Music in Hamrun

St.Joseph Band Club

When in 1881 Hamrun became a Parish, It was still being called 'Casale San Giuseppe' and the people still had a great devotion towards this Saint. Meanwhile they knew nothing about St.Cajetan, in fact seven years after the installation of the parish, a Social club was formed which took the name of St.Joseph even though the feast of the new patron St.Cajetan had already been celebrated for the previous seven years.

The development of the parish by the end of the 19th century was not the only factor for the transformation of this Social Club into a Band Club. There was a movement all over the towns and villages, to form bands of their own. The official opening of the De Rohan band of Zebbug headed this movement for those who had musical groups to form official Band Club. The St.Joseph group was already active even before taking its official place as a Band Club on the 18th August 1889.

From records in the archives of the club we know that in the late 1800s, a group of young people encouraged by Guzeppi Mintoff, went to study music with the intent of forming a band. A few established musicians joined them from other bands later on to form the St.Joseph Band Club under the direction of Mro Carmelo Doneo who led the band up to 1899, and the leadership of the first president Temi Conti who chaired it 1889 - 1896.

At the turn of the century, the band had improved to such a point that it would not only go out and play for other village feasts, but also perform concerts overseas in places like Catania Italy. Between the 1920s and the 1950s there was also a group within this club which was wholly made up of mandolins and guitars.

It's a shame both Hamrun Band Clubs have political affiliations and this has brought antagonism in Hamrun even up to the 1980s. This band sides with the Nationalist Party.

The premises are in an excellent location in front of the parish church of St.Cajetan. Until the 1950s it had only one floor above the ground floor, but as membership increased, it was found necessary to expand. The yard at the back was covered up and made into a proper rehearsal hall with a stage. Sometimes it is rented out and at other times like New Years eve and Carnival, balls are or used to be organized. Further enlargement had to go the only way, upwards, because of the restrictions of the lot, and another floor was built.

Nowadays the first floor has the formal meeting halls that include archived music, trophies and flags, some of which were presented to the club by ex-members who had emigrated and come back for the festivities. The top floor built in 1952 as activities in the club multiplied, has the billiards and table tennis tables, with some space for card tables, something which has not gone out of fashion over the years.

Music is also taught to young band members in this space. In 1980, the original backyard covered with a glass roof, was given a solid concrete roof thus creating an open terrace above it at the back.

On the ground floor there is also a small cafeteria and more space for card tables. Maestro Willie Attard led the band longest. He is known for the Innu Marc and also for his longer composition Tifhir lil San Guzepp. Maestro Miruzzi led the band for a long number of years too, and is remembered for his majestic composition of the hymn dedicated to St.Cajetan which is always performed every year by the band on an outdoor stage near the church, with choir and soloists, for the feast of the Saint.

The main scope nowadays for the existence of the band is mainly bringing the joy of music to Hamrun on the St.Cajetan and other feasts with its marching music along the streets and performance of static programs on a stand near the church. The best of such programs are specially composed Hymns for the Saint.

The Standard or emblem is blue with a crown with a branch of white lilies passing through it.

List of Bandmasters of St Joseph Band Club over the ages:
Mro.Carmelo Doneo 1889 - 1899
Mro. Antonio Miruzzi 1899 - 1928
Mro. Willie Attard 1928 - 1958
Mro. Joseph Sammut 1958 - 1970
Mro. Anthony Chircop 1970 - 1975
Mro. Philip Gatt 1975 - 1984
Mro. Lawrence Borg 1984 - 1991
Mro.Raymond Cremona 1991 - 1992
Mro. Noel Beck 1992 - 1996
Mro. John I. Borg 1996 ’Äì
Mro. Ray Sciberras - 2011
Mro. Jonathan Borg 2011 -

Immaculate Conception Band Club

The story of this band is more recent and spans only a few decades since the inception of the second Parish within Hamrun.
The idea to form a band within the new parish started as early as 1978, then a year after, with the help of Anthony Borg and Maestro Alfons Maria Vella of the St.Cajetan band club, a committee was formed on the 22nd August of the next year.

The first meetings were held in the 'Victoria United Football Club' of Hamrun, and for a while these same premises also served the new band club. A design for the emblem was adopted, being a white background bordered with a gold band and the words Nome di Maria meaning The name of Mary in gold in the centre.

