Maltese Music in Canada
The majority of Maltese in Canada arrived after World War II, though a few immigrated prior to 1930. Gaetano Francesco Farrugia settled in Halifax and achieved local recognition for his Agnes Waltzes during the mid-19th century.
The majority of Maltese in Canada arrived after World War II, though a few immigrated prior to 1930. Gaetano Francesco Farrugia settled in Halifax and achieved local recognition for his Agnes Waltzes during the mid-19th century. Some years later (1870-1) the Canadian-born soprano Emma Albani spent five months in Malta, singing in productions of L'Africaine, The Barber of Seville, Lucia di Lammermoor, Robert le Diable, and a new opera buffa, Carlo Romani's Il Mantello, at the Royal Opera House in Valetta. News of Albani's success in Malta led to her Covent Garden engagement in 1871.
In 1979 over 40,000 Maltese were living in Canada, approximately 25,000 of these in Toronto, but the 1986 census figures registered a Maltese population of only 21,855. Maltese communities were established elsewhere in Ontario (Guelph, Hamilton, London, Oshawa, St Thomas, Windsor) and in Montreal, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. Because Malta was a British Crown colony until 1962, many Maltese are fluent in English, and this has facilitated their integration into Canadian society. The first Maltese church in Canada was that of St Paul the Apostle (Roman Catholic), founded in Toronto in 1931 with assistance from the Maltese Canadian Society of Toronto, the oldest Maltese organization in North America.
Maltese music is heard at celebrations for Republic Day (13 December), at traditional Imnarja Carnival celebrations, and for the historic national day (8 September). Reflecting the popularity of village bands in the homeland, Malta Band Clubs of 25 or more members have been organized in Maltese-Canadian communities. Toronto's Malta Band Club, conducted in 1990 by Greg Farugia, was founded in 1971 and performs at 16-20 events yearly. Several organizations have sponsored visits by Maltese popular singers, as well as entertainment by local groups at concerts and dances. Popular Maltese folk dances are 'il-Maltija,' a national country dance, and the 'parata,' which is performed with wooden sticks. Viva Malta, a group of Maltese musicians who play traditional instruments, performed at the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton in 1978. The first Maltese radio program in North America originated in Windsor, Ont, in 1954. The Maltese community in Toronto is served by 'Wirt Malta' or 'Maltese Heritage' on CHIN radio and by other community programs on cable TV which feature both Maltese and Maltese-Canadian performers.
The Maltese composer and accordionist Charles Camilleri lived in Canada 1959-65 and 1977-9. The harpsichordist Vivienne Spiteri was born in Malta. In 1959 George Bonavia (editor of Kaleidoscope Canada, published 1979-82 by Employment and Immigration Canada) donated to the Windsor Public Library a collection of Maltese books and of recordings of Maltese folksongs and other music. In 1964 Folkways issued the LP Folk Songs and Music From Malta (FM 4047) extracted from these recordings, with notes by Bonavia.