On the occasion of the 2004 Olympic Games to be held in Athens in Summer 2004, the Hellenikon Idyllion invited the Chorus Urbanus to give concerts in Greece during the month of September 2003. The Choir was invited over on the strength of its past projects as well on its present artistic credentials.
The Cultural Centre Hellenikon Idyllion has organised a musical competition for original compositions with the theme “Olympic Games of Music”. The aim of this competition was to transform the Olympic spirit into music by means of musical compositions inspired by the five original Olympic sports of Ancient Greece, namely athletics, jumping, discus throwing, javelin and wrestling, all of them reflected in the poems of Pindar, a poet from Ancient Greece.
The competition was won by Andrew March, a young British composer.
In order to promote the winning compositions, Hellenikon Idyllion has invited various choirs and orchestras to interpret the winning compositions. After pertinent srutiny, Hellenikon Idyllion specifically invited the Chorus Urbanus to interpret the winning piece Five Songs of Pindar by the young British composer Andrew March.
In the words of Andreas Drekis, artistic director of Hellenikon Idyllion, “the bold cultural initiatives of the Chorus Urbanus have strengthened our choice in view of its artistic integrity, to perform such a demanding work.” Andrew March’s winning composition was premiered during a concert in Kipotheatro Nikea in the province of Athens on Friday, 19 September 2003 at 9.00pm. Attending for this concert one could notice Andrew March himself, who flew over from the UK specifically to attend to the choir’s premiere. as well as the runners-up, the members of the jury of the competition, members of the direction of Hellenikon Idyllion, representatives of the Ministry of Culture as well as the Mayor of Nikea. The adjudicating jury was composed of Themistocles Sernia from the National Opera Theatre of Athens, German conservatoire director Alois Springer and Professor Werner Schultz of the University of Music and Art in Vienna.
For this concert the Choir was under the musical direction of Mro John Galea. The performance included music from the Choir’s versatile repertoire of operatic and a cappella works. The purity of stylistic performance and great attention to dynamic details were widely appreciated by all those present.The Choir was accompanied by its soloists, namely soprano Yvonne Galea, mezzo soprano Antonella Mercieca, tenor Mario Portelli and bass Noel Galea. The climax of this concert was the interpretation of March’s winning composition which was met with a standing ovation by those present. Andrew March himself congratulated the Choir for his faithful interpretation of his piece. The concert also included instrumental compositions by Zdenek Pololanik, Igor stravinsky and John Galea which were performed by pianist Lydia Ellul Buttigieg, and violinists Mariella Cassar, Josette Bajada and Charleen Caruana, members of the Chorus Urbanus.
Another memorable concert by the Chorus Urbanus took place on Saturday, 20 September 2003 in the prestigious concert hall of the Archaelogical Museum in the city of Egion. The awe-inspiring magnificence of the various exhibited artifacts surrounding the sides of the auditorium provided a sublime backdrop for a resounding repeat performance of the Five Songs of Pindar.
Various distinguished patrons attended namely the Mayor of the city, various dignitaries of the Greek Orthodox Church, the winner, various professors from the University of Patras, the members of the jury and the internationally-acclaimed Greek opera singer, bass Giorgio Pappas. The latter followed the concert with great attention and at the end of the concert he personally went to congratulate Mro Galea for the high quality singing and discipline of such a formidable ensemble. He told Mro Galea: “Avete un coro d’opera eccellente con solisti bravi. E’ un vero coro d’opera” (“You have an excellent opera choir with very good soloists. This is a real opera choir”).
The Choir also sang during a liturgical service in the Roman Catholic Church dedicated to St Andrew in Patra on Sunday 21 September 2003. It interpreted the Missa Brevis by Boyer as well as other polyphonic motets both in Latin and in Maltese.
During this choral tour, apart from their singing engagements, the choir members had the opportunity to visit various cultural and historical places in the region namely Athens and its majestic Acropolis, AcroCorinth, Mycenae, Nafplion, the Mega Spilao Monastery, the Cave of Lakes in Kastria, Kalavryhia and Delphi. The choir also visited the ancient theatre of Epidauros and was rewarded with the rarely granted permission to sing in this ancient site which boasts of extremely perfect acoustics.
During its stay in Athens, the Chorus Urbanus was accompanied by the Citadel Video Communications crew. headed by Alvin Scicluna, who filmed the entire tour and singing engagements.
This sixth choral tour for the Chorus Urbanus was a very positive experience and certainly continued to add to the lustre of the choir’s reputation as one of Malta’s foremost cultural exponents.