In August 1979, a delegation was sent to the pastor Dun Manwel Agius to discuss what part the new band could play during the feast of the Immaculate Conception.¬İThe band had its first premises in a rented garage in Canon Bonnici Str. then after a while a house in Villambrosa Str. and after two years moved to another one in Fr.Mifsud Str. Nowadays, hoping it will be the last move, a larger premises closer to the church in Fr.Muscat square, was bought for the Club. At this time, the band was already venturing out of Hamrun giving service to other villages.

During the general annual meeting of 1993 it was decided to change the looks of the emblem. Now it became light blue and the font of the letters changed to a more modern one. That same year the band took part in a program to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the installation of the parish. This consisted of classical music presented at the Manoel theatre in Valletta in the presence of dignitaries including the President of Malta Censu Tabone.

In 1996 the band played for the 90th anniversary of the founding of the St.Cajetan Band Club and also celebrated with the Hamrun Spartans Soccer club when they won a place in the Premier Division in 2000. All this of course without forgetting the primary aim of the existence of the band that is to solemnize the outside festivities of the feast of the parish itself. Though the members, like the band itself are fairly young, they are always trying to do their best, so to celebrate their accomplishments, on the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the band, that is the 29th August 2004, the new club premises was officially opened by President emeritus of Malta Prof.Guido de Marco and blessed by a previous pastor Dun Nazzarenu Caruana.


Radio City Opera House

This Opera House was inaugurated with a grand carnival dance just as the Second World War ended in 1945. It was the idea of Mr.Charles Schembri who spent $320000 to build it. It is situated on the main road a few hundred yards west of Blata l-Bajda.

It was well suited for the staging of operas, serving its purpose for around twenty years and from its stage many a Maltese singer launched an opera career. The first operatic presentation was Cavalleria Rusticana organized by an Maltese amateur company on the 22nd February. After that came Lucia di Lamermoor, La Boheme, La Traviata and I Pagliacci. Next year, the repertoire consisted of 12 operas which were: Rigoletto, Tosca, Carmen, Fedora, Madame Butterfly, Werther, La Boheme, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, I Pagliacci, Il Matrimonio Segreto and L'Elisir d'Amore. Among the singers who were all Maltese, was Paul Asciak who progressed to international fame. Some others did the rounds of Maltese festas both inside and outside the parish churches.

The theatre very soon became a popular venue for opera, operetta, variety concerts, drama and carnival balls. The 1946 - 47 season saw the amalgamation of the three Maltese opera companies giving 17 operas among which La Sonnambula, Faust, Don Pasquale, Andrea Chenier, L'Amico Fritz, Manon Lescaut, and La Favorita being new for the theatre.

The 1947 - 48 season saw no operas performed by Maltese amateur singers and in a way this was better for many of them went overseas to try their luck.

1948 was the year of the Operetta with the Italian Operetta Company Citta di Milano coming to Malta presenting Madame di Tebe, Primrosa, La danza delle Libellule, Il paese dei Campanelli, Scugnizza, and La Donna Perduta. The next year, the Italian impresario Luigi Cantoni was given permitted to bring over an Italian Opera Company to perform at the Radio City and during the next ten years there were various opera seasons by Italian Opera Companies and some 37 different operas were performed.

Here one must consider the many famous singers who performed at the theatre, among whom were Anselmo Colzani, Gino Bechi , Elena Rizzieri, Afro Poli, Gino Mattera and Angelo Lo Forese. With these we must also mention the debuts of some Maltese singers like Paul Asciak, Oreste Kirkop, John Lopez and Giuseppe Satariano who were later to make names for themselves in Italy, England and the United States.

In 1959, the Hamrun Choir, which was reaching its peak, presented its first Oratorio in this theatre. The production of the Oratorio Messiah by G F Handel was directed by the founder of the Choir Dun Guzepp Cachia, Making the Hamrun choir the first all Maltese group to present the Oratorio.

Around 1974 when interest in Opera began to wane, the theatre became the property of Mr.Sunny Baldacchino who turned it into a cinema. It was even used for wrestling and boxing matches for a while and as time went on, activities held there became fewer and fewer.

Nowadays the Radio City Opera House exists only as an old facade on the main road and in the memory of many who were entertained or took part in celebrations within its walls. Labour Party headquarters now takes its place after being demolished in 1992 and the front door becoming their back emergency exit!

Hamrun Choir

As soon as he was ordained priest in 1949 Dun Guzepp Cachia founded the Hamrun Choir for the betterment of church liturgy.

Against the odds and attitudes of the times when in church young men were separated from young women, he started by calling members from both male and female groups of the Catholic Action movement and teaching this newly formed choir a Mass in Gregorian chant Missa de Angelis. This became so popular in Hamrun that it was sung every Sunday from then on until the Vatican II Council changes.

