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Queer Notions – A Soirée of Queer Music & Literature


Time: September 12, 2023 7:00PM
Location: Spazju Kreattiv
Event Type: Arts & Culture
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Queer Notions is a soirée of queer music and literature by queer composers, writers and performers from Malta and abroad. Prose and poems are alternated with songs and instrumental music in an organic performance with space for improvisations between the performers.
For tonight’s performers, Queer Notions refers not only to their identity but also to the diversity of styles and genres that we are presenting. Some songs and texts are light and gay, even sometimes naughty, others touch upon more serious or sad topics.

The music that will be played this evening is composed by three members of the POW Ensemble: Tom Armitage, Guy Harries, and Luc Houtkamp. All three have composed music featuring queer themes, based on texts and poems by writers such as Gertrude Stein, Arthur Rimbaud and Theognis of Megara in ancient Greece, and on the life of Alan Turing. With this programme, we play homage to the “other” queer music: jazz, classical and contemporary music.

Queer Notions will include a local literary element. In collaboration with MGRM’s Kitba Queer project, six queer Maltese authors and poets will take the stage and perform selections from their own work, highlighting the beauty of the written word and the charm of the spoken works. Kitba Queer is a Maltese project that aims to increase representation of own-voice queer people in fiction.

The music is written and performed by the POW Ensemble, consisting of:

  • Luc Houtkamp (saxophone, electronics)
  • Tom Armitage (piano, vocals)
  • Guy Harries (vocals, flute)
  • Clare Ghigo (mezzo-soprano)
  • Laura Cioffi (flute)

Idea and compositions by: Tom Armitage, Guy Harries, Luc Houtkamp

The texts are written and performed by Maltese authors and poets.

  • Sara Caruana
  • Francesco Grech
  • Tyrone Grima
  • Noah Fabri
  • Mina Jack Tolu

On the title Queer Notions
In August 1933, American Jazz saxophonist Coleman Hawkins recorded his piece Queer Notions, with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra. Although the title was probably a reference to the weird-sounding whole-tone melody of the piece, for queer bandleader and pianist Sun Ra the title probably had a different meaning too, and he put it on the repertoire of his Arkestra.


Music: POW Ensemble
The POW Ensemble, founded in 2001 by Dutch composer/ saxophonist Luc Houtkamp, is a chamber ensemble of the 21st century. They have a multi-stylistic view towards contemporary music. Elements and influences from many styles of music can find their place in the repertoire. Jazz, electronics, baroque, popular music, experimental music, all are part of today’s music. After an international career of more than 15 years from its home base, The Hague in The Netherlands, the ensemble moved to Malta, together with its artistic leader Luc Houtkamp, adding a Maltese flavour to the music.

The ensemble is a flexible unit of musicians with musical backgrounds in jazz, rock, electronic and contemporary music. For the Queer Notions project, the POW Ensemble consists of: Luc Houtkamp (saxophone, electronics), Tom Armitage (piano, vocals), Guy Harries (vocals, flute), Clare Ghigo (mezzo-soprano) and Laura Cioffi (flute).

Tom Armitage (piano, vocals)
Tom Armitage is a British composer and pianist, who studied at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and the University of Malta. Tom has won many awards as a pianist and a composer, and has performed at music festivals across several countries. Living in Malta since 2015, he has become one of the central figures in contemporary music on the island, both as a pianist and as a composer.

Guy Harries (flute, vocals)
Guy Harries is an Israeli/British composer and musician. After studying at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, he became senior lecturer at the University of East London and the Trinity Laban Conservatory in London. Harries’ music moves between very different genres, ranging from electronic music, pop, to contemporary composition.

Luc Houtkamp (saxophone, electronics)
Luc Houtkamp is a composer and saxophonist, born in The Netherlands, who has lived in Malta since 2014. He has a music career of over 50 years, and has played with a ‘who-is-who’ of ensembles and musicians all over the world as a jazz & improvised musician and composer. Having a background in jazz & improvised music, his musical goal is to establish a continuum between improvisation and composition in which the difference between the two dissolves.

Clare Ghigo (mezzo-soprano)
Clare Ghigo is a highly accomplished mezzo soprano with an impressive operatic repertoire and a versatile approach to both theater and music. With a passion for both classical and contemporary works, she has performed numerous roles in operas as well as contemporary pieces. She is also a phenomenal recital artist and has performed with acclaimed singers such as Joseph Calleja, Bryn Terfel, Anna Tomova Sintova, Nelly Miriciu, Monserrat Caballé, and with various ensembles and orchestras.

Laura Cioffi (flute)
Originally from Malta, Laura has performed all over the UK, from the back of a trailer van in the Highlands to the 02 arena. Equally at ease improvising alongside Deep House Producers and performing on baroque flute, she studied at Trinity Laban and Edinburgh Napier University. She performs regularly with Scottish Opera, English Classical Players and Malta Philharmonic Orchestra and has appeared behind famous names like Andrea Bocelli, Bryn Terfel, Hans Zimmer and Billie Eilish. Her flutey sounds have been heard on BBC Radio 3, on vinyl b-sides and on Bandcamp.


Sara Caruana
Sara Caruana is a finance professional with a creative side. She’s passionate about storytelling and her favorite medium is writing. Her work has been published in the first edition of Kitba Queer. In her writing, she draws inspiration from real-life experiences, allowing her to weave narratives that captivate and resonate with readers.

Francesco Grech
Francesco Grech was born in Victoria Gozo and after finishing his studies at the University of Malta and Rome he graduated with two Masters in Literature and Arts and Culture Management. Author and composer, his works toured around various theatres in Gozo, Malta and Italy. His musical compositions include: Dun Ġorġ: The Musical (2013), Dar ir-Rummien (2015), Limbo (2016) and Dear Pete (2017). In 2022 he wrote the book Kollox Jeħel Magħna, published by Merlin Publishers which became a Bestseller. The book is also nominated for the National Book Prize 2023. Recently he worked with international artist Cristobal Gabarron on a new work inspired and executed at the Ggantija Temples UNESCO World Heritage site in Gozo.  In 2023 he was chosen by the Salzburg Global Seminar and Arts Council Malta to participate in the international seminar On the Front Line: Artists at Risk, Artists Who Risk in Austria. Professionