THE FIRST BAND WITHIN THE FIRST MUSICAL SOCIETY OF MQABBA
The Our Lady of Lilies Musical Society of Mqabba was officially established in 1911. The first meeting was held on the 28th May of the same year under the Presidency of Mr Paolo Caruana, a most prominent Mqabba businessman having a very important role in the conflict leading to the setting up of the two main Festa Societies of Mqabba. In fact, Mr Caruana presided two other Festa Organizations set up in Mqabba. In 1898 he was President of the ‘Casino San Giuseppe’ and ‘Casino Santa Maria’ in 1905. Nothing is documented so far regarding these two Societies, both aiming to celebrate the two main Mqabba Feasts, being the Assumption of Our Lady and the Feast in Honour of Our Lady of the Lilies. These two organizations were extremely short-lived. Infact, in 1910 or maybe before, occurred the famous split within the ‘Casino Santa Maria’, leading to the total closing down of this club. Consequently, Mr Caruana opened a new Club named ‘Circolo Pio X’, whose aim was to organize each year the Feast of Our Lady of the Lilies. He stayed at the head of this club for three years till 1914.
Like the majority of Maltese villages, Mqabba has very much suffered from the heavy damages caused during World War II. As war came finally to an end, everyday social life was in a mess. The locals like the rest of Malta longed to recover from this disaster and tried to create things by which they could recreatethemselves.
Till the beginning of 1944, none of the two Mqabba Societies incorporated an official Musical formation. The first reference to a Musical Society in Mqabba is documented in a letter dated 19th August 1944, sent by Mr Leonard Bilocca, Secretary of the Lily Club to the Police Depot in Hamrun. In this letter Mr Bilocca, submits the application in order to change the Club’s name from ‘The Lily Club’ to ‘The Lily Band Club’. This letter was duly accepted and was in turn acknowledged by another letter addressed to Mr Bilocca dated 29th August 1944 informing him that with immediate effect, the Club’s name was altered to ‘The Lily Band Club’, and thus officially recognized as a Musical Society on the 29th August 1944:
“Sir, I am directed by the Commissioner of Police to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 19th instant, informing him that the name “The Lily Club” has been altered to “The Lily Band Club”.
This letter indicates that musical activity already went on within the club organizing the Feast of Our lady of Lilies, and for this reason, the Committee, applied in order to acquire the status of Musical Society. This Document (see above) is an undeniable proof that the Our Lady of Lilies Musical Society is indeed the first Musical Organization ever to be founded in Mqabba. It is also the only valid original document published so far by an Mqabba Festa Organization regarding the setting up of its own Band.
The Our Lady of Lilies Band appeared in public for the first time on the 9th December 1945, performing a Musical Concert in Mqabba main Square on the occasion of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception under the direction of Mro Joseph Darmanin. On the day of the Feast of Our Lady of Lilies, the Band made the first Midday March of Mqabba. The Band attired a great deal of admiration from the very beginning and it was no surprise that just 8 months after its debut gave its first servise outside Mqabba, during the Feast of Stella Maris in Sliema in August 1946.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the Our Lady of the Lilies Band was twice under the directorship of an Mqabba Band Master being Mro Julio Tanti & Mro Joseph Tonna. In this period the Band underwent great progress, acquiring an excellent local youthful element. In 1992, Mro Andrew Calleja, actual Director, took over the direction of the Band.
The Our Lady of the Lilies Band soon increased popularity as it started being invited by other clubs all over Malta to perform marches and concerts in their respective Feasts. Apart from taking part in the Feast of its Patroness, Our Lady of the Lilies, it played in Christmas activities in Valletta and other places.
