Abele Calleja (6 September 1894 – 31 August 1978) was a Maltese musician and bandmaster.
Abele was born in Ħamrun on September 6, 1894. His parents were both from Valletta. From a very young age he had shown an affinity to music and started to learn a difficult and tricky brass instrument, namely the French horn, or as commonly known ‘the horn’ (kornu in Maltese).
In his youth he enlisted in the Royal Navy as a bandsman. He continued with his studies and expanded his repertoire to other instruments which paved the way for his future.
He played on many special occasions, including the coronation of King George VI in London in May 1937 and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953. Having served under Mro Bellizzi, he was given full responsibilities when Bellizzi retired from the service.
The British Royal Navy was the highest accolade possible and the various admirals he served under all recognised his talent and capabilities. During the same period, as officially permitted, Mro Calleja used to act as bandmaster of some band clubs and teach prospective young bandsmen.
In partnership with Paul Nani (1906-86), the fifth descendant of the famous musical family, Calleja acted as maestro di cappella of various churches as Nani could not, or did not want to, be encumbered with so many feasts, especially during the busy summer season.
Mro Calleja retired from the navy at the age of 60 – normally, many had to retire at an earlier age. Abele is well remembered at the Vilhena Band Club in Floriana where he served twice as band master. In the club’s hall, there is a very good portrait of Calleja.
Abele Calleja died on August 31, 1978, only seven days short of his 84th birthday. After his death, his widow donated all his music and works to Fr Alberto Borg, OSA, but it is not known if proper recognition was ever made by Fr Borg to the contribution he had from Abele Calleja.
- Remembering a true maestro: Abele Calleja - by Frans H. Said, Times of Malta, 5 September 2020