Our final performance in Malta was a special one, as it was also the last night of the entire tour. This tour was something I had worked on, looked forward to and felt nervous/excited about for so long- and then it flew by in a minute and was over in the blink of an eye. Much to our our delight, our last concert in Malta was in a gorgeous performance space called the St. James Cavalier Center For Creativity in the historic (and magical) city of Valletta.
The theater in the St. James Center seats about 100 people, features a beautiful piano and nearly perfect acoustics- we needed almost no amplification because the natural sound in the room was so good. We couldn't believe our good fortune that we would get to end the tour in this beautiful, warm, intimate space. I felt so emotional during this concert- I had truly enjoyed every performance on tour, but this was my last chance to soak it all in. We played an extra long set featuring Carlo Muscat, a wonderful local saxophonist who arranged the traditional Maltese song that we played. And if all that weren't enough, we were privileged to have Madam Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley in the audience, the very popular US Ambassador to Malta (it takes approximately two seconds in her presence to see how amazing she is). We closed with the song featured in the video below- Leonard Bernstein's classic "Some Other Time".
This tour has made me nearly evangelical about cultural diplomacy. I've had strong feelings about the importance of travel and cross-cultural connections since my first real experience traveling as an adult- on a nine month European tour of the musical "HAIR". I believe that travel makes you more empathetic; once you've experienced the feeling of a being a stranger somewhere, once you've had the experience of people allowing you into their world, you're more likely to be kind to the stranger when they're in your home. Travel and immersion in other cultures breaks down stereotypes and reveals the fact that wherever you go, people are so similar in so many ways. The world becomes more people, less "others". Yes, the old cliche that "the things that we have in common outweigh our differences" has become a faith-restoring truth for me as I meet more and more people the world over.
It was a privilege to represent the United States on this journey- in some of the places we went, the people there had never met an American before- and I'm so grateful that our government understands the importance and universality of music and its ability to connect strangers. I know that "art" can seem self-indulgent, childish and/or wholly unnecessary- but those are only things that it SEEMS to be. Anyone who’s been involved in an artistic endeavor knows what a soul-enriching experience it is, knows what a struggle it can be to create something that speaks to universal truths and emotions, and knows how incredibly necessary it is for the sake of humankind.
The opinions expressed herein are the sole opinions of Gabrielle Stravelli, not the US State Department nor American Music Abroad. Our ensemble is: Jim Ridl, piano, Pat O'Leary, bass and Jordan Young, drums. Pictures in this post by Monique Falzon and video by Susan Ross, both of the US Embassy Malta.