He cultivated this group so much that not only did it serve the parish in liturgical music, but it also soon branched out from inside Hamrun parish church to enhance the outside festivities of the local feast by singing with the bands, and also feasts all around the islands, inside and outside the churches.

It was the Hamrun Choir formed of S.A.T.B. members, that in 1959 was the first all Maltese group to perform the Handel Messiah with a full orchestra at the Radio City Opera House. Those days the choir was about 80 members strong. In 1960 for their yearly oratorio, on the centenary of the shipwreck of St Paul on the island, Fr Cachia directed the choir in the Mendelssohn Oratorio Paulus at the Catholic Institute of Floriana. For these festivities it was the official choir chosen by the authorities and sang Masses in the Valletta cathedral and also on St.Paul Island.

After this came another presentation of the Messiah followed by Judas Macchabaeus by Handel and the year after the Mendelssohn Elijah Oratorio.

On top of all this, Fr.Cachia taught his expertise of down to earth manual work to the members of the choir. Together they extended a staircase to the roof of one of the side aisles of the church and roofed over an area to serve as a rehearsal hall. They mixed and poured cement together and did all the embellishment work inside which by the way was planned by the artist Chev.EmVin Cremona, a great friend of the priest. There were other kinds of fun too. The choir always organized hikes and walks in the country where all the members took part, but the best was when the male section went for the yearly trip to Gozo! The ladies did the same on their own too.

Sad to say, the interest in choral work began to wane in Hamrun in the 1980s and 1990s and towards the end of the life of Fr.Cachia, this seems to have robbed him of the consolation he needed to keep going.

The Greenfields ’Äì Folk Group

Right after Vatican II, Fr. Joseph Pace from Hamrun contacted a few young people to organize a Folk Mass for the youth of Hamrun. Joe Tanti, his fiancee' Carmen Vella and their friend Charles Bajada, all from Hamrun were pioneers among others. The Mass was launched, at the chapel of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Hamrun, and turned out to be a huge success. Hundreds of young people attended every Sunday morning to hear the sound of guitars being played in church for the first time! One particular Sunday, Television Malta decided to screen it live. After this Mass, Fr Charles Vella, the Director of the Cana movement in Malta, who was in charge of TV transmission, offered them a spot on a religious TV program Djalogu. In March 1970, the singers Joe, Carmen, Charles and Lino met to start rehearsing for their first TV appearance.

The Green Room at the TV studio gave them an idea for a stage name to adopt - The Greenfields. Lino, who was about to take up a course of study at University decided not to pursue with Joe, Carmen and Charles music plans, so the trio The Greenfields was born. The first TV program for The Greenfields was Ittra Ittra in December 1970. The director who saw their potential offered them a guest appearance on the monthly TV music program Malteen¬İin 1971, while booking them for a series of programs Karusell starting January 1972. At the same time, another television director, Mr John Hurle Hobbs, invited the group to appear in Favoriti and Folklobeat, two of his most popular TV shows and in 1973, the most popular and longest TV series called Ghalenija.

Following these first television appearances and a few cable radio shows, the group became quite popular and was soon being invited to sing in various venues around Malta. For the first two years, the Group based most of its singing on material recorded by foreign singers, then in May 1972 The Greenfields started to include a few songs in Maltese in their repertoire to sing during Bejn Xemx u Bahar, a series of cultural evenings held throughout the year in a number of towns and villages all around Malta, organized by the Ministry for Education.

After the release of their first Long Playing album in 1974, the 'Maltese' sound of the Group was established. After so many years, songs like "Il-Karozzin", "Il-Vapur ta' l-Art", "Il-Banda t'Indri", "It-Terramaxka", "Il-Lift tal-Barrakka" and others still sound fresh as when first recorded and their popularity is still very evident.

After a while, The Greenfields became cabaret regulars at different leading hotels, clubs and restaurants in Malta. The Greenfields Folk Group performed in concert on many occasions. The first open air concert being in Sept 1972, when they sang in a Youth Festival held as part of the National Day festivities. Another was the Cantasud 1974 spectacle, at the Independence Arena in Floriana when they sang shoulder to shoulder with some famous Italian voices.

Besides performing extensively in Malta and Gozo, The Greenfields have proudly sung their Maltese compositions in more than fifteen different countries.¬İThey have also released their music on various records, cds and cassettes, mostly music composed for them by Joe.

