September 10, 2014

A summer festival in Malta?

I was more than a bit amused to read some negative reporting re the fact that the government sponsored my summer concert. Hundreds of thousand of euros, if not millions, were thrown around  and some went as far to state that I was “on the take” and part of the hundreds of thousands were directed to my pocket. The claims are so ridiculous and unfounded that, to date,  I didn’t even bother to point it out. For those unfamiliar with our island, Malta is ferociously bi-partisan it is inevitable that, for some at least,  everything has to be turned into a political football. Others simply measure by their own yardstick. For the record I got no remuneration by the government, whether directly or indirectly, in the deal they made with NNG promotions nor form part of same company.  To my knowledge, the funds are wisely spent on the filming, editing and international distribution of the concert creating an incredible advert for Malta. Should the government sponsor such initiatives? Of course it should- as what better advertisement can Malta have to increase the much coveted “cultural tourism”?

In Malta we have the curse but also the blessing of being very small. So small in fact that you can walk from one end of the island to the other in less than a day. And what a walk that would be. Despite our small size, our location – smack in the middle of the Mare Nostrum  – made sure that every major civilization left its mark throughout our 7000 year history. Natural resources are pretty much non existent and even for fresh water we have to turn to the sea. Still our island nation enjoys the most important resource of all – its people. Once you remove our petty and constant bickering which (surprise surprise) usually revolve around politics, the Maltese are a force to be reckoned with and a nation that shy away from challenges we are not. Most of us are at least bi-lingual , hard working, resourceful and good hearted. Talent is also another virtue that this island has and never before  did we have so many young budding artists on the verge of an international career. When I was studying to be an opera singer there was literally no one else on the scene on a professional level bar Miriam Gauci. Nowadays we have close to a dozen. Clare Ghigo, Nico Darmanin, Cliff Zammit Stevens, Joseph Lia, Nicola Said and Marvic Monreal are already chasing their dream in conservatories and colleges abroad. Nico Darmanin in particular is already performing professionally and has already debuted at the Royal Opera House. This from a nation of 400,000.

Indeed it is a time of renaissance for at least classical music in Malta. So many festivals whether in Gozo, the place of my very first performances,  or Valletta. In fact it is time that the government notices the elephant in the room and launch THE proper summer festival our island deserves. The raw material is in place already it just needs to be coordinated and a month long festival is really within our grasp and no there is no multi million euro outlay as we have the necessary infrastructure in place already.  Our airport and airline are top notch and hotels comparable to the best on mainland Europe. All that is needed is that nudge, the concentration of the laser beam, the proverbial pulling of the same rope and Malta could host a festival that would rival any in Europe. This government has won with such a majority that it should really use that majority to implement changes that no one had the courage to do before. Redundant boards and committees should be restructured or removed altogether. Competent people should be given executive power to effect necessary changes and not waste their time and energies navigating the endless meanders of bureaucracy caused by useless boards.


Last but not least lets give Malta its cultural home back and move ahead with a National Theatre/auditorium. I hear there are great plans for the MCC, now is the time to move forward and turn these plans into reality. We have so much to offer and it would be a great sin to miss out on this opportunity. I dream of the day when Valletta will turn into a major and globally renowned  artistic hub. Believe me when I tell you that we have what it takes.


  1. Simone Camilleri

    Hear, hear! Hoping that your words do not fall on deaf ears and we will have have a classical rebirth in Malta! I love the idea of a classical festival in Malta!

  2. keith brown


  3. Peter De Courcy

    Joseph, You have done more for the reputation of these islands than the small minded people could ever imagine. You are a unique talent and some people will never be able to accept that. Every country has them. In Ireland we call them “Begrudgers” and we have a phrase for them which I will not print here. Next time you are in Gozo I will buy you a pint and give you the details. 🙂 Meanwhile stay healthy and continue to make so many people happy that they have shared great times with you. Go n-éirí an bóthar leat.

  4. fiona richards

    Very well put Joseph. The government should sponsor a festival in Malta, and yes I see no problem with them sponsoring concerts. Your concert in 2013 was televised on Sky TV and what a fantastic amazing opportunity for advertising, to show the amazing talent of yourself and the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. Malta is truly blessed with wonderful talent, a wealth of history and great characters. I lived in Malta in my teens and it was the most amazing time and any opportunity that Malta has to promote itself to the world should be taken. Your have an amazing talent and your country should be so proud of you. I take every opportunity to promote you and lovely Malta. It amazes me how such a small island supports itself!!! ……and finally thank you for the fabulous entertainment you provide and also promoting very proudly your homeland!

