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This year’s celebration of 7000 years of culture in Gozo came to an end with a magnificent symphonic concert given by the La Stella Band of Victoria.  Festival Mediterranea’s final evening regaled the remarkable audience that filled the Teatru Astra with an extravaganza of music, directed by the nationally renowned Mro Prof. Joseph Vella, which included variety, proficiency, zest and melody that delighted and thrilled the grand auditorium. 
Visually it was also brilliant. The dauntingly vast stage of the Teatru Astra, perfectly illuminated to please both performers and audience, was crowded with smartly uniformed musicians, old and young, with grey hair, closely cropped hair and no hair. They were set out neatly in a terraced semi-circle, with a screen serving as a backdrop and carrying images projected to illustrate the music being performed. 
Dr Joseph Grech, president of the La Stella Philharmonic Society, headed the distinguished guests who, together with the audience of local music enthusiasts, invited foreign residents and random visitors, enjoyed works by Émile Waldteufel, Rod Temperton, Carl Orff, Georges Bizet and Pyotr I. Tchaikovsky. No doubt, it is the 1812 Overture by the latter that shall remain with those who attended the philharmonic concert on Saturday, November 21, 2009.
The concert started with Waldteufel’s waltz Estudiantina op.191, a work that imparted, at times a mood of festivity and merriment, at others sobriety and nonchalance. 
In tribute to the recently deceased Michael Jackson, the Band performed excerpts from R.Temperton’s title track Thriller, said to be Jackson’s most prestigious and biggest-selling album of all time. It was thrilling to listen to the La Stella Band acquitting itself so highly in this basically aggressive, soulful and surreal composition.
The La Stella Band manifested an equally assertive temperament in the more popular Carmina Burana, by C. Orff, from which a selection consisting of the first two poems was performed. The mesmerizing rhythm and the captivating melody of “Fortuna imperatrix mundi” filled up the theatre with colourful and spectacular music – a paradoxical pre-taste of the Tchaikovxky compositions that would conclude the evening.
But there was still another contribution to the evening before Tchaikovsky in the musical gem that is Bizet’s famous I pescatori di perle. The early 20th century musical director of the La Stella Band, Giuseppe Giardini Vella, had made an arrangement of this overture for his band and in it he had provided sections for soloists wherein they could show their talent and skill, which is what Michel Refalo (trumpet), Mark Schembri (althorn) and Anton Sacco (euphonium) did. Tutti and soloists shared with the audience the beautiful melodies that Bizet span out of his genius in this specimen of French romanticism.
Both the Marche Slave and the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky are, in fairly different ways, a passionate depiction of Slav nationalism at its most charming and dramatic. The La Stella Band, under the masterly baton of Prof. Vella, performed both compositions with professionality and virtuosity. These two pieces, by no means light-weight compositions, showed the extraordinary amount of talent that resides in the band’s ranks and the high profile that this musical society is giving to Gozitan contemporary culture. 
For a number of years the 1812 Overture constituted the undisputed banner of the La Stella Band after the Band had performed it for the first time on the island to the joy of the Gozitan music buffs and the enthusiasm of its supporters.
The symphonic concert by the La Stella Philharmonic Band concluded with the performance of the band’s rousing innu, followed the Innu lil Għawdex (one of the earliest compositions of the musical director) and the national anthem. 
The evening was introduced by Orietta Gatt and included the distribution of certificates of service to a number of bandsmen, committee members and supporters. A printed flier with programme notes, expertly written by Dr Maria Frendo was handed out to the patrons as they entered the theatre.
The brilliant concert marked the conclusion of the annual Festival Mediterranea for 2009.

Photos: Joe Attard