Joseph Caruana (bandmaster)

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Mro. Joseph Caruana

Mro. Joseph Caruana was born on Sunday 24th. September 1961. As he himself says, he replaced other great men who died in the year 1961: some of whom were, his own grandfather John Baptist Caruana, Dun Karm Psaila, the Maltese National Poet, Ernest Hemmingway, the great writer, amongst others. His parents being Mro. Carmel Caruana born and lived in Luqa until marriage and Evelyn Mizzi born in Vittoriosa and lived in Ħaż-Żabbar until marriage.

As his father was from the locality of Luqa and Joseph was the fourth child, two of whom already died (the second born named Andrew and died after 9 months of age), his father wanted his new born boy to be named Andrew (like the second born – and St. Andrew being the patron saint of the locality of Luqa). But it happened that the new born boy was a weak one. It was the norm, knowing that a week baby is born, the midwives at the hospital baptize the children and name them Mary for the girls and Joseph for the boys. As Joseph was born a weak baby, the midwife baptized him “Joseph”, but fortunately after a couple of days Joseph survived birth quite well.

At that time both Joseph’s parents were living in with Evelyn’s parents in Żabbar, as the parents has bought a plot of land in Paula and the house was still in construction. The house of Joseph’s grandparents was an old one being rented to his grandparents and so was not owned by his grandparents. It was a quite big house, notwithstanding it was only a ground floor one. The house consisted of an entry hall leading to a central yard. In this entry hall there were three large showcases full of birds which Joseph’s grandfather have caught and has put them there as trophies. Then the yard was quite big, which had around six rooms around it. At one corner of the yard there was the entry to the water basin and at another corner there was the only toilet of the house. After some time of renting the house, his grandfather (Felix Mizzi) explained that he needed another room to serve as his workshop for his work on birds, and so he built a wooden room, dividing the yard in two.

Joseph’s first incident was when he was on the roof with his father and being a boy of a year and a half, decided to go down by the ladder to the yard, but alas, the ladder wasn’t there! What happened was that there was a wire just below the roof top and the young Joseph thought that it was the ladder and so he put his feet on this wire and as soon as he left the grasp of his hands, obviously gravity did its job and he fell down. Luckily, his mother was in the yard and as she saw him fall down went to his safety and caught him in her hands.

Joseph was growing to be a strong and nasty child and as his parents sent him to a Nun’s School at Vittoriosa. Sometimes, when he was naughty, the nuns would tie Joseph to the wooden chair with a rope. Sometimes, Joseph was so naughty that he did not like the feeling of being tied to the chair that he fought so hard to untie himself that he broke the chair and the nun told Joseph to take the chair with him home to tell his parents to fix it. At the age of three, all Joseph’s family went to live in their new home in Paula, in Triq San Franġisk. The young Joseph went to the Government primary school where is behaviour was somewhat better than that of the child-care school. At the age of 6, his father, being a musician himself, took him to nearby pianoforte teacher so that Ms. Degabriele could teach the art of pianoforte playing and theory to his son Joseph. Ms. Degabriele was a good teacher, but her worst part of her teaching was when her students performed mistakes while playing the piano, she sometimes would scourge her students! With the guidance of Ms. Degabriele, Joseph progressed in the piano playing, where at the age of 10, he had already successfully passed the first five grades of theory and pianoforte playing of the Royal Schools of Music of London. It was at that age (10) that he played the pianforte for the first time infront of an audience. This happened as his sister was playing a part in a play called “The importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wild in the Theatre of St. Aloysius College in Birkirkara. He played the pianoforte for fifteen minutes during the intermission of the said play. In the meantime, at the age of 6, his parents took him to the Paula Government Primary School, where he attended such a school for five years. In the year that he finished his Primary Education, his father did not want him to carry on his secondary education in a Government School, but rather to a church one. During the summer of year 1971, Joseph, now almost 11, sat for the Secondary School entry exam at St. Augustine College in Pieta`, where he successfully passed and was admitted to Form 1.

Joseph studied his academic and musical studies in a parallel manner, where his music studies, in a way helped his academic studies and thought. Joseph was always good with numbers and so was really good in Mathematics and Accounts. As a matter of fact, in the year 1976, being in Form 4, from all the students of St. Augustine College, who sat for the Oxford College of London, Ordinary Level examination, he was the only one to obtain a pass mark from about 25 students. As he continued on in his last year of Secondary School, he sustained his studies and sat for another six Ordinary Level examinations and successfully passed.

Having passed enough examinations to enter into the Sixth Form of the same College, he progressed into the Advanced two year course of the Sixth Form for three subjects; English, Italian and Maltese. In the end of such course he successfully passed the Maltese Advanced Level Examination of the Matriculation Syllabus of the University of Malta. Exactly the next day that he finished the Sixth Form at St. Augustine College Pieta, Joseph started his working carrier as a “Potato Peeler” in the year 1978 in Mosta in a part-time engagement for 6 hours daily.

