Can we have a festa without a band? In Gozo, the answer is clearly a no and this is why band clubs are a vital part of the village festa! While every band club has its own unique story of how it originated, this is also the reason why today nearly every village in Gozo has a band club.
Apart from providing the main musical services and joyful celebrations during their own village feast, band clubs also invite each other to participate in each other’s feast. Here we’ve compiled some interesting facts about the band clubs in Gozo.
- Like those in Malta, the bands of Gozo are ensembles made up of a mix of brass and wooden instruments, both in terms of wind and percussion. Usually, a band is composed of around 50 to 60 musicians, including women and children. This is no small feat on an island with a population of 30,000 people with no less than 11 band clubs! During street marches, bands walk in rows of 5 or 6 musicians with the woodwind instruments leading the parade followed by the brass division and ending up with the trombones. At other times, bands perform on a stage setup in the main village square. This stage, called ‘il-planċier’ is usually a richly adorned matching the street festa decorations.
- In terms of music, most bands stick to playing brass-band marches while parading in the streets, but nowadays many will even tackle more elaborate musical pieces of traditional and modern music especially during concerts. Each village will have its own set of favourite marches, some of which specially written for a specific band (and can only be played by that band!).
- Whilst most bands were originally set up to provide musical entertainment during the village feast, the band clubs in Gozo are much more than that. All band clubs have their own premises which includes the typical bar or ‘każin tal-banda’, which is one of the main meeting points in the village for both the older men and the younger generations.
- Band clubs are not only a meeting spot but they also serve as youth centres at times. Without a doubt, one of the main functions is music tuition which is provided on the premises to the junior band members or ‘allievi’ (students). It is important to highlight that band clubs provide music tuition free of charge. You can notice the ‘allievi’ during band services because they usually wear a different type of hat than the rest of band members. Band clubs are also the place from where many important local maestros and musicians have sprouted and there is no doubt that the island of Gozo owes a lot of its cultural and musical tradition to the various band clubs on the island. Even the operas which are staged in Gozo on a yearly basis are an offshoot of the two band clubs in Victoria.
- Whilst many band clubs on the islands started out as small initiatives, today many are thriving and flourishing as professional philharmonic societies that present concerts all year round. Some of these events have become very important dates in Gozo’s cultural calendar. As societies that are run by volunteers both in terms of organisation and musicians, one cannot help but admire the effort and work of band clubs. As is typical of close-knit communities, rivalry is present. In Gozo, we have a total of 11 band clubs. Here they are, strictly listed in alphabetical order:
- Għaqda Mużikali ‘Ite Ad Joseph’
- Għaqda Mużikali San Girgor
- Għaqda Mużikali San Gużepp Għajnsielem A.D. 1928
- Għaqda Mużikali Vizitazzjoni
- Mnarja Band Club
- Soċjeta’ Filarmonika La Stella
- Soċjeta’ Filarmonika Leone A.D. 1863
- Soċjeta’ Filarmonika Prekursur
- Soċjeta’ Filarmonika Santa Marija
- Soċjeta’ Filarmonika Victory A.D. 1898
- Soċjeta’ Mużikali Santa Margerita V.M.