  5. John Higgins

    Whatever you said is very true. But unfortunately this Government replaced people who were culturally in the know with those of “Taghna Lkoll” whose cultural backgrounds are zilch to say the least.

    • admin

      Thank you for your comment John.

      Actually things under this government have continued to flourish. It now needs to consolidate its actions and move ahead with a proposal to coordinate events in Malta.

  6. Veronica Debono

    I fully agree with all that you have stated. Lets give Malta the chance
    it certainly deserves. It will definitely boost our tourism culture.

  7. Carmen Healey

    A very good explanation .I belive there is alot of talent here in Malta so Summer festival will be a good occasion to show how Maltese talent is improving , thanks to the dedicated tutors

  8. Sandra camilleri

    Good idea for a summer festival in malta

  9. Percy Eugene Cartwright Jnr

    Well said. The nail was hit middle point. Bullseye. Wake up you negatively critics.

    • Pawlu Teuma

      Well said Percy. By the way, I believe you to be my cousin (once removed)and have been trying to make contact with you for a long time! Will you please contact me on this mail address. Thanks Percy Jnr.

  10. Alfred Bonello Clottin

    Dear Joseph; Reading your last blog I felt a little hurt in your heart, Political mumbo jumbo do not let them get you down. Enjoy your stay in New York we love it while you preforming her.

  11. Joe Spiteri

    I like what you said. Don’t bother what the nay sayers and weak minded critics say. You’re on the right track. Go for it. You make us proud. Thank you.

  12. Thomas Mansfield

    Dear Joseph,
    Well said. As cultural ambassador and a man much respected worldwide your voice should be heard.

    I chose Malta as my adopted home in 1980. I have two grown up children here, who were born here and share your Maltese zeal – and rightly so. It has long been a claim of mine that “foreign” is not always better and that the Maltese can be as professional and as efficient as anyone else when they put their minds to it.

    Do not let the detractors lead you to angry words. Maintain your composure and show them, with the rest of the Maltese people, through your actions, just what dignity and pride you have, that they seem to have lost.

  13. Derek Webb

    Why is it that there are some people who cannot believe in altruism . Could it be that those who so easily accuse are the very people who do nothing but for their own ends. I am a British Citizen and follow Joseph Calleja and it’s obvious from afar how proud he is to be Maltese and of his wonderful country.

  14. Malcolm R McEwan

    Malta has the location , history and talent for a fantastic music festival , If MTV can recognise it then the classical World surely must. I have been to many wonderful concerts in Malta it would be great to unite events and venues into something larger and more cohesive. If the willingness is there the Maltese people will deliver it of that I have no doubt.

  15. Alice Poulsen

    Whilst I agree that a Summer Festival would be great (where do I sign up for a job! LOL), with the number of Festivals already established, content and especially timing is crucial, so as not having the space both virtual and musically to make it a success across the board.

    As with the BBC Prom concerts in London, it is embracing many music art forms and a similar format could work really well on Malta/Gozo. My head is bursting with ideas ……………. LOL

    Hope it happens – all very nicely rounded off with your Annual Concert, no?!

    • admin

      Thnx for your comment Alice. This of course would be taken into consideration. Having said that Malta is swamped with tourists already in the summer months so such a festival would only enhance their experience and attract a “higher grade” tourist to our islands as well.

  16. Linda Shasteen

    I went to Malta this last past May and fell in love with the country. A friend of mine from there turned me onto your music. He told me he was at your 2013 concert there. I started listening to your music and just love it. I wish you could come to Arizona for I would get a ticket in a heart beat. I am planning a second visit next May again. Don’t let what people say get to you they like to complain about anything and everything. Thank you for your gift of song and voice.

  17. Carmen Borg

    Well said Joseph. These ignorami need to be enlightened and lose their cultural cringe. Hope your 2014 concert is shown on TV in Australia like last year’s.

