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Fresh Lease of Life to Old Maltese Music
Report as appeared in The Times of Malta on Friday 9 December 2005

Malta has a wealth of old music that has been deposited in local archives and for hundreds of years has never been played and the Mediterranean Institute is helping institutions owning such works to have them studied and played again by arranging for the old scores to be transcribed into modern musical language.

Much of the old music in the archives presents two principal problems to bring it up to modern standards. Some of the old compositions have missing parts and the musical scores are not written in today's methods of musical communication.

On the initiative of Simon Mercieca, the Mediterranean Institute, which forms part of the University of Malta, is helping archives which are a depositary of old musiDoris Zarb, Fr Joe Mifsud, Archpriest of the collegiate church of Cospicua; Simon Mercieca, director of the Mediterranean Institute; Rita A. Scicluna, a postgraduate student editing part of the musical scores and Canon Joseph Bonello, archivist of the Collegiate Chapter of Cospicua.c to have such work examined and musical texts played digitally through specialised computer programmes that record the musical sounds of the composition.

The first project, under the care of the music division within the Mediterranean Institute, is the assessment of some of the old musical scores currently preserved in the archives of the Cospicua parish church and the Wignacourt Museum, Rabat.

The musical archives of the parish church of Cospicua contain musical scores that date back to the 17th century. Many of these compositions are works by Maltese composers and most are unique because there are no copies in any other archives. The archives also contain scholarly works, such as pieces of opera by the composer Giovanni Paejsiello, and musical grammar books in manuscript form dating to the late 18th century and early 19th century.

A similar project dealing with the editing of old music has also been launched at the Wignacourt Museum with the support of its energetic curator, Mgr Gwann Azzopardi. This collaboration will lead to some pieces of old music at the Wignacourt Museum being performed in public in the near future.

Dr Mercieca is very keen to initiate another project consisting of the restoration of a portable organ kept at the Cospicua parish church. It is in a very bad state of repair at present but it appears that most of the pieces are still extant, a spokesman for the Mediterranean Institute said. "It is hoped that with the help of a sponsorship and local expertise it will be possible to restore this work of art to its pristine condition."

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