The 1990s can be considered as a Golden Era for the Lily Band. In 1995, great festivities were held in Mqabba, commemorating the 50th Anniversary from the debut of the Our Lady of the Lilies Band as the Mqabba first Band. Between the 5th and the 9th of May 1995, the Band extended its horizons by performing abroad. In fact, it was invited to Citta’ del Mare in Sicily, thus making it the first Band in Mqabba to perform Internationally. During the Feast of Our lady of Lilies 1995, the Band was enriched by two artistic masterpieces, which are still regarded as unique to our Nation. These are the Marvelous Bandstand (Il-Plancier Meravilja) and the precious Band Banner. These two masterpieces were both executed in valuable and authentic materials and are living monuments to Mqabba craftsmanship. The bandstand which annually hosts the Lily Band was inaugurated on 14 June 1995. This was the most moving event of the 1995 activities. The musical concert was under the patronage of the Acting President of Malta Dr Jimmy Farrugia. The bandstand locally nicknamed as "Il-Meravilja" is the result of highly and artistic workmanship with regards to design and sculpture in wood. The same Anniversary was commemorated also by a vocal and instrumental concert at the Sir Temi Zammit Hall of the Universityof Maltaon the 9th December 1995, right on the day on which the Band made its first concert 50 years before. An official 50th anniversary poster by the renowned Maltese artist Chev. A. Camilleri Cauchi was launched in January 1995, and a scholarly book entitled "Tal-Gilju: il-Banda u s-Socjeta' fl-Imqabba" (ISBN: 99909-68-04-7) by author Charles Farrugia was launched during a soiree on 17 December 1995.
The Our Lady of Lilies Band strengthened its international relations with a number of services abroad such as Tunisia (1996), and Austria (2000 & 2002). The Austria services have been reciprocated by means of visits by professional Austrian Bands, the first one being Gross-Siegharts Band during the 1997 Feast, another innovation to our Village. Among the Austrian Bands participating during Feasts to Our Lady of Lilies, one finds Schildorn Band (1998) and Eisenerz (1999). Our Society also hosted Kitzbuhel Choir from Austria during the Feast of 2001. On the 4th December 1997, the Our Lady of Lilies Band became the first Mqabba Band performing inside our Parish Church. The occasion was a concert commemorating the 225th Anniversary from the Solemn Erection of the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception in Mqabba. Othe facts worth mentioning are that the Band participated several times during the Miss Christmas Beauty Pageant during which the façade of the Artistic Bandstand served as a stage inside the theatre. In the year 2000, the Band launched its first CD “Lilek l-isbah Gilju”, with a variety of Marian Hymns, including the long version of the Great Hymn to Our Lady of Lilies, a classical work of the Band’s Founder, Mro Darmanin in 1949. This CD also contains the excellent ‘Cantata’, by Mro Andrew Calleja. The second Compact Disc includes several pieces performed by the Lily Band on its visit to Austria.
During 2005, the Our Lady of Lilies Musical Society commemorated the Diamond Jubilee of Mqabba’s first Band. These celebrations reached a climax on Wednesday 15th June 2005 during a vocal and instrumental concert on the Marvelous Bandstand during which the history of Our Band was presented multivisually together with the process leading to the inauguration of two treasures in Mqabba a decade before. Nowadays, the Band has acquired an excellent reputation as regarding such concerts that are still unique to our Village. A set of bells for the Band’s perusal was inaugurated during the same activity.
By end this year, these celebrations will come to an end with another concert in the Foyer of the St Benedict College in Kirkop on Saturday 10th December. Celebrations commemorating the very first musical roots inside our Village of which the Our Lady of Lilies Band will be regarded as the absolute pioneer for ever. In such way, the Our Lady of Lilies Musical Society made its utmost to honour History as it is, free of windings and misinterpretation. Our Band continues to look out to a bright future, whilst enhancing its vast musical repertoire, will never cease to widespread the musical culture, an art which Our Society is proud to have honourably introduced in our Village, Mqabba.
The club’s committee encourages the learning of music with the Lily Band so much so that all lessons are free. At the moment, a substantial number of persons are learning music. Only this can guarantee the band’s future success. The Band itself is a tribute to our forefathers who with great sacrifice struggled to keep the Band alive in times which were rather difficult.