At first, the band was more known by the name of its village
of origin, namely Societa Filarmonica del Zebbug (1). This was
no exception since the first bands were more known by the name
of their town or village.
The De Rohan Band was the apple of the eye of the people of
the village in
its initial years. In those days, it took part
in several of the feasts of the village, including that of the
patron saint St Philip (2) and Good Friday. It was decided that
a bandstand be constructed for the band to play on during the
festivities of the patron saint. This bandstand was adorned
by the coat of arms of grandmaster De Rohan and a statue of
the same grand master was placed on a high pedestal on the stand.
All this was done in honour of the name of the band, De Rohan.
Pope Pius IX proclaimed Saint Joseph as the Universal Patron
of the Church in 1870. That same year a statue of Saint Joseph
was inaugurated in the church of Zebbug. It was made by statuarian
Glormu Darmanin. The De Rohan Band was invited by the confraternity
of Saint Joseph to participate in the feast and has been doing
so to date.
The De Rohan Band kept itself independent until the year 1910.
It knew no allegiance to any other society. It had its own premises
where rehearsals were held and musical instruction was given
(3). This place was and is still known as l-iskola (the school)
and stands in Bishop Street. This place today houses the paraphernalia
of the feast of Saint Joseph.
The De Rohan band took part in the feast of the patron saint
of Zebbug until the year 1904. Up until that year, the sacred
music played in the church was performed by the Cappella Nani
and by the Cappella Bugeja alternately. It seems that some people
wanted to keep Bugeja and others Nani. There were the Nanisti
and Bugejisti. Ultimately the Bugejisti prevailed.
The directorate of the De Rohan Band were not in agreement with
this decision. They decided not to participate any more in the
feast of the patron saint, something the band had been doing
since its inception in 1860. Because of this, the band lost
its right to play on the bandstand. The statue of De Rohan was
replaced by that of Vilhena.
The Nani supporters didn’t let things go by. They invited
the Cappella Nani to play on the feast of Saint Joseph. This
feast was celebrated on the last Sunday of April (5) or on the
first Sunday in May (6) until 1904. The De Rohan Band committee
felt that this date was too near the feast of the patron saint
(12th May). Therefore, the committee strived to have it postponed
to a later date. Finally, the feast of Saint Joseph was established
on the last Sunday in July (7). This was made possible by a
rescription of H.H. St Pius X (8).
The Saint Joseph Club and De Rohan Band started to be known
as Ta' L Ajkla due to this litigation about the sacred music.
This was because Nani and Bugeja had connections with Ta' l
Ajkla and Ta' I Istilla respectively (9). Nowadays the Eagle
and the Star adorn the decorations of the respective feasts.
In 1910, The Noble Antonio Zammit Gauci who was simultaneously
president of the Societa' Filarmonica Rohan (10) and Procurator
of the Confraternity of Saint Joseph (11) founded the Circolo
San Giuseppe. The Societa' Filarmonica Rohan and the Circolo
San Giuseppe merged into one new society by means of a contract
of 1 November 1910. This merger was made possible because the
majority of the committee members in both societies were the
same people. Henceforth the new society bore the name of Circolo
San Giuseppe e Filarmonica Rohan ( 12).
decorations both for the church and for the village streets
kept on increasing year by year (13) until the feast of Saint
Joseph established itself as one of the greatest of the island
(14). It was at its in the beginning of the thirties. Then in
1935, the feast received a great blow through the Regional Council.
The party (Society) of Saint Joseph of Zebbug had grown so strong
that their feast equalled that of the patron saint, and possibly
even surpassed it, writes Rev Joseph Farrugia in his Thesis
The contlict between the narties of secondarv feasts and the
Maltese Church. All this ended with the Regional Council of
1935 that imposed heavy restrictions on secondary feasts.
The committees had to accept these new regulations not because
they agreed with them but because the church was strong, influential
and held absolute power over all feasts and so could impose.
These measures suppressed the feast of Saint Joseph to a great
extent. In fact, by time, most of the street decorations had
fallen into disrepair while others were sold. The restrictions
which controlled celebrations and decorations outside the church
saw their end in May of 1975. At that time Civil Authority,
the government, kept for itself the prerogative of regulating
all that which took place outside the church and removed the
restrictions which regulated outside celebrations. It started
issuing permits for street decorations, band marches, and fireworks
and all that concerned outdoor activities during feasts.
