The news that legendary conductor and composer Joseph Vella had suddenly died shocked the Maltese arts scene to the core yesterday, and tributes to the maestro have been pouring in online.
Vella, who less than a month ago celebrated his 76th birthday, was born in Victoria, Gozo. Having studied music with his father (and later in Durham), he was appointed associate professor in music studies at the University of Malta back in 1994.
At the age of 28, Vella became the musical director of the Astra Opera Theatre, and the band master of both the La Stella Band Club in Gozo, and the Count Roger Band Club of Rabat. Later, he also became the first resident director of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, along with being the director of the Malta Choral Society (and his very own Akkademja Chorus).
Just two days before the tragic news, Joseph Vella was being celebrated at the fifth anniversary of the inauguration of Victoria’s Il-Ħaġar Heart of Gozo Museum. This marked the opening of The Joseph Vella Archive, an exhibition and launch of a book celebrating the life and music of the Gozitan giant. The programme includes everything from documents and memorabilia to a performance of Vella’s popular Cantilena, and was inaugurated on Saturday night… on the eve of Vella’s untimely death.
Maestro Vella’s impressive portfolio includes 110 major works, five symphonies and seven concertos.
It wasn’t just the local arts scene that was shaken to the core after the tragic news hit Facebook.
Taking to social media to honour the late maestro, a number of people shared their own personal experiences with the local legend many called ‘a giant’. Joseph’s sons Nikki and Alan penned a heartfelt tribute to their father, saying he ‘had an immense heart of gold, and the energy of a teenager.’
Prof Mro Joseph Vella will be hugely missed. I had the honour to closely follow his music and talent- the Maestro was exceptional and his contribution to local music extraordinary. His name will live on and on through his beautiful works. pic.twitter.com/2pSchh9rhJ
— Owen Bonnici (@OwenBonnici) February 26, 2018