Malta- Buon Natale! (Merry Christmas in Italian)

We were invited to perform at the Concerto di Natale, a traditional Christmas concert with international artists shown every Christmas Eve all over Europe for the past 18 years. Sounds wonderful, huh? It was.

We left for the airport at 5am with almost no sleep. Our flight had mechanical problems that caused a delay and we missed our connecting flight in DC, causing a reroute and another long wait in the Munich airport. It turned out to be a 27 hour travel day and our baggage never left DC. In short, even though it was a troubled beginning, Malta turned out to be a wonderful highlight experience for me and my gang… My keyboardist Larry Williams (he also played sax), my manager Joe Gordon, and my assistant, Patrick Lundquist.

Our hotel was situated in Valetta, a town that was built in the 1500s, and it showed. Light sand-colored stone was uniform across all the buildings we saw on the island. A small 3-island nation, Malta is southwest of Italy in the Mediterranean Sea, a stone’s throw away. Although the first and perhaps most lasting impressions of being in Malta are that this little island is Italian through and through, the fact is that Malta just gained its independence from Great Britain in 1964, and a great number of Maltese people were educated in British-style prep schools, and when they speak English, you’d swear you could go down to the corner and get fish and chips. Because of this lovely mix, it’s swingin’—English pubs and Italian restaurants and dance clubs that disco until 8 o’clock in the morning. All of this in a community that predates the founding of Rome itself. Proud locals talk about prehistoric caves that suggest human inhabitants as long ago as 7,000 years.

The concert, its rehearsals, and televised performances all took place in a structure that had been a hospital established by the crusaders. Large and imposing, with a 150 yard long great hall, huge fireplace, and suits of armor… Talk about historic.

I did Your Song, We’re In This Love Together, and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, a duet with Petra Magoni of Musica Nuda (Singer and Bass Player Duo with whom we did several dates in 2009.) There was an international group of artists who did some great performances, including a gospel choir from Harlem, called The New York State Gospel Choir under the direction of Rev. Everett Jenkins who sang so inspired that I slipped onto stage and sang with the choir as they shouted and clapped their backup to a lady soloist down front who lit the place up.

I won’t try to describe all the other performances, but in a word, they were superb. I should be getting my own personal copy of the entire concert in the mail any day now. Wish you’d been there. Yes, it was wonderful.

Thank you, Malta and Petra and Ferruccio!

Love, Al

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