Family fun at the Fanfare

DENISE AZZOPARDI speaks to Rosetta Debattista, artistic director for the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra Fanfare 2016 event, and Maria Blanco, MPO Marketing Manager, to learn about what goes into the process of coming up with a highly entertaining music education programme targeted at children and their families

Conductor Jason Lai - Photo by Yvonne-Chan
Conductor Jason Lai - Photo by Yvonne-Chan

Rosetta Debattista

This is your second year as artistic director? What’s new in this year’s edition?

Simply put, it’s bigger and better! I am very excited about this repertoire being heard by all. The concert opens with a beautiful Rameau piece that is light, bright and rhythmical, and it sets the tone for the event. The music travels to places far and wide, with flavours from all around the world. Maestro Brian Schembri and I wished to create a series that causes the listener to focus purely on the magnitude of the music being heard and experienced. This year’s repertoire is exciting, dynamic, fast-paced and at times, very dramatic!

How did you come up with the programme for this concert, and what is the reason behind the choice of these particular pieces of music?

Programming is an exciting exercise. Imagining ‘how’ the listener experiences the repertoire and, therefore, carefully guiding them along the way, can make or break any concert. The order needs thoughtful planning, as of course, the selection. Children have very good attention span if you capture their interest quite immediately. 

The objective for this concert was to illustrate what creates a certain style – the compositional techniques – first presenting Spain and the Mediterranean with Gozitan Maestro John Galea’s colourful Mediterranean Pictures, then moving on to three musical bombshells by Khachaturian and Respighi. 

I am really looking forward to the Bartok Dances and the relentless Capriol Suite by Warlock. I enjoyed going through the process of choice and order, and hope that it leaves a strong impact on all – young and old.

CBBC presenter Kirsten O'Brien
CBBC presenter Kirsten O'Brien

How did the idea to produce Fanfare come about? 

The MPO’s artistic director, Brian Schembri, and its CEO, Sigmund Mifsud, approached me last year to work on an event aimed at children. Children can be very awe-inspired when witnessing a full orchestra performing live, especially when the music selection truly shows off the orchestra’s potential. I set about bringing together a highly-skilled team – a presenter, a conductor and a script writer... Et viola! Children enjoy the narrator and love the interactive aspect of the Family Fanfare event.

Why has Jason Lai been chosen as conductor for this particular concert?

Jason Lai is a highly-esteemed British conductor having a wonderful way with children and young people. He has often presented concerts specifically for younger audiences. I think that with Jason, together with British celebrity Kirsten O’Brien and script-writer Katherine Freeman, we are all in for a treat!

Maria Blanco

How will the pieces within the programme be presented and how are they being tailored to target a young audience?

The wonderful CBBC [Children’s BBC] presenter, Kirsten O’Brien, has a great talent for addressing and interacting with young audiences. I am sure that she will delight us with her presentation and will give us all a most memorable experience of this colourful concert repertoire.

Could you tell me something about your contribution towards this concert? What are the educational aspects related to this concert?

We have recently set up an MPO educational team, which I myself am leading, to devise and deliver a unique music education programme aimed at developing young people’s musical skills, and their appreciation of the orchestral repertoire.

The team has prepared a musical-resource ‘school pack’ related to this concert, which was sent out to all participating schools attending the April 29 performance. The idea is to prepare all children attending Fanfare by enabling them to work with their school teachers to better understood the basic constitution of an orchestra, and will have already been introduced to certain parts of the concert repertoire prior to the performance.

What has the response been so far? How can children and their families expect to benefit from this concert?

It is clear that there is a strong desire for music educational events such as this. The schools’ concert was sold out in three days, and a record number of 1,400 children will be attending this concert. The fact that schools booked their places so quickly for this event is a strong testament to the success of last year’s Fanfare Concert. 

There are still a few places available for the Family Concert on April 30, and all families are encouraged to grasp the opportunity to experience this interactive and fun-filled concert that will undoubtedly leave many positive memories in the minds of both children and their families by being immersed in the colourful and magical world of classical music.

The MPO Family Fanfare Concert will be held at the Republic Hall of the Mediterranean Conference Centre on April 30 at 17:00. Tickets at €4/€6 for children and €8/€12 for adults; family packages at €18/€26. For tickets email [email protected] or phone 2559 5750. For more information, visit

Children attending the April 30 performance are invited to participate in a free hands-on music workshop with members of the MPO Educational Team, where they can experience playing orchestral instruments and participating in activities relating to the orchestral performance. The workshops will take place at MCC on April 30 between 15:15 and 16:45. Places are limited, and interested participants should book their places in advance on [email protected]

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