Ghosts of Strummin’ Past – Strummin’ Home 6

Another month has gone by and as preparations for this year’s edition are already taking shape, here goes another trip down memory lane. To the sounds of guitars during the second rehearsal for this year, I fish out the chords book of Strummin’ Home 6, and I take a look at the photos I took during those nights… Continue reading

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Ghosts of Strummin’ Past… the very first edition – Strummin’Home

This month’s journey back in time takes us to the very first edition of Strummin’, way back in 2002. For those of you who remember it, this article can bring back some nostalgia, like it did to me and Andrew Francalanza, a singer in the first edition during a chat I recently had with to refresh my memory. For those of you who do not remember it… this is what I recall…

Strummin’s origins were Albert Debono’s dream and in Summer of 2002, a group of 12 volunteers from the Diocesan Youth Commission started working to make this dream come true. We had little experience of organizing such events. It was no easy feat to set up a concert such as this with the experience of volunteers, and a lot to creativity had to be exercised to come up with solutions and deal with the obstacles encountered in pursuing this dream.

The first Strummin’ Home poster!

The first edition of the concert was held on the 23rd of November 2002 at the St Agatha School Hall in Rabat and the funds collected from the concert were donated to Suret il-Bniedem Foundation in aid of the homeless. Christine Francalanza hosted the night and we also had local artists Corkskrew accompanying the guitarists and also entertaining the audience with songs from their album Micromania which they were promoting at the time of the concert.

The concept of having a theme for a Strummin’ concert evolved later on. For the first editions of the concert, the criteria to select songs for the concert were related to their ‘strummability’ and how well-known  they were. This was also because the audience was invited to sing along in what was termed a ‘mass karaoke’ – the audience singing to the songs being strummed. Probably it was because of this that we did not realise immediately that we also needed a solo singer to accompany the guitarists, and in the last few days before the concert, we had to make a lot of effort to find singers to do that!

Kordinu Fret was the mascot for the first Strummin’ Home concert.

When preparing for the concert, we were planning to have 200 guitarists on stage for the first edition. We never knew this would be the wildest of the dreams we had. For the first Strummin’, we had 15 guitarists. We never reached that number, but looking at the guitarists increase ever year, who knows… maybe one day… ?

On the eve of the concert, during our general rehearsal at the auditorium, we had an unexpected power cut, and while we sorted things out, we had to ask the guitarists to leave the stage and go to the foyer where together with David Schembri, who was teaching the guitarists that year, rehearsals continued there by candlelight!!

That was just a taste of the origins of Strummin’, and if I had to ask all those involved, they would come up with more anecdotes like these and how we sorted them out. Truly one memorable journey which I believe was totally worth it, as here we are, 11 years later, still pursuing and making this dream come true. Until the next ghost visits… Keep on Strummin’!

David Schembri and the guitarists rehearsing in the dark during a power cut in the performance hall.

Ghosts of Strummin’ Past: Strummin’ the 80s

Welcome to the first article in the series Ghosts of Strummin’ Past. As the title states, we’ll take trips down memory lane and revisit previous editions of the Strummin’ Concerts starting with Strummin’ the 80s. A vibrant and energetic concert held on the 9th and 10th October 2009. Following the Sounds of the Movies in the previous year, what was better than the 8th Edition of Strummin’ to dedicate to that revolutionary decade!?
As one would imagine, coming up with the set-list for an 80s concert is no easy feat; especially when the eighties were a time where several songs were being covered and turned into hits in that decade but their origins could be traced to way back before the decade. But plunge into the 80s we did.

Glenna, Bernard and Graziana singing at the concert

Glenna, Bernard and Graziana singing at the concert.

We researched music, trends, fashion, games (Rubik’s cube anyone?) to understand the context within which this music was born and come up with a concept for the show. If I had to pick one word to describe that show, it would be vibrant… and truly the  vibe of the 80s could be felt throughout the preparations. It was the music… but not just the music. Yes, that extra jump in one’s step rippled into other bold choices such as picking royal blue as the colour for the cast t-shirt, having a bubble machine on stage, together with highlighter strips of colour to go wild in UV light. Singers and backing vocalists picked bright colours for their performance outfits, and to add that extra kick to match the guitarists strummin’, they also had dance routines in totally 80s fashion for their songs.

Rebekah Zammit Marmara and Claire Agius Ordway (Zoo) backstage

As is the aim of every Strummin’ concert, the proceeds are donated to a chosen charity that provides help to those in need in our community. Richmond Foundation, was the beneficiary for that year. The foundation is non-governmental and it provides community services for adults experiencing mental health problems. It also provides help for children with emotional and challenging behaviour.

After months of preparations, it was time to open the curtains to our dazzling guitarists on stage and to a time machine that landed all of us bang in the 80s for a star-studded Strummin’. Zoo were the hosts for the show, and it was as much fun having them on stage as you expect it to be!  Ira Losco and Jean Claude Vancell, guest bands on separate nights, joined the cast to give the audience present a small taste of their music… And oh! Speaking of the audience… what an audience! The vibe throughout the show was spectacular! One surely cannot forget the renditions of It’s Raining Men, Ghostbusters and Beat It, Paradise City as a concert finale and an encore that had the audience dancing the night away.

Joseph Axiak, Luke Grech and Luke Vella Clark at the Youth Week performance

And it was not over yet! After closing the chapter at Sir Temi Zammit Hall and the mandatory cast party and celebrations, it was time to put another dime in the jukebox for one last bit! The following day, we were invited to give young people a little taste of Strummin’during youth week at the Valletta Waterfront. So the next morning, with sunglasses hiding the severe lack of sleep, Strummers gathered once again on stage, and even though Joseph Axiak, Luke Grech and Luke Vella Clark got a bit confused with their instruments at the beginning, all the Strummers gave a brilliant show to those gathered, and it felt like no one wanted the era of the 80s to end!

Ms Vanessa Caruana, ŻĦN President, presenting the money collected from the concerts to Richmond Foundation CEO, Ms Dolores Gauci.