Regions and Cities of Europe: One of Malta’s best known choirs

  • Schola Cantorum Jubilate
  • Marouska Attard
  • Europe

When it comes to choral music and choral tradition, few will question the fact that the northern countries have a greater tradition of choral music than the southern Mediterranean countries. Several reasons can be put forward for this, but mainly it can be argued that climate has played a prominent role in deciding this. People living in the Mediterranean are most of the time engaged into outside activities thanks to a cooler and drier climate while people in the north prefer to socialize with others in indoor activities hence the resulting choral tradition. With particular reference to the Maltese archipelago, a group of small islands in the Mediterranean, another reason could be that there is no record whatsoever of folk songs in our culture. Thus the attitude towards the Maltese with regards to choral singing was somewhat lukewarm.

This is why, way back in the year 2000, it was no easy task for Stefan Attard – a fanatic of choral music – to set up a choir of mixed young singers – the origin of today’s Schola Cantorum Jubilate. On the other hand the fact that his sister, Marouska Attard, was a budding music student at the time helped in no little way to pave the way.

Schola Cantorum Jubilate has now established itself as one of the affirmed choirs in Malta. Its mission is to improve the overall image of choral music and get more people involved in this beautiful world of choral singing. The choir also seeks to create opportunities for its choristers to enhance their vocal and musical knowledge and help them develop strong personalities through a sense of belonging, teamwork and commitment.

The choristers are all young people who come from various sectors of society; some work in the fields of accountancy, education, engineering and law; others are still university students. However, they are all linked through their passion for music. Their director Marouska Attard - herself now an established singer and a university graduate in music –is a hard worker and the choir owes its success partly to her teaching. She is an energetic and talented musician who seeks high performance for the amusement of its listeners.

Schola Cantorum Jubilate specializes in sacred polyphony though they also sing their other secular genres. Pieces in their repertoire include works by the masters of polyphonic music: Palestrina, Victoria, Tallis and Byrd and the late Domenico Bartolluci. The classists, Bach and Mozart are also part of the choir’s repertoire together with choral works by Maltese contemporary composers Charles Camilleri, Paul Portelli, Ruben Zahra and Christopher Muscat.

During these fifteen years, Schola Cantorum Jubilate has performed in prestigious venues and delighted many audiences both in Malta and abroad. Concerts have been performed at St. John’s Co-Cathedral and the Auberge de Castille, Palazzo Parisio in Valletta (Malta) and at the President’s Palace (Attard, Malta). As the choir gained in experience, they felt that it was worth a try to spread their wings abroad. Their international debut occurred in November 2003, when they participated in the Festival Rencontres Musicales de Méditerranée in Bastia, Corsica. Here the choir performed with musicians from the academies of St. Cecilia in Rome and Luigi Cherubini in Florence.

Encouraged by these international performances, the Schola Cantorum Jubilate organised a music-cultural tour to Rome and Assisi. Apart from visiting the most popular and historical sites, the choir sang ‘Tu es Petrus’ (Perosi) to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during an audience in St. Peter's Square. They also animated High Mass at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, at the Basilicas of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome and that of St. Francis in Assisi. A high for the choristers during this tour was when they had the opportunity to meet the late Cardinal Domenico Bartolucci who had been the conductor of the Sistine Chapel’s Choir at the Vatican.

This tour was followed by another, this time to Austria, in September 2009. Here the Schola sang in prominent venues like St. Stephen's Cathedral, St. Peter's Church (Vienna), the Old Cathedral of Linz, Hellbrunn (Salzburg) and the Abbeys of Melk and Göttweig. They also took part in cultural events in the city of Linz, the European Capital for Culture for that year. They also took part in ‘Voices of the World’ at the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.

Then in June 2012, through an invitation from the Xagħra Local Council the choir visited Chevaigné in France. Apart from the cultural visits and tours around the regions of Brittany and Normandy, during their four day stay, Schola Cantorum Jubilate sang in the Parish Church of St. Pierre of Chevaigné, in the Cathedral of Rennes and in St. Pierre Parish Church in Mont Saint Michel.

On other occasions, the choir has collaborated with professional musicians and ensembles. To name but a few, last year, together with members from the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, they have executed Maurice Durufle’s Requiem. Moreover they have worked closely with the Maltese composer Ruben Zahra on the project Vrbe Nova. This was an online choir community project celebrating Valletta 2018 European Capital of Culture. The project presented a music video-art projection featuring different choirs. In November 2013, the choir participated in the Malta International Choirs Festival. On this occasion they were awarded the Silver Medal Award for Sacred Music. Lately the choir has had the opportunity to work with the international conductor and famous pianist Wayne Marshall in a private concert organized by HSBC bank.

Locally, a yearly event that the name of Schola Cantorum is synonymous with is Carols by Candlelight. The choir has been organizing this event since the year 2003 and it has now become an established event in the islands cultural calendar for music lovers, especially those who have Christmas caroling dear to their heart. With regards to this, the Guardian (2010) rated this event as one of the best top ten Christmas concerts in Europe. So if you happen to be in Gozo (Malta) during the Christmas season, make sure to reserve a place for this event. If not, throughout the year, the choir animates the liturgy during the 11 a.m. mass at the Basilica of Marija Bambina in Xagħra (Gozo – Malta).

Today the benefits of singing have been scientifically proven. Music liberates the spirit and sustains the psychological well being. Yet in spite of this fact, the Times of Malta of the 10th of November 2013, quoting a Eurostat study, revealed that only two percent of the Maltese population sings. No wonder then that the Maltese ranked second lowest from European countries likely to participate in cultural events. It is therefore Schola Cantorum Jubilate’s aim to change this mentality and if necessary work towards a greater public investment and support by the local government and health authorities in the interest of promoting well being and health through music and singing.

Regions and Cities of Europe