The same could not be said for the celebrations that take place
within the church. The restrictions regarding church decorations
and religious functions still hold sway. The Society is eternally
grateful to Rev Joseph Bonanno who was the procurator of the
feast of Saint Joseph between 1916 and 1943. He worked and strived
so that the Zebbug parish church lacked nothing for the feast
of Saint Joseph.
The De Rohan Band has had nineteen Band Masters in all. Three
of them were Italians, namely Ferdinando Molinari, Gaetano Emmanuele
Cali' and Antonio Ruto. The first of these took over from Indri
Borg in 1872 (15). The third Band Master hailed from Zebbug
and was one of the musicians (first clarinet) of the band. He
was Michelangelo Galea who remained at the helm until 1881 when
Michelangelo Debono took over. Mro Debono was bandmaster until
1892 (16). The fifth bandmaster was another Zebbugi, Mro Lorenzo
Gatt who retained the post until 1900 (17). According to a contemporary
newspaper, The De Rohan Band was one of the bands which had
held the most public performances at this time ( 18).
Mro Vincenzo Carabott enjoyed great fame in the musical field.
He took over from Mro Gatt in 1900. In his time as bandmaster,
in 1901, the De Rohan band took part by playing funeral marches
in the great funeral with military honours of its Honorary president,
Mro Filippo Galea (19). Mro Carabott stayed on only until 1903.
Mro Orlando Crescimanno was the next bandmaster until 1906.
Mro Crescimanno was one of the best in his day. He is known
to have kept the band rehearsing continuously because of the
numerous concerts it gave. He also composed the Cantata Inno
a San Giuseppe for soloists, choir and band. This beautiful
work is still performed as the last item in the concert by the
De Rohan Band on the eve of the feast of Saint Joseph. It was
also at this time that the committee, lead by its President
The architect Paul Cassar Torreggiani, issued a uniform for
the musicians. There was a white one for summer and a blue one
for the cooler months.
1906 the De Rohan Band had an Italian bandmaster of the name
Gaetano Emmanuele Cali' who remained until 1914. He was followed
by another Italian, Mro Antonio Ruto who relinquished the post
soon after because of the First World War. He had only held
some rehearsals and a couple of concerts. The tenth bandmaster
was Mro Pacifico Scicluna. He could not give full service to
the band both because he conducted other bands and because of
indisposition. The committee therefore appointed one of its
young musicians as his assistant. He was Giuseppe Busuttil who
deputised for Mro Scicluna on many occasions (20).
Then, in 1920, the Committee of the Saint Joseph Club and De
Rohan Band, considering the experience he had acquired as assistant
bandmaster, decided to appoint Mro Giuseppe Busuttil as bandmaster.
The admirers of the band held great confidence in him and saw
in him the person who would strive to enhance the reputation
enjoyed by the band. In fact, there are two important milestones
during his bandmastership. The first was a great concert held
in Zebbug by the De Rohan Band to commemorate its 61st anniversary.
The second was when, as the first Band of the Island, The De
Rohan Band was invited to play with the La Vallette Band on
its 50's anniversary in 1924 (21). It was also during Mro Busuttil'
bandmastership, in 1923, that its admirers donated a set of
Tubular Bells to the band.
The 1920’s were golden years for the De Rohan Band and
in those days, the admirers accompanied the band wherever it
went to play. They used to spend hours listening attentively
while the band performed. In those days too, a Societa' Mutuo
Soccorso was established within the society to offer help to
its members and musicians (23A). Then, in June 1926, Mro Vincenzo
Ciappara took over. Mro Ciappara was reknowned for his band
conducting, arranging for band and composition of band marches.
In respect of the latter, he is still known as the 'King of
the Maltese March'.
Mro Michele Gatt came from a musical family, which brought honour
to Zebbug. He was also nephew of Mro Lorenzo Gatt. Mro Gatt
took over from Mro Ciappara in January 1930 and remained at
the helm for two years. Between January 1932 and August of the
same year, Mro Willie Attard was the bandmaster. In the same
year, the young man Geraldu Farmgia was chosen as bandmaster.
