‘We are a baroque nation’ | Kenneth Zammit Tabona

Valletta International Baroque Festival Artistic Director Kenneth Zammit Tabona tells us that the upcoming showcase of local and international music will push Valletta’s baroque roots to the forefront once again.

Kenneth Zammit Tabona.
Kenneth Zammit Tabona.


Why is Malta the ideal venue for a Baroque music festival?

Well, we are a Baroque nation! We're very much steeped in baroque, perhaps without even knowing it. It's in our architecture, our art, festas... all of these things derive from the 300-odd years we spent basking in the baroque aesthetic introduced to us by the Order of St John.

And though in other areas - like art and architecture - this is very much still at the forefront, I see the Baroque Music Festival as filling in a 'missing piece' of our Baroque heritage, as the music of the period seems to have disappeared from our radar. Music is of course, very much dependent on whatever's fashionable at the time, and just as some people still play The Beatles today - but the majority don't - baroque music also fell out of favour in more recent years.

However, it is undergoing something of a revival in Europe as we speak, so really and truly the festival could not have been kick-started at a better time.

In a lot of way it's about once again consolidating Valletta's place as a hub for baroque music, as it clearly must have been in the past.

You've said that the Festival will aim to introduce Baroque music 'to the masses' - how do you aim to accomplish this?

To be honest, we haven't actively set out to 'convert' anyone to baroque music, because the fact is that a lot of people can instinctively recognise certain key pieces of baroque music - they would have heard them on adverts, while call waiting, and so on.

So if anything, it's all about creating more awareness and ensuring that people recognise and appreciate the music they already may be familiar with. Because it is a very beautiful form of music and, to go back to Valletta, it's particularly relevant to us. I've always said this, but I'll say it again: not appreciating the baroque element of our capital city is like living in an orange grove but never eating any oranges.

Some of the musicians at the festival will be coming from France, where the churches are predominantly in the Gothic style, as very few of the Baroque churches were reconstructed after the French Revolution.

So we should appreciate the fact that Valletta is 'the Real McCoy', because we still have Baroque churches all over the place - starting with, of course, St John's Co-Cathedral, where all the 'main' events of the Baroque Festival will be taking place.


Why is the festival only just taking place now?

I've been trying to make this festival happen for a number of years, but I only managed to persuade the powers-to-be to get the ball rolling around a year ago. The main selling point from the tourism perspective is, of course, the fact that it's taking place during January, one of the "shoulder months" (believe me when I say that before these meetings, I had no idea what a 'shoulder month' was!).

Our milder climate made it easier to attract foreign musicians to our shores, of course, but I also think the festival comes at an auspicious time, given that it will be taking place right ahead of Malta holding the EU Presidency in 2017 and Valletta's year as European Capital for Culture in 2018.

I think baroque music is a great way to kick all this off with...

For more information log on to the Festival's official website.