Choir Trip to Malta and GozoDecember 2011

Malta and Gozo, 2011

Thursday 15th December

After an evening of sorting music after the Carol Service in School we set off at 0145 for Gatwick and an early flight, arriving in Malta in the late morning. Zarb coaches were there to meet us – and indeed they transported us throughout our trip and were very helpful. Our hotel was in a fantastic position in Valetta overlooking the harbour towards the three cities. All went for lunch in Valetta, had a short tour around Valetta. It was interesting to see the plaque commemorating the George Cross that was awarded to the Maltese people by George VI as a result of the siege and the resistance of the Maltese people and the eventual successful relief in 1943.

Malta and Gozo, 2011 Malta and Gozo, 2011

We then met up for a short and very tired practice. We ate in the hotel in the evening and then there was an early night for all.

Friday 16th December

We discovered at breakfast that all the doors were fully open and we were more less al fresco with an amazing view, and a lot of activity on the water.

Malta and Gozo, 2011 Malta and Gozo, 2011

A ferry took us to Sliema where we booked a fairly length cruise around the extensive harbour(s) with Captain Morgan cruises. There was a lot to see, and we were very fortunate that the weather was fine and hot, suntan cream being needed by several.

Malta and Gozo, 2011 Malta and Gozo, 2011

As we toured round the guide gave a lot of information about the Knights of St John, the battles with the Turks (another long siege which was eventually ended in 1565), the arrival of Napoleon, and his defeat by the British, which then led to almost 200 years of British rule – no surprise that the phone boxes and pillar boxes are red, and that the traffic drives on the left. Then back via the ferry to the hotel, where after lunch we practised for the evening.

Arriving at Villa De Grigio we were met by the police guard, and Fiona who manages the High Commissioner’s Residence, and settled in for the concert at 7pm. We sang for a little under an hour and were much appreciated by a good audience which included various dignitaries such as the Russian, Greek and Austrian ambassadors. This was followed by a very elegant reception where the pupils did well talking to several members of the audience. The High Commissioner, Louise Stanton, was a lot of fun, and on being given a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates told us of her visit to the Italian ambassador for dinner, at the end of which a waiter brought a pyramid of these chocolates. Unfortunately she had no one else to share the joke, the advert being limited to the UK. Afterwards back to the hotel.

Saturday 17th December

An early start to Gozo via the ferry to Mgarr. Herer another coach took us first to Ggantija which is a prehistoric monument.

Malta and Gozo, 2011 Malta and Gozo, 2011 Malta and Gozo, 2011 Malta and Gozo, 2011 Malta and Gozo, 2011 Malta and Gozo, 2011

Then to a craft centre where they make the glass, lace, woollen garments and leather products. Several bought things here, before we went on to Victoria the capital of Gozo. The town is also called Rabat, but the Governor at the end of the nineteenth century renamed it Victoria to celebrate Victoria’s diamond jubilee. The concert here at 1230 was given in conjunction with the Circolo Gozitano (a cultural and historical society) and the Gozo Rotary Club – followed by an excellent meal in this remarkably elegant building in the oldest part of the town. From here we went to Xlendi where a few were tempted by the sea.

Malta and Gozo, 2011 Malta and Gozo, 2011 Malta and Gozo, 2011

Then back to the ferry and met by another bus on Malta for our trip back to Valetta. A meal in the evening had been organised in a very elegant restaurant where we took over most of one of the rooms, and towards the end sang a couple of pieces, appreciated by the staff (whom we had asked), and other diners, and quite whimsically by a few others. The sixth form went off, while the year 10’s and 11’s with the staff went for a walk around the town – still busy, and ended up in the Fun Train which did a tour of Valetta, via the waterfront.

Malta and Gozo, 2011 Malta and Gozo, 2011 Malta and Gozo, 2011

There was music in all the carriages which was sung along to by some very excitable and noisy urchins to the amusement of many (and to the dismay of AHB’s and LWM’s eardrums). It took a little time for everyone to settle down.

Sunday 18th December

After a more leisurely breakfast we went down to St Paul’s Anglican Pro Cathedral where we were due to sing at 11am. We had a good practice in the crypt which was amazingly large, with a good acoustic, and lots of arches. We were made very welcome by the Chancellor, Simon Godfrey, Mike Turner and the organist Hugo Agius. Afterwards Father Simon let us take photographs on his terrace which overlooked part of the harbour including... It was customary for the choir to be robed, and so we all looked very elegant in the red cassocks.

Malta and Gozo, 2011 Malta and Gozo, 2011

After time for more shopping, and lunch, we met to go to St John’s Co Cathedral for a practice before the service at 5.30pm. We had an interesting time sorting out balance with the organ that AHB was playing. The service was in Maltese but fortunately one of the cathedral staff indicated when we were to sing. Here too we were welcomed by the clergy, and enjoyed being in this remarkably historic building. It was wonderful to be able to sing in St Paul’s in the morning and St John’s in the afternoon, both with excellent acoustics.

Malta and Gozo, 2011 Malta and Gozo, 2011

Monday 19th December

A fairly gentle start to the day before being picked up to go to the airport, where all was organised easily. It was a good flight, arriving a little early, and being picked up by our minibuses for a wet drive back to Blundell’s.

It was an excellent visit, with a lot of musical talent, and socially engaging pupils, who were good at chatting to the various people we met. Hopefully they will realise how privileged we were to sing in the various venues, and have imbued something of the remarkable history of these islands.