Mro Farrugia, who was a product of the society was only 23 years
(24) when he conducted the first concert. It was held at Rabat.
He conducted the De Rohan band for a whole 39 years. During
this time, the band, among them held several commemorations
the 78th anniversary of its foundation (1938). On that occasion
Governor Hunter presented the band with a beautiful banner which
had the coat-of-arms of grandmaster De Rohan embroidered in
its centre (25). The Band also took part in the celebrations
which took place on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II's visit
to the island as it had also done previously on the occasion
in the festivities held to mark Queen Victoria's 60th year of
reign. On 20th September 1964 the De Rohan Band performed a
band march in Kingsway in the occasion of Malta independence.
Farrugia also conducted the band during the celebrations held
by the committee of the Saint Joseph Club and De Rohan Band
to mark the first centenary of the band in 1960. This was the
first centenary ever celebrated by any band in Malta and Gozo.
Mro Farrugia composed several band marches for the band among
them To Indri Borg - father of the De Rohan Band. He relinquished
his post in 1970 and was followed by Mro Henry Camilleri, another
musician from the band. Mro Camilleri retained his post until
1976 and was followed by Mro Frank Galea who was also one of
the sons of the society. These two bandmasters carried on the
work started by their predecessors in the field of music.
The band came under the baton of Mro Lawrence Borg in 1978.
In 1981 the band performed a concert at the Catholic Institute
in the name of the Malta Band Clubs Association under the patronage
of the Minister of Education and Culture Then, in 1985, the
band celebrated its 125th anniversary. Mro Borg remained at
the helm until 1990, and left the band a prestigious musical
record during these years.
Mro Ronnie Debattist the present bandmaster, followed Mro Borg.
The De Rohan Band won the first prize at the Melita Cable TV
Band Contest held in 1993 at the Manoel Theatre and was consequently
invited to participate in the ‘Malta International Brass
and Woodwind festival’ held at the Manoel Theatre in November
In 1995 the De Rohan Band, led by Mro Ronnie Debattista, performed
a memorable programme at Zebbug Parish Church for the occasion
of the 125th anniversary of St Joseph as the Universal Patron
of the Church and the Inauguration of the Statue of Saint Joseph.
The musical archives of the band are full of works by the different
conductors, including marches both brilliant and funerary. The
Saint Joseph Club and De Rohan Band still thrives well after
so many years and stands proud of the good and fruitful work
done by its members because they ever followed its motto of
AVANTI SEMPRE. (26)
ta' Malta - P.P. Castagna
del Zebbug e sua Parrocchia - Dun Salv Ciappara
tal-Partiti tal-festi sekondarji u 1-Knisja Maltija (Thesis
by Rev Joseph Farrugia)
Guida generale di Malta e Gozo - 1881 to 1893
2. Il-Verita - May 1894
3. Guida Generale di Malta e Gozo - 1910
4. Corriere Mercantile Maltese - 1875
5. Malta Taghna – 23rd April 1904; La Croce di Malta –
2nd May 1874
6. Il- Poplu Malti – 28th April 1906
7. Malta Taghna – 5th May 1906
8. Il-Poplu Malti – 28th July 1906; Malta Taghna 28th
9. Il-Berqa 1958
10. Poplu Malti 1st April 1911
11. Poplu Malti 1st April 1911
12. Guida Generale di Malta e Gozo - 1920
13. Poplu Malti – 12th August 1911
14. Malta Taghna – 28th July 1917 and 18th May 1872
15. Corriere Mercantile Maltese
16. Guida Generale di Malta a Gozo - 1881, 1892
17. Guida Generale di Gozo - 1892
18. Verita – 28th April 1894
19. Patria – 11th June 1925
20. Malta Taghna – 28th July 1917, 22nd February 1919
21. Commemorative Booklet by Henry Camilleri - 1960
22. Malta Taghna – 14th April 1923
23. L-Orizzont – 16th August 1979
24. Il-Poplu 19th April 1933
25. Il-Berqa 17th October 1938
26. Berqa 1932