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Joe Grech in Malta 2005.


Joe Grech, a Maltese singer, was born in Cospicuamarker, Maltamarker on 9 February 1934. He married Josephine nee' Buttigieg on 24 September 1961. They have a daughter Marcelle, also a versatile singer. At a very early stage in his life, Joe started to play the trumpet with the Zejtunmarker Band Club. His real love was however singing.

Early Years

He was the first singer to win the first Malta Song Festival in 1960, a festival which was organized by the Zghazagh Haddiema Nsara, the local section of the Young Christian Workers. The festival was held at the Radio City Opera House in Hamrunmarker, Malta. Ten songs were presented in the semi final of Thursday 3 November and another ten songs on the semi-final of Friday 4 November. Out of these twenty songs, ten made it to the final night of Saturday 5 November 1960. The Winning Song was Joe Grech's own composition "Vola Uccellino".

The festival was also transmitted on Rediffusion Malta, then a cable radio service provider in Malta since September 1935. Victor Aquilina and Marlene Lauri were the comperes of this festival. Two orchestras conducted by Prof. Giorlando Valente and Mro. Dominic Vella respectively, accompanied the ten songs. Eight of these songs were sung in Italian, one in English and one in Maltese, the latter being "L-Ghada tal-Festa Ma' Vitorin". This song was sung by Frans Fenech and Terry L. Bencini. Incidentally Terry was also awarded the Best Singer Trophy of this festival.

In 1965 the "Impresa Valente" chose Joe Grech to represent Malta in the Italian Festival of Martina Francamarker. Another Maltese singer, Tony Agius, also participated in this festival. In those days, it was very rare for a Maltese singer to participate in an Italian festival, let alone win a trophy as the Best Foreign Singer of this Italian festival. The then Italian High Commissioner of Italy for Malta, Signor Antonio Spada, presented a trophy to Joe Grech

In 1967 Joe, managed to establish himself as one of Malta's most popular pop singers. His 45 rpm entitled " Il- Kaccatur", The Hunter, published on Maltadisk APL 1005 B,and recorded by Audiovision Productions ,with their studios then located in Zachary Street, Vallettamarker, and now at Mile End in Hamrun, started selling like pastizzi (cheese-cakes) in Malta. It also made a tremendous success in countries where the Maltese and the Gozitansmarker had a diaspora, especially Australia. "Il-Kaccatur" was composed by Joseph Ciappara with lyrics by Dr.George Zammit. Joe Grech was accompanied by the orchestra of Spiro Zammit. Incidentally "Il-Kaccatur" was designated as the "B" side of the record, with Carmen Schembri singing "L-Ghanja tal-Emigranti", The Emigrants' Song, being the "A" side.Again in 1967, Rediffusion Malta, published the first long playing album of Maltese compositions, entitled "Malta Song Festival 1967". Joe Grech, together with Mary Rose Darmanin, won this festival with the song "Serenata". Roger Moore was the guest of honour in this 8th. Malta Song Festival, which was also held at the Radio City Opera House in Hamrun on Saturday 8th. December 1967. In this same festival, Joe Grech sang also "O Carina Madalena". The song was composed by Arthur Desira. It is included as the 2nd track on Side 1 of this album. Joe Grima and Victor Aquilina, then Head Of Programmes and Assistant Head Of Programmes respectively of Rediffusion Malta, were the producers of this first 33 rpm of Maltese songs.

The Seventies

On 3 April 1971 Joe was the first Maltese singer to represent Malta in the Eurovision Song Contest with the song "Marija l-Maltija".Since it was sung in the Maltese language , this rendered it the first Eurovision song which was sung in a Semitic language.If you click on the attached link,which can be found under References below, you will be able to enjoy the video of Joe's interpretation in that Eurovision Dublinmarker night.The song was composed by Joe Grech himself, and the lyrics were written by Charles Mifsud. The orchestra of the Eurovision Song Contest was conducted by Mro. Twanny Chircop, the brother of another Maltese tenor and film star Oreste Kirkop of The Vagabond King . Incidentally it was Oreste Kirkop who presented the winning trophy to Joe Grech on the night of that first 1960 Malta Song Festival. The song "Marija l-Maltija" was translated into Swedish and was included in the repertoire of the Swedish singer Lasse Berghagen.

In the early seventies, Joe successfully toured the London, Scottish and Irish circuits. He also had many successful tours in Canada, America, Italy and Australia. It was during one of these tours in the early seventies that Joe Grech, under the management of Joe Stafrace, recorded a Long Playing Album "Sahha Malta With Joe Grech". The orchestra on this LP was composed mostly of members of the Sydney Opera Housemarker orchestra, under the direction of Joe Paparone . The song "Evviva l-Maltin" was composed by Joe himself, specifically for his Australian tour and was dedicated to the several thousands of Maltese living down under. In 1976, Joe performed at the Royal Ballroom of Melbourne, and on the 12 March 1977, Joe gave a spectacular show at the Sydney Opera Housemarker.

Tracks of "Sahha Malta with Joe Grech":

Side 1
  • Welcome To Malta,
  • In-Nassab,
  • Marija l-Maltija,
  • Surriento,
  • Godfather,
  • Ghada Tkun Tieghi.


Side 2
  • Evviva L-Maltin,
  • Another Time Another Place,
  • Xalata Bil-Karrozzin,
  • Is-Sajjied,
  • Viva La Spagna,
  • Sahha Malta.


Musical arrangements: Joe Paparone.Distributed by : M & G Record Co, Melbourne.

The Cross Of Merit

Many Maltese living abroad refer to Joe as "the Voice of Malta".

His voice reminds the Maltese immigrants of their homeland. So much so, that many have returned to Malta together with their children, to see for themselves what Joe has been singing about all these years.

Joe has made friends all over the world. Joe's unselfish character and his charitable generosity were brought to the attention of the Knights Hospitaller also known as Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of the Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, Order Of St.John, Knights of Malta and Chevaliers of Malta. In 2002, this Order awarded Joe Grech the Cross of Merit.

References

  1. Remig Sacco, 'Ix-Xandir f'Malta', Malta 1985, page 19
  2. It-Torca, 09 May 1965
  3. http://www.apl.com.mt/
  4. Times Of Malta,11 December 1967
  5. http://www.musicarrangers.com/jp/
  6. Times Of Malta, 23 March 1977 Page 13





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