Our second full day in Malta started with generous free time to explore the beaches and shops at Qawra! Several choristers took the opportunity to wade/swim in the Mediterranean Sea at St. Paul's Bay. At the beach we found, the sand was made up of small rocks and the water was a deep blue and clear enough to see the bottom -- offering a window to observe the tiny fish swimming beneath us.
After our beach excursion we boarded the tour bus and traveled to Gozo, Malta's second largest island with a population of approx. 30,000. Taking the ferry from Cirkewwa, we passed the famous Blue Lagoon at Comino Island (population: 4) and marveled once again at the incredible blueness of the water. Amore choristers enjoyed the sunshine and fresh air during the twenty minute passing. From the ferry we immediately noticed a massive castle-like building on Gozo and were informed that, in fact, that was the very church we would be performing at in the evening: the Rotunda of Xewkija.
Our guide Vivian took us on another tour through Gozo's capital, Victoria. The homes in Victoria were built as winding rows of townhouses, each with their own unique character. Residents have custom doors of varying shapes and sizes, balconies or balcony boxes, and religious tiles, paintings or verses adorning the entrance to most homes.
As we made our way to the town square we stopped to visit the Bażilika San Ġorġ. As we entered we discovered another unexpected ornate interior. The bażilika had lush red walls and gold carved designs with marble-designed floor like that of St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta. We decided to do an impromptu performance for the Gozitans in the square and stood on the steps to the bażilika.
We then ventured to Xewkija's Church of Saint John the Baptist (also known as the Rotunda) to perform a concert before also participating in the mass for the feast day of the church's patron saint - Giovanni Battista (John the Baptist). We were in awe upon entering the church. It's impressive dome offered stunning acoustics and Artistic Director Sara Boos sent choristers in groups to hear their sound from different areas in the church.
During the celebratory mass, the priest thanked us for joining them and quoted St. Augustine of Hippo in stating "He who sings, prays twice." We were honored to be a part of their holy celebration and to understand more fully the deeply religious culture of Malta. At the Rotunda we were again treated to the audience singing along during our premiere performance of the Maltese National Anthem.
Afterward, we were invited to go to the top of dome to explore. Amore choristers were also encouraged to climb the winding staircase to the belfry for an expansive view of the entire island of Gozo and Northern Malta.