Malta has participated with two contributions to the Ode2Joy Challenge of Europa Nostra.

The Europa Nostra Challenge, launched last year by chairman Placido Domingo, aims to post a recording or video of as many voices, instruments, soloists or groups of people playing, humming or singing the European anthem Ode to Joy in any language. The challenge continues until May 9 (Europe Day) of this year.

Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja gives his contribution to the Ode to Joy challenge.Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja gives his contribution to the Ode to Joy challenge.

The text to Ode to Joy was originally written by Friedrich Schiller in 1785 and the music composed for choir and orchestra by Ludwig van Beethoven for his famous Ninth Symphony.

Malta’s first contribution to the challenge was a video shot in the Church of Our Lady of Victories in Valletta with world-famous tenor Joseph Calleja singing Schiller’s Ode to Joy both in the German original and in a new Maltese translation by John Vassallo and accompanied on the 18th century organ of the church by Hugo Agius Muscat. 

The second contribution, again in Maltese with text subtitles for foreign viewers, to the Ode2Joy Challenge was one performed in Mdina by the St Paul’s Choir.

Both these contributions can be seen on YouTube on the following link to the YouTube playlist of the Europa Nostra Challenge.

Europa Nostra is the heritage association that speaks for the European national organisations protecting the natural and built-up heritage of our continent. It also protects and safeguards Europe’s tangible and intangible artistic, folkloristic and social heritage.

Malta, through Din l-Art Ħelwa, has two members on the governing bodies of Europa Nostra. Simone Mizzi is a member of the board and a vice- president of Europa Nostra and John Vassallo is a member of the council.

Both are very active in the local heritage scene. Mizzi has led Din l-Art Ħelwa, an organisation founded 50 years ago by her late father, Judge Maurice Caruana Curran. She has led the project to restore and refurbish the first building to be built in Valletta at the end of the Great Siege, the church of Our Lady of Victories. 

And with two months to go until May 9, the local organisers feel it would be extremely welcoming to the European movement if more Maltese were to participate in the challenge.

More recordings in the pipeline

It is very easy. All one needs is the text and the music score or the melody which is very well known to all and a mobile phone or video camera. If one looks at the playlist one will immediately see that there are both professional as well as amateur contributions. Some are funny with friends just filming on a mobile phone and posting the video to YouTube. 

Others show school classes, or amateur choirs, singing to Beethoven’s music played on everything from mouth organs, to pianos, guitars, full orchestras, church organs and, why not, village bands or school music classes.

The St Julian’s Band Club is planning to record its own version. Another recording is planned with the participation of Maltese soprano Gillian Zammit and mezzo soprano Clare Ghigo during the Spring Music Festival organised by Karl Fiorini next month.

These two versions will be posted on the Europa Nostra website and playlist in due course.

All schools and band clubs as well as all organised music groups and choirs in Malta are being encouraged to take up the challenge and show the rest of Europe that small is beautiful or, better still, small is loud, said Vassallo.

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