Monday, June 4, 2012:

VIAF in its fifteenth edition

This year the Victoria International Arts Festival celebrates its 15th anniversary.  It is not without a justified sense of pride and achievement that the organisers are laying on a fitting celebration of the happy anniversary and wish you to be part of it all.


What started off as a “quiet revolution”, as Prof. Maurice Cauchi described the Festival years back in his article carried on in The Times, has swelled to quite impressive proportions, by any standards!  Not that attempts to erect artificial “dams” to stem the tide have not been made!  But as Churchill would have put it, “some Festival, some dams”!  Surely, this is no time to brood but to exult.  And this is what may aptly describe the essence of this year’s five-week long cultural extravaganza: exultation.  Exultation is a heady word and may sound somewhat over the top.  But who ever thought that we will stop anywhere else but at the top?  Sursum semper!


I may be partial to Latin, and not without reason!  Latin is more than a language: it is a way of being.  It describes the wider context, if one can ever speak of context in relation to art, of the world we inhabit and want to inhabit!  This world stands for all that is beauty, truth and goodness.  This world would be meaningless without its essential relation to the Other world: which makes this one possible and worthwhile to inhabit!  But is it not ironic that we are speaking of matter when this is the realm of the spirit?  Indeed, the soul of art is matter!  Beauty would be undetected if in its essence it were not matter!  Matter makes art and art unmakes it: in the sense that matter makes art perceivable and art pays back by making matter imperishable!  This humble prologue is not meant to be a foray into metaphysics!  Some may be tempted to pass judgment, and attribute these musings to a touch of the sun!  Touch of the sun, indeed!  More like touch of beauty!  And what feathery touch! 


A cursory glance at this year’s roll-call is indeed a brush with greatness.  World-class performers who have raised this Festival to the heights, and who have come to consider Gozo as their second home, rub shoulders with first-timers for Malta, together with some of the finest in the local milieu to ensure an exciting and exhilarating mix of genres, styles and music combinations, which are characteristic of the Festival.  The Festival’s aim to be a prime mover of high culture and to inspire local musicians to reach out for ever higher levels of excellence is bearing rich dividends.  The putting on of master classes in various music disciplines, previously unheard of in Gozo, has become a regular feature drawing students from all over Malta.  The Composer Speaks Series and the Debutants’ Concert have proved to be hugely popular and we are very happy to note that past participants have now established themselves not only locally, but also on the international scene.


This happy anniversary is also a time to be thankful.  A festival of this magnitude, spanning five weeks of uninterrupted concerts and more, fielding performers from practically all over Europe and beyond, and offering all its concerts free of charge, is no laughing matter.  If one brings up the sorry state of the affairs the world in genere, and the world of culture in specie, are wallowing in, then the result is nothing short of miraculous.  But who ever said that miracles do not happen?  Especially on Calypso’s isle, “where it is always afternoon” (with due deference to Lord Tennyson)!  But behind every miracle there is the miracle-maker!  In this particular case, it is more like a fantastic combination of entrepreneurship, talent, flair for networking, unbounded zeal for excellence, superb locus, and the unflinching support of several state and private institutions which have put their stakes on the organizers’ ability to deliver year in year out.  This is not to downplay the tremendous and generous support of the loyal patrons whom we regard as part of the family, and without whom…


This is indeed a happy year: it is fitting that the 15th anniversary coincides with the 125th Anniversary of the elevation of our home-town to the status of city and the conferring of the name of Victoria, in honour of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, way back in 1887.  The significant role played by His Lordship Pietru Pace, Bishop of Gozo at the time, and Mgr Giuseppe Farrugia, his personal secretary, both most worthy sons of St George’s Parish, in the historic event, should not go unnoticed.  Who would have thought that within a century, Victoria would join the major Festival cities on the continent, which bank on huge funds, professional structures, and chequered history when it comes to music-making?  Once again, St George’s showed the way forward…  Mater et Magistra…


The organisers wish to express their gratitude to His Eminence Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, who has graced the Festival with an erudite address to mark its 15th anniversary.  It is superfluous to point out that European art, as all authentic art, is religious in origin.  In Europe’s case, it is specifically Christian.  Indeed, no-one can seriously blame the Church for not doing its utmost to promote beauty through art: it is the gateway to the Supreme Beauty!

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