Leone Band in concert Review

Leone Band in ConcertA triumphant ending to special jubilations! Leone Band in concert

It was indeed a triumphant ending to the Leone (Band)’s 150th jubilee celebrations, when Gozo’s first civic band presented the Leone Band in concert at the Aurora Opera House, last Saturday, 2nd November 2013.

It was a night of hard work, a night of jubilation, but above all, a night of success and satisfaction. This concert had long been planned as the rounding up of special festivities, and it most certainly did not disappoint.

Rounding up of special festivities
The task was not an easy one, given that ‘special’ events were in abundance during the last 16 months, with 6 performances of 2 editions of Leone Goes Pop, one of them televised on the national television station, and, to mention but one other major event, an unprecedented open-air gala concert in Gozo’s main road – Republic Street, Victoria, with a live band and synchronized fireworks. Considering the height at which such events set the bar, last Saturday’s concert, in itself, was quite a conventional one – the annual band concert.

Musical and artistic levels soard to new heights
But still, the Leone Band rose to the challenge, and made this ‘annual’ concert, an extraordinary event. With Colin Attard, not only at the helm and baton of the Leone Band, but a driving force behind the band itself throughout the intensive course of rehearsing sessions, our band hit its stride. Musical and artistic levels soared to new heights with this year’s musical line-up.

Two 200th birthdays - Verdi & Wagner
It was significant for the Leone Band to open its concert with Verdi’s overture from Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio. The Leone Society’s affinity with Verdi lies in the fact that the Society is the owner of the islands’ largest opera house, with Verdi being by and large the composer from whose repertoire most of the operas have been performed. In fact, the last opera production at the Aurora was Falstaff – Verdi’s last opera composed. It was only fitting that in celebrating his 200thbirthday, the Leone Band chose to perform the overture from his first opera: Oberto. The second item in the programme, also came with a birthday commemoration; this time, Wagner’s 200th birthday. Musically speaking, the opera Lohengrin, from which a selection was performed, is something quite different from the Italianized opera-music we are more acquainted with. And indeed, this contrast went down well with the audience. It was the first of a series of measures, taken by the Leone Band, to acquaint its patrons with different styles and genres of music. Besides, this also proved to be an excellent showcase of our own soloists with George Mercieca on the Eb clarinet, Joseph Debrincat on the Bb clarinet, Emi Vella on the alto saxophone, David Portelli on the trumpet and Daniel Gauci on the euphonium.

The colossal Ten Commandments
From opera to film music, the audience was whisked away from one spectacular world to an even more colossal one; from the classics of 19th century opera to a great classic of the 20th century film-music. This year, the Leone Band chose to present the Prelude from Elmer Bernstein’s The Ten Commandments. In Colin Attard’s own words (reproduced as Programme Notes) “this musical gem” literally awed and absorbed the audience, which, in its hundreds, amply filled the Aurora’s perfectly-acoustical auditorium.

Flaunting our feathers - the Assistant & the Legendary conductors
From one item to the next, our beloved band continued to raise its own standards and bearings. It was truly a night in which the Leone Band flaunted all of its own feathers. This was particularly evident when the assistant conductor Joseph Debrincat, conducted Jacob de Haan’s Free-World Fantasy; a cross over between the classical genre and the pop idiom. The Dutch composer, currently in his fifties, provided another striking item on the programme as well as an opportunity to the local public to get acquainted with more contemporary music. Back to olden days, epitomizing the musical legacy of the 150-year-old Leone Band, next in line came Giovanni Giumarra’s fantasia Vedi Napoli e poi mori!! The Sicilian-born composer remains forever and undisputedly the greatest conductor/composer ever to lead the Leone Band. This nostalgic fantasy has been a favourite with the Leone audiences ever since Giumarra himself composed it, and it really showed on the night, with cheers coming not only from the local supporters but from the hundreds of foreigners who, thanks to publicity and to our distinguished goodwill, were drawn in earnest the Leone Band in concert. Merited applauses were earned by conductor and band, including the soloists, this time, David Portelli on trumpet, Josef Attard on althorn and Jason Camilleri on flugelhorn.

Verve and vitality with Márquez’s Danzon No. 2
As the concert, ably presented by Darren Vella, and enhanced with graphic projections by Joseph Bonnici, was drawing to an end, the audience’s expectations were concentrated on the last showpiece, identified beforehand as Arturo Márquez’s Danzon No. 2. Joseph Debrincat’s dainty clarinet, countered by George Mercieca’s Eclarinet, set a very refined start to a rampant showpiece which goes fashionably, tastefully and ‘controllably’ wild – yet another feather in the Leone Band’s and Colin Attard’s caps. Meanwhile, Jean Noel Attard accompanied on the piano – he gave an exquisite solo further on through the piece – while the other boys on the percussion were spot-on throughout the whole of one of the most demanding concert-pieces for their section. All Mexican rhythm, the performance, which nowadays thanks to youtube and online channels, can very easily be compared and contrasted with the world-renowned performance of Gustavo Dudamel and his Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, hardly lacked a fraction of the energy and passion. The rendition emitted verve and vitality, just as a Mexican danzonwould do in reality. Thumbs up also go to the other soloists, Noemi Attard on Piccolo and David Portelli on trumpet, who, together with their counterparts, earned a rousing applause, which reverberated around the 1,600-seat opera house.

That was truly a newly reached attainment level for the Leone Band – a new yardstick with which the Leone Band, and other bands, will start to be measured. Whereas, in this last decade, the Leone Band has been treading new pathways, trying out new waters and expanding horizontally, by experimenting different styles, genres and productions, this year’s annual concert was proof that the Leone Band is now aiming higher, reaching out for new levels and improved quality; indeed growing vertically.

Jubilee Spectacular!
So there was every reason – not only our own President’s (Dr Michael Caruana) 25th anniversary at the helm of our Leone Philharmonic Society – to continue the party. It was a quasi-must to re-live one of the most significant moments of the 150th jubilee celebrations with the splendid Jubilee Spectacular! – the medley of the spectacular classics, compiled by Colin Attard, originally intended (as premiered) for band and fireworks. Save for the tourists who patronized the Leone Band in concert while on holiday, the larger share of the audience, vividly remembered the outstanding success this music brought to the Leone Band on August 9th in Republic Street. So, if anything, the fuori-programma carried with it, a sentimental and nostalgic value, apart from the victorious and festive sensation.

That brought the audience on its feet, with hands busily put together, cheering “bravi”, to Gozo’s first band, the 150-year-old Leone Band, who has so far won to survive, and survived to win.

Long live the Leone Band!

Leone Band in concert event page