Malta's musical gift

It was an extremely cold, misty December morning when Anthony picked me up for a whirlwind sightseeing jaunt around Valetta, capital of Malta, the tiny Mediterranean country.

As we drove through the narrow, decked up streets, Anthony suddenly began singing the popular Christmas carol, ‘Silver Bells’ in his rich, baritone voice. While I quietly enjoyed the unexpected musical treat, I grew a bit nervous because it appeared to
me he was giving his utmost to the singing rather than focusing on those narrow streets.

The moment he paused, I couldn’t help but applaud and promptly began a conversation. “You sing very well,” I complimented him. He nodded in quiet gratitude, eyeing me in the rear view mirror. “It must be difficult to sing and drive,” I remarked, giving vent to my eternal fear of traffic and accidents. “No, no,” was his quick riposte. “Driving and singing come naturally to me,” he waxed lyrical as he sauntered down memory lane.

Anthony lost his father when he was barely two, leaving his mother to bring him up. After his schooling, he was compelled to work to support the family. Gifted with a great voice, he joined a band and earned a living until he was eligible for a driving licence. He was offered a driver’s position in the tourism ministry where his late father worked. Now, almost two decades later Anthony juggles between an eight hour driver’s job and as a three hour, three times a week singer in a band at a hotel.

He ended his story in front of the National War Museum, one of the city’s few attractions. I spent about an hour at the small but packed museum housing ancient artefacts and historical tidbits. We were barely on the road again when Anthony began another carol in Maltese. And before we reached our next port of call, the St. John’s Co-Cathedral, much to my surprise, he belted out another one.

I took in as much as I could at this splendid monument including the audio tour and rushed out only to be told by Anthony that our next destination was also a church. Needless to state, I was entertained by another endearing carol before we stopped at St. Paul’s Shipwreck church.

“I hope we are done with museums and churches,” I mumbled as Anthony settled behind the wheel. “We are done with museums and churches,” he laughed, “but not with carols,” and began ‘Adeste Fideles’ the Latin version of a popular carol.

While he drove me around the Valletta waterfront and into the city for a meeting with the trade minister, I asked Anthony if he entertained all his guests with his impressive vocals. He admitted that carols are his small gift to visitors during the season when he chauffeurs them around.

It was only when we parted ways that I realised his carols not only took my mind off the traffic and the winter chill but also got me into the festive mood in a new land far from home.

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