I just can't believe that my friend Ġorġ Mifsud-Chircop is dead. He was just 56 years old. His passing is a great loss for the study and preservation of traditional Maltese culture.
Ironically I was preparing the list of obituaries for the annual end of year review feature from MaltaMedia.com when I heard about his passing. I had just observed to my colleagues within the MaltaMedia production team that there are very few names on this year's list. That's a good thing, in the sense that fewer prominent people have died this year. It's so sad that we now have one more.
It's not only a surprise but also quite shocking that Ġorġ is now on this year's list. Anyone who has studied Maltese at A-level in the last 25 years or so knows Ġorg Mifsud-Chircop's name from the textbook Fommu Bil-Għasel. His name was also synonymous with the Maltese folk scene and anyone involved in the preservation and dissemination of local traditions sure knew him and/or was known by him.
Ġorg established the National Festival of traditional Għana about 10 years ago and he was behind the creation of a countless radio and television broadcasts of traditional Maltese music and storytelling. After his mentor Ġuże Cassar Pullicino, he was undoubtedly the foremost Maltese folklorist. Beyond all that, he was also a very generous human being and a trustworthy friend. I'm sure that he will be sorely missed by many.
The last time I met him it was during one of my visits to Malta in 2006. He had organized an evening of traditional storytelling and għana at the Teatru Manoel courtyard. The event was entitled Nirrakuntaw mal-Ġaħan Tagħna: A story telling evening - Words, ballads and Maltese Għana; a collaboration between Poeżija Plus Narraturi 21. A full audio recording is available, courtesy Campus FM. It was the middle of winter but the atmosphere at the event was incredibly warm. I was moved to tears on that day. It was simply magical. Thank you Ġorġ...I really appreciated that and much else that you did.
Incidentally, here's the full list we're assembled for this year feature, so far:
KARMENU ELLUL GALEA, Trade Unionist and Author
(Died: 29 January 2007)
PAUL J. NAUDI, Civil Servant and Diplomat
(Died: 16 April 2007)
EMANUEL HABER, Media Executive and Writer
(Died: 28 June 2007)
MARIO SERRACINO INGLOTT, Linguist and Chess Master
(Died: 22 September 2007)
JOHN C. FRIGGIERI, Writer
(Died: 8 Novembru 2007)
ĠORĠ MIFSUD-CHIRCOP, Folklorist and Educator
(Died: 19 December 2007)
If you think there's anyone else we should include in this list, please contact me. We'd also appreciate any corrections to dates of death as listed here, because we don't always get things 100% right.