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King’s Own Band celebrates 140 years of making music

The King’s Own Band celebrated their 140th anniversary on Saturday, with a concert at the Catholic Institute, Floriana.

The King’s Own Band is a Maltese Philharmonic band which was formed in 1874, in Valletta, the capital city of Malta. The band was originally called ‘La Stella’, but when they achieved national success, they adopted the name ‘La Nazionale Vincitrice’.

By the 1880s, the band had begun to gain recognition and fame worldwide. In 1885, Prince Albert, the then Prince of Wales, became a patron of the band, which was renamed The Prince of Wales’ Band in his honour. When the Prince ascended the throne as King Edward VII in 1901, he gave permission for the band’s name to be changed to The King’s Own Band, a name which they still use today.

Edward VII - The King after whom the band was named.

Edward VII – The King after whom the band was named.

In 1903, while on an official visit to Malta, The King presented the band with a Royal Standard. Unfortunately, the banner was destroyed during the Second World War, and so, over 60 years after King Edward first granted the Royal Standard to ‘his own band’, his great-granddaughter Queen Elizabeth presented the band with a similar honour, during her visit to Malta in 1967.

One of the greatest moments for The King’s Own Band was when they played at the International Band Festival in Algiers in 1912. They were an instant success, and were awarded with the title of ‘Eccellenza’ (Excellent).

The very next year, the band participated in the International Eucharistic Congress, which was held in Malta.

In 1936, the band became the first band to play the Maltese national anthem in public, at St George’s Square, to commemorate the National Day of Malta.

The band celebrated its centenary in 1974 with a number of concerts across Valletta. Most recently, the band played for Pope John Paul II during his visit to Malta in 1990. The band continues to have a busy schedule, and performs in Malta throughout the year.

Today, the band comprises 95 musicians, directed by Mro. John Galea, who was appointed bandmaster in 2002. For the 140th anniversary concert, they played works by Strauss, Sibelius, Verdi and Caruana, among other.

The band will be performing again next month, at Republic Street Valletta, as a part of the Republic Day celebrations to be held on the 13th of December.

Photo credit: Kvasir79via photopin cc

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