marvellous bandstand of the Saint Lawrence Band. It must be noted that the Viagrande band also played the hymn of Saint Lawrence when the statue of Saint Lawrence reached Piazza Vittoriosa.
On 9th August 2018, the band members and supporters were invited to attend for the morning march of the Feast of Saint Lawrence and then in the evening, the Associazione Culturale Musicale Bandistica Synphonica Citta` di Viagrande performed another musical concert in Vittoriosa, in the area known as Sally Port during La Notte di San Lorenzo. The musical engagements came to an end with another band march in the Vittoriosa Water Front. This successful visit came to an end on Friday 10 August 2018.
The Associazione Culturale Musicale Bandistica Synphonica Citta` di Viagrande
This musical formation in the town of Viagrande is a continuation of an ancient tradition which goes back a number of centuries. In fact, the first documents marking the presence of a musical formation date back to 1800. In addition, specific reference in official documents to a band in Viagrande dates to 1848, the year of revolutions in Italy.
One can say that the reputation of the Viagrande band is spread throughout Sicily and even in Italy through musical performances in Concerts and band marches in the most important cities of the region and also in Calabria. In the past years the band of Viagrande was immensely popular for its presence and participation in a great number of Feasts of patron saints in most towns of the area. A special mention was its participation in the feast of Sant’Alfio, when travelling was done on carts and was considered as a long journey.
In the years 1978,1979 and 1980, the Associazione Culturale Musicale Bandistica Synphonica Citta` di Viagrande participated in the “Festival delle Bande Musicali”, which was organised by a shop named Pro-Loco, situated in Viagrande. It must be noted that the band received positive feedback and acclamations from the general public.
Under the baton of Mro V. Aprile, the band of Viagrande was the first band from the Etna area that organised musical concerts with the participation of the “Cantanti Lirici”. This initiative was widely acclaimed by the general public and raised great interest, to the extent that audiences were always huge. In the year 2011, on the initiative and interest of Local Councillor Antonio Billone, the band of Viagrande was recognised from the Culture Minister as a musical formation which works in the interests and for the benefit of the local community.
The Saint Lawrence Band in Viagrande
The Saint Lawrence Band of Vittoriosa visited Viagrande, Sicily from Saturday 13 January to Tuesday 16 January 2018. This visit was the first part of the musical exchange with the Associazione Culturale Musicale Bandistica Synphonica Citta` di Viagrande. The group, composed of musicians, committee members and supporters, which amounted to approximately 54, departed to Catania early Saturday 13 January and arrived in the Hotel in Acitrezza at noon, following a visit to Mount Etna shortly after its arrival. In the evening, the group from Vittoriosa attended the light show and the synchronisation of lights and fireworks in Viagrande for the feast of Saint Mauro, following a short visit to Catania’s city centre.
The following day on Sunday 14 January, the Saint Lawrence Band, accompanied by its supporters, performed for the first time in the feast of Saint Mauro. Firstly, a festive march was done early afternoon and soon afterwards accompanied the procession with the holy relic of Saint Mauro. One can easily say that the two performances were a huge success, honouring both Vittoriosa and Malta.
On Monday 15 January, the musical performances of the Saint Lawrence Band reached their peak as this was the day of the feast of Saint Mauro. The first performance done by the band was early morning where it accompanied the Mayor of Viagrande from his residence to the parish church for the holy mass. Following this, at about noon. The Saint Lawrence Band performed a concert under the baton of Mro Jonathan Abela in the main square of Viagrande, and played the following music:
|J. De Haan
|Arr. A. Calleja
|The Last Waltz
|Arr. C. Pisani
|You’ll be in My Heart
|Arr. J. Van Kraeydonck
This concert was well acclaimed by the general public. During this concert, it must be said that presentations were exchanged between officials from the Saint Lawrence Band Club and the Associazione Culturale Musicale Bandistica Synphonica Citta` di Viagrande. Following the end of this concert, the Saint Lawrence Band accompanied the statue of Saint Mauro following the triumphal beginning of the procession till the procession’s early stages. This brought to a successful end the musical performances of the Saint Lawrence Band in Viagrande.
On Tuesday 16 January, the group visited the picturesque city of Taormina and it returned back to Malta in the evening, satisfied with the successful outcome of this musical visit.
In order to commemorate the 140 anniversary from the foundation of the Saint Lawrence Band Club, as well as the 300 Anniversary from the Consecration of the Saint Lawrence Church in Vittoriosa, the Saint Lawrence Band Club together with the Parish Church visited Rome between the 23 and 26 of April 2023. With a group of more than 100 participants, the Saint Lawrence Band Club played 3 times, together with visits to places related to the life of Saint Lawrence. In fact, following the arrival of the whole group, visits in Rome were made to places of particular interest in relation to Saint Lawrence such as San Lorenzo in Fonte and San Lorenzo in Lucina, where the gridiron of the martyrdom is found, and a mass was held for all the group.
On Monday 24 April 2023, the group visited the town of Amaseno. Upon arrival, the group was welcomed by the local authorities including the Mayor, Archpriest and the Amaseno local band. The Saint Lawrence Band Club joined the Amaseno band in this welcome and band marches were played together. Afterwards, courtesies were exchanged in the Amaseno Church.
Tuesday 25 April 2023 was the International Day of Saint Lawrence organised at Basilica San Lorenzo Fuori Le Mura. To this end, the Saint Lawrence Band performed a concert between 9am and 10am in front of the church. Following the concert, the gorup of Vittoriosa made its official entrance in the Basilica, accomapnied by the playing of the hymn of Saint LAwrence so popular in Vittoriosa. At 11.30am, mass on this occasion was held accordingly. The activity continued in Chiesa Rettoria San Lorenzo in Panisperna where the band played marches in the internal courtyard. The concert played by the band was as follows:
|Air for Band
|Best of Maltese Folklore
|Arr. A. Chircop
|Flying Throughout the Years
|Cavalleria Rusticana (Intermezzo)
|F. Von Suppe
|Queen’s Park Melody
|J. De Haan
The most important day of theis visit was Wednesday 26 April 2023 during the group’s visit to the Vatican. In fact, at 9.00am the Saint Lawrence Band begain playing band marches during the greetings of His Holiness Pope Francis to the general public during the weekly Audience. There is no doubt that such occasion is memorable as the Pope was accomapanied by the pupular hymn March of Giuseppe Frendo and the famous Letter A, together with other Maltese marches. Or particular note was also the short meeting the group had with His Holiness the Pope. The Saint Lawrence Band Club concluded its musical performances with a band march from Saint Peter’s Square to Vida Della Conciliazione. A visit which celebrated greatly these two important anniversaries for Vittoriosa.