In 1990 Charles Bajada passed away unexpectedly and this was such a shock, that Joe wanted to stop the group's activities. But, on the insistence of many, Joe decided not to quit, so The Greenfields was to continue as a folk duo. In July 1995, the duo released its 10th long playing album, for the first time on Compact Disc format, "X'Ghandna Mid-Dinja". The title song became another big hit.

From 1991 to 1999, Joe and Carmen presented a four hour radio program called Greenfields Magazine¬İevery Sunday afternoon on Smash Radio, where they played pop music records, read fan mail, gave out soccer results and information about the music world and obviously sang a couple of Greenfields' songs as well. During 1998 and most of 1999, on Smash Television, The Greenfields have presented the weekends' edition of Smash Breakfast every Saturday morning, with a repeat on Sunday.¬İIn December 1999, The Greenfields released their third Christmas album, this time on CD format. Trevor Zahra, one of Malta most versatile authors, wrote most of the lyrics on the album while the music was by Joe. The Year 2000 marked the 30th year of uninterrupted singing for the group.

After presenting different programs on Smash TV and Radio for eight years, The Greenfields, as from January 2000, moved to a different Station. This is RTK Radio, transmitting on 103 FM Stereo. The Greenfields were the host of a two hour program show every Saturday and Sunday.

As part of the National Celebrations to mark Malta's joining the European Union in 2004, The Greenfields took part, together with other artists, in a program of traditional music and song entitled Welcomeurope from Senglea waterfront.

St.Cajetan Band Club.

It all started with a group of young musicians from the St.Joseph Band Club under the leadership of Francesco Buttigieg meeting in front of the Parish church and deciding to form a new Band Club. Actually they sought to split after disagreements with the committee.

One week after, on 24 June 1906 they acquired a house as their premises and named the band for the patron Saint, St.Cajetan. The nickname 'tat-Tamal' came from a neighbouring business owner who was called by that name. On the other hand, they started calling the St.Joseph Band club 'tal-Miskina' because many of its members were leaving them to join this new band club. The official opening was the 3rd Aug. 1906 and a few days after the band gave its first service to Hamrun by playing marches for the St.Cajetan feast which falls on the Sunday after the 7th August.

On the 7th September was the first service outside Hamrun when the band was hired by the people of Isla to play for their feast of Our Lady.¬İThe Band continued to flourish and had to change premises 4 times until in 1926 while the band itself was playing at Ragusa Italy, some members signed a contract for the present premises which was officially inaugurated on the 31st July 1927. Its first president was Gavino Portelli while the first bandmaster was Maestro Giuseppe Sammut.

Over the years the band different personalities as members, like its president Dr.Anton Buttigieg who became President of Malta; Dun Frans Camilleri a renowned Poet who was its spiritual director for a number of years, and others.

The present Club building is situated on the same side of the main road a few hundred yards east of the other band club. It is fitting to take a look at the premises and its contents: The Ground Floor with its majestic entrance with beautiful paintings on the ceilings. Downstairs hall for various activities also open air area at the back including a garden with a date palm symbol of the nickname of the Band club. The First floor with Dun Frans Camilleri Hall is better known as the Red Hall and serves as a place for committee meetings. Archives room, Trophy room. Concert Hall. Chapel dedicated to St.Cajetan. In these premises one can also find flags donated by emigrants who still kept the club to heart. All work done on these premises was through donations and physical efforts by the members.

The standard or emblem is red and an open book in the middle bearing the words Fittxu l-ewwel is-saltna ta Alla meaning Seek ye first the kingdom of God which is under a golden crown and has a branch of lilies on each side. This makes up part of the decor of the entrance, as does St.Cajetan's vision painted on the ceiling of the entrance hall. INNU MARC

List of Bandmasters of St Cajetan band Club over the ages:
Mro. Guzeppi Sammut 1906 - 1907
Mro. Gioacchino Micallef 1907 - 1908
Prof. Salvatore Abela Scolaro 1908 - 1910
Mro. Guzeppi Micallef 1911
Prof. Salvatore Abela Scolaro 1912 - 1913
Mro. Salvu Mallia 1914 - 1920
Mro. Antonio Micallef 1921 - 1922
Mro Ganni Grech 1923 - 1930
Mro. Emmanuele Spiteri 1931
Mro Antonio Zammit 1932 - 1943
Mro Joseph Abela Scolaro 1943 - 1972
Mro. Nazzareno Mifsud 1973 - 1985
Mro Andrew Coleiro 1985 - 1990
Mro Ray Sciberras 1990 - 2010
Mro Jonathan Borg 2011 -