  18. Claire Debono

    Or… Why not put even more energy and funding into what is already a huge achievement- The Valletta Baroque Festival? I’m a strong believer in quality rather than quantity…How many festivals can such a tiny place handle?

    • admin

      Thanks for your comment Claire. Malta should have one major festival period. I don’t think that any festivals at the moment really are actually festivals. I think Malta can definitely afford an Easter and Summer festival, the latter being the big brother of the former.

  19. Tony Demanuele

    Dear Joseph,
    You just have to ignore people who have a political agenda even when they are commenting on things such as music and culture. I say a very big well done to the goverment and to who ever sponsor such activities.

  20. salv sammut

    Yes, you are absolutely correct in all that you have said, Joseph. Your name is a guarantee in itself for our cultural, aritistic and touristic advertisement. But the pity, or rather, the scourge of our small nation is: THAT IT’S NOT WHAT YOU KNOW BUT WHOM YOU KNOW that really counts.

  21. Steve Monreal

    I realize that the Government can’t pump cash to every one who asks for. Besides, there is the scholarship system. Grateful of course; but there’s still a lot of expenses (thousands) if one has to live abroad while studying. Because of this, our talented artists are literally being thrown away. I suggest a yearly audition and a festival be held with those who prove their talent. In the mean time the gate money will give them a kick start. We frequently donate cash without pretending anything in return to many people with special needs and even to foreign countries so why not helping our talented artists who after all need special care as well? At least we will enjoy the festival in return and if our artists succeed, our country will have something in return. O.M.G how much I dream of this.

  22. Patrick Xuereb

    Had to share this!! A much needed clarification for some narrow minded individuals who don’t really matter, and food for thought for a few others that can matter! Well said Joseph!

  23. Carmen Healey

    A summer festival will be fine for the great talent we have on our island to show their abilities and maybe to findm sponsors to help them continue with their studies.Lets not compare with bigger countries here we are very limited but with the right contacts we can go far with the right contacts Carmen

  24. Carmen Healey

    A summer festival will be fine for the great talent we have on our island to show their abilities and maybe to findm sponsors to help them continue with their studies.Lets not compare with bigger countries here we are very limited but with the right contacts we can go far .We have proof of that .look at Joseph Calleja and many others

  25. You are a stirring advocate of music Joseph. Music festivals also have added benefits to the Islands children, neurological studies show that learning music alongside regular studies generates higher brain development, so access to concerts and widening participation for the Maltese is an added advantage to the extra tourism. Music itself is a universal language ‘go go Joseph’ 🙂
    Best wishes

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Joseph's Blog

May 16th, 2016

Quo Vadis Eurovision and other stories

Malta did not win the Eurovision but lo and behold the sun still rose and the island (the center of the known universe) still spun…

My two cents is that Ira Losco gave a really good performance and that the whole presentation was excellent. She shouldn’t have performed cause she is pregnant? Come off it – I have performed repeatedly with pregnant opera singers well into their 7th and 8th month of pregnancy and trust me when I say that rehearsing and performing for a full opera production is much more physically demanding than a couple of days at the Eurovision. Of course there are those who know much better than the undersigned and who went on to say that the presentation was a tad “camp”…oh the irony when one considers that the Eurovision is the campest of them all.

Meanwhile, this wouldn’t be Malta and the Eurovision wouldn’t be the Eurovision unless its politicized to the exhaustible hilt. The inevitable “mud slinging competition,” which we will see a lot of in the coming 22 months, ensued and even yours truly (inexplicably) ended up in the midst of the fray, in yet another “supernova” in a tea cup. The Eurovision suddenly became an interchangeable bullet to be used ad nauseam by both sides much like bitter parents who use their innocent children during disputes.  I have always found sycophants interesting, even amusing but they will not be getting the much desired Streisand effect from me, thank you very much. It is part of human nature after all to conjure conspiracies and we are not going to let the simple truth get in the way of some exciting and convenient fiction.

Speaking of “conjuring” is it me or is a company advertising real estate using a chap “connected” with the tragic and unnecessary death of an underage girl? It must be a clone or a”doppleganger”, otherwise this would be the epitome of bad taste and a 100 shades of wrong. Don’t get me wrong I am all for “second chances” and all of that but shouldn’t there be due process first? After all Lisa Marie didn’t get a second chance did she?