Date of Birth: 15th November, 1990
Star Sign: Scorpio
Media-related occupation: Freelance musician
Roberta Bugeja had initiated her training in pianoforte. Upon commencing her studies in Music at the University of Malta, she was encouraged to join the resident choir at St John’s co-Cathedral, the Collegium Musicum Choir. This had been a breakthrough for her, as she had been immediately intrigued by the mesmerising sound of the organ being played in Sunday Mass by Maestro di Cappella, Prof. Dr. Dion Buhagiar. This was when she decided to receive professional organ training from him. Organ soon became her passion, and she pursued her postgraduate degree at Cardiff University through the Master it! Scholarship. She studied performance under Robert Court, Baroque and French Romantic historical performance practice under Dr David Ponsford, and conducting under Dr Robert Fokkens.
You’ll be participating in the Malta International Organ Festival in a few days’ time. Is this your first collaboration with this event?
Yes, it’s my first. I’m thankful that this year, amidst a hectic life, I’m dedicating some of my time preparing for a Maltese Feast Antiphon-themed recital at St. Julian’s Parish Church on the 3rd December at 8.30pm. If you’re a Maltese feast lover, I encourage you to come along.
How would you describe classical music?
Where to begin! The popular misconception is that classical music is any kind of instrumental and sung music which is often times categorised as boring, or which doesn’t make you dance. Classical music is a broad term. When one refers to French Classical music, one would in fact be referring to the generally sacred music of the 17th century Baroque era – Rameau, Couperin, etc. Music of this time was ornate, contrapuntal and rhythmic. To refer to the music which makes up the 18th century Classical period, we allude to composers such Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It’s the period that succeeds the Baroque period, preceding the Romantic. Music of the Classical period usually has a light texture, and makes use of frequent changes in dynamics. I would most certainly not class this music as boring, but on the contrary, full of emotion. I cannot help but mention some of the greatest works including Mozart’s Requiem or Haydn’s Paukenmesse – pure bliss!
Do you feel you have enough space and opportunities to spread your artistic wings in Malta?
Music and other arts are getting closer to the people thanks to the Cultural Directorate in Malta. Obviously, music cannot work on its own. Other factors (education, time, etc.) are also involved, so it’s only a matter of time for things to progress further. From an organist’s point of view, yes, there’s room for improvement. Organ is still thought of as the instrument of funerals or church. It goes beyond that.
I must agree with C. Franck on this: “My new organ…it’s like an orchestra.” Name flutes, trombones, cymbals – you have it! No organ built is the same – different pipes, different materials, different manuals, different mechanisms, different acoustics. Although the organ is so complex in its own right, it would be lovely to see it more involved with orchestras. Thankfully, the Malta International Organ Festival has taken care of involving the organ in this manner, but it only comes just once a year.
If any of my readers were interested in starting to learn playing the organ, what would you recommend they start with?
Loosen up your body! If you’re a pianist, you already shouldn’t tense up your fingers, hands, arms and shoulders while playing. Moreover, if you’re an organist, you shouldn’t tense up all of these plus your whole feet. I’d suggest doing a quick exercise before practicing. It helps as a way of loosening up the body and having lighter feet. In addition to this, when playing the organ, you might also momentarily forget the way you play the piano. Also, practice, practice, practice! Not only technique but also sight-reading.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
My greatest achievement has been slowly learning the rhythm of life; that one day life gives you lemons, whilst the other day gives you sweets. One day gives you enemies, the other day gives you friends for life. I’ve learnt that you cannot achieve something unless you really believe you can achieve it and work hard to get it. No one else can do that for you. Be positive and respect yourself and others. That’s the way to a harmonious life.
If you had to meet any other organist, who would it be and what would you talk about?
If only I was born back then! I’d love to meet J.S. Bach in person, and talk about the ways he managed such a busy life with so many kids! I’d attend his concerts at the venues he purposely composed for, and feel the music in its right environment.