Posted: 10th March 2014

Sunday, March 9th 2014 marked another important day in the annual calendar of the Aurora Opera House, as it hosted a recording session by the Leone Band, an 80-piece Gozo-based wind band.

A Theatre and/or a Każin
Many visitors of this website know the Aurora Opera House for its operas and theatre spectacles put up around the year. But for the locals, the Aurora Theatre is known as the seat of the Leone Band, established in 1863 as the first civic band on the island, hence the Leone Band Club. Actually, that is how the Aurora theatre came about. First there was the Leone band in 1863. Then, it bought the 19th century villa (after owning several other clubhouses and a former Aurora Theatre, which doubled the role as a theatre and a cinema), and, in 1971 started to transform this house into a band club (known in Maltese as każin, pronounced ca-zeen) with this lavish neo-baroque modernist theatre annexed to it. In October 1976 it was inaugurated as the Teatru tal-Opra Aurora with a symphonic gala concert by the Leone Band, its rightful owner, and within less than three months, on January 7th, 1977, it also produced its first opera – and the first opera in Gozo – Madame Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini.

So, virtually, the administration of the Leone Band is the administration of the Aurora Theatre, and vice-versa. Those who are engaged in overseeing and working their way through the production of the opera, are the same ones who oversee and work their way through the daily running of the Leone Band, and the organization of the traditional and national street-celebrations of the Assumption of Our Lady, on the first fortnight of August. Suffice it to say that the resident opera conductor and the band conductor is the same person!

Multi-tasking with love
This kind of multi-tasking is not uncommon in Gozo, and those who are acquainted with this reality, have nothing but praise for the way, we Gozitans do it, and the amount of love we put in it. This drives the band to work hard all year round, to upkeep several charming customs and traditions, some of which date centuries back.

Band marches, the highlights of a Maltese festa
A case in point is the annual set of band marches. In organizing the feast of Santa Marija, on the first fortnight of August, the Leone Band makes a series of five consecutive nights playing festive marches along the historic centre of Victoria. During these marches, it plays a number of marches – a set of popular marches that recurs year after year, as if by popular demand, and a new set of ten festive marches, which is changed year after year. It comes naturally, that this new set of marches is recorded on CD. And it is quite popular with band lovers and collectors.

Thus, as the time had come for another recording session – the recording session of the 2014 set of marches – it was customary, and natural, that the Leone Band sits on the spacious Aurora Theatre stage. With the stage curtain partially drawn to better-improve acoustics, it recorded this year’s ten festive marches, penned by various locally renowned composers. Some of these band marches are relatively new, (or even being premiered!) but others are dated as far as the 1920s, and have been retrieved for revival from the Leone Band’s 150-year-old musical archives.

Conductor Colin Attard conducted the Leone Band while John Cauchi from PRO Studios (Sannat) was the recording engineer.

The set of festive marches will be issued in CD entitled Festa Santa Marija 2014 later on as the festa season opens in June. It will be on sale from the Aurora Opera House cum Leone Band Club.