During his Secondary School, he continued with his pianoforte and musical theory studies, as he passed Grade 5 under the guidance of Ms. Degabriele and as he claimed with his father that sometimes he got a beating from Ms. Degabriele for playing a piece in a bad manner, therefore he changed his musical tutor to Profs. Dr. Charles Zammit in Luqa. Under the guidance of Dr. Charles Zammit, Joseph progressed a lot that he successfully passed Grades six, seven and eight in pianoforte playing and the Grade 5 in General Musicianship of the Royal Schools of Music in just four years. Finishing all these exams, Joseph was now 16 years of age and he really wanted another musical challenge – to play the clarinet.

At the age of 16 his local parish-priest asked him if he was interested to play the harmonium during the church religious services. The harmonium was really like an organ, but that instrument worked through air, which air had to be supplied by the player himself by pressing onto two pedals continuously as he played. Joseph normally would say: “to play the harmonium in a whole mass is like walking two miles!” Aften 10 years in this situation, a local engineer installed an electric blower to the harmonium and that was a sigh of relief to Joseph as he needed not to press those two pedals any more. In the year 2006, there was the parish-priest: Canon Fr. Vincent Cachia, who really was fond of music and one of the many collections he made was for the purchase of a new organ. This all electric and electronic new organ was a God-send to Joseph and the two colleagues of his.

Mro. Joseph Caruana

Having already passed the General Musicianship, the Grade 8 of pianoforte playing and musical theory, this paved way for Joseph to self-teach the clarinet using the Clarinet text book “Lefevre” Book 1. After about a couple months playing alone in his room, his father being a good clarinetist himself and a band director, told him to go about to his office to teach him better to play the clarinet. Joseph in two years improved his clarinet playing very much and his father Carmel, being the local bands’ director, he told his son to join the local band playing the clarinet. This kicked off his Malta Bands carrier at the age of 18, playing the clarinet with the Soċjeta Filarmonika Fra Antoine De Paule Banda Kristu Re of Paula. He joined the de Paule Band during one of the services the band rendered during the feast to St. Sebastian in Qormi. In 1993 he completed his first musical composition – this being a band march dedicated to his father. As far as his musical studies are concerned, Joseph did not stop here and he continued to practice both his pianoforte and clarinet. At the age of 22, his father, being the musical director of the Soċjeta Filarmonika King’s Own Band Club of Valletta, seeing his son progressing, asked his son to join in to the latter band club.

His professional carrier took him from his first job as a “potato peeler” with a crisps manufacturing company in Mosta at the age of 17 to his actual job as Assistant Principal with the Government of Malta, appointed in office at the age of 50. Between the two jobs above-mentioned, there were various jobs, mainly: he was employed as Restaurant Cashier & Receptionist/Cashier at the Jerma Palace Hotel in Marsaskala between 1982 to 1989 and in the Accounts Section of the Tourist Agency of Robert Arrigo and Sons from 1989 to 1990. On the 13th September 1990, Joseph was admitted to the Government of Malta employed as a Data Entry Operator.

The year 1990 was a very important year for Joseph. This was the year where he married Irene. Irene was a young-lady from Ħamrun. Joseph did not want to believe that Irene was one from a family bearing fourteen children! As a matter of fact, Irene was the third from the youngest. Joseph had to admit that his future wife formed part of such a big family as in the first St. Gaetan feast of the year 1989, all Irene’s family and their spouses (including their children) would normally gather in their parent’s rather small house in Ħamrun. In that gathering, there were about thirty people on their parent’s roof! Most of them drinking beer and nibbling all sorts of finger food, previously prepared by some of the brothers and sisters.

His wedding was really a memorable one. All started when Joseph and Irene decided to get married, and Joseph wished to get married on Easter evening and left to Church to Irene’s choice. Being from Ħamrun, Irene opted to the Ħamrun church. Therefore they both went to speak to the parish-priest and when Joseph told the parish-priest that their wish to marry on Easter evening, the parish-priest at first was not sure if a marriage could be held on such an important feast day of christianity, but after a phone call to the Maltese Curia, the parish-priest confirmed that their marriage could be held on the day they wished but at the mass starting at six in the afternoon. It also happened that three weeks after their marriage, Pope John Paul II was coming over to Malta and so as the Ħamrun choir was one of ten choirs chosen to take part in the Papal mass held at the Fosos Square in Floriana, the choir decided to make that Easter mass as a general rehearsal for the papal mass. Therefore, both with all the religious singing, with the long preach and the rather long prayers written only to be said on such an important date – Irene and Joseph’s religious wedding lasted almost three hours!

For the honeymoon, the newly wedding couple spent a fortnight in Austria between Vienna and Salzburg. In both cities, Joseph, being a musician, sought the places of Ludvig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert and obviously three of the houses of his favorite composer – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. They also went many wonderful places, especially when they went to so called The Sound of Music Tour.

Back to normality, of life in Malta, Joseph returned to his work and so did his wife Irene, while they decided to live in with Joseph’s parents as the house was really big. To live together with their parents was really the wish of Joseph’s father. Life goes on and after the seven transfers in his professional carrier, Joseph suffered in the year 1997, the final place he was transferred to was the department of the Joint Office in Pieta`.

The couple did not have any children and so after their trip to the Sheffield clinic to try the test-tube baby in 1996, back to Malta, they opted to apply to adopt a child. And in 2001 their wish came through. The agent with whom they applied, phoned them and arranged a meeting with them, whereby the agent handed them a photo of a baby boy and that the sum of money they had to pay was Lm6,000 (about €14,000) of notarial and other legal fees. On 11th September 2001, all the world knows what happened to the World Trade Centre of New York. In November 2001 the agent told Joseph and Irene the day of arrival of their baby boy, who was coming with an accompanying “sister” from Islamabad in Pakistan. At the airport Joseph and Irene was really very happy to have their baby boy in their hands, and the sister told them that the fact that they arrived safe and sound was a God send as when they plane took off from the Pakistani airport they heard a big sound that was a bomb which exploded in the Islamabad terminal – another opera of I.S.I.S. Happy with their new boy, Joseph and Irene went home and presented the five-month-old boy to Joseph’s parents. Obviously, Joseph and Irene had everything ready to receive the baby in their home.

In 2002, the Government of Malta offered a University Course leading to a Diploma in Public Administration, having a part-time duration of two years. Joseph applied to enter such a course and he was admitted to the course as a Governmental Employee. The course started with 60 participants, but in the year 2004, Joseph was one of 27 who was awarded the Diploma in Public Administration from the University of Malta.

In the meantime, his musical studies carried on, mostly he went to his friend Mro. Ronnie Debattista in Birkirkara where he started to have lessons on Clarinet playing and theory of music. After three years he passed successfully Grade 7 of Theory of Music of the London College of Music and two diplomas: Diploma of Associate in the Theory of Music of the Victoria College of Music of London and Diploma of Associate in Clarinet Playing of the Victoria College of Music of London.

After this he was appointed teacher of Clarinet and wood-wind instruments in his local band club – the de Paule Band Club and here he continued in his appointment for ten years. During his office, he “invented the youth-Band” in Malta as he gathered those students and bandsmen who were less than 25 years of age and he founded the de Paule Youth-Band and after a year and a half, Joseph organized a concert for the newly formed de Paule Youth-Band, which concert was held in the Church Hall having a big success.

He also was appointed teacher of Clarinet and wood-wind instruments in other three Maltese band clubs, namely, the Lourdes Band Club of Paula (until 2010), the Annunziata Band Club of Attard (until 2000) and the La Stella Band Club of Rabat, Għawdex. In the year 2010, it happened that the Lourdes Band Club closed down and in November 2012 six persons founded a new Band Club within the Lourdes Parish of Paula and in April 2013, Joseph was appointed Musical Director of the newly formed Band Club which was named Soċjeta` Filarmonika 11 ta’ Frar. Here he contacted a very good poet – Chevalier Carmel Bianchi, whereby Joseph asked him to compose a poem for the newly formed band club, and to which he intended to put music to the newly composed poem. This was very much accepted by both members and committee of the band club. In August 2014, during the feast to Our Lady of Lourdes held in Paula, Joseph directing the band whilst playing his own composition of the Innu tal-Banda tas-Soċjeta` Filarmonika 11 ta’ Frar.

In the same year, to keep up with the modern times, he attended a course for the European Computer Driving License (E.C.D.L.), whereby he successfully passed all the seven modules (exams) of the E.C.D.L.

During the period 2008 to 2015, he got two promotions in his work in the Government Sector. He first sat with success for the exam and was promoted to Executive officer and then after six years he sat for another exam and was promoted to the post of Assistant Principal. Hence, after these promotions, he also got transferred from his place of work at the Joint Office in Pieta to the Drugs Control Unit in Valletta and finally to the Entitlement Unit in Pieta, where he is still working in the present day and he is hoping that within 3 years, reaching the age of 61, he will retire from work and so he will have more and more time to dedicate to music.

As far as music is concerned, for the future Joseph have a Mozart Project he called it. This is that Joseph already has some of the scores of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 41 symphonies in orchestra form. He intends to transpose all of Mozart’s symphonies to symphonic band scores. He will continue to dedicate his time as Musical Director at the Soċjeta` Filarmonika 11 ta’ Frar, and other opportunities that may occur. He already made future plans for when he will retire from his work in the office from his professional duties as Assistant Principal. During the days, he intends to spend some mornings in the office of the local Archpriest. This as Joseph during his working is a much talented Microsoft Excel user, and he has a great experience in the use of such software, he may help the Archpriest to manage better his office. The rest he will be a full-time musician as he always says that without music is like being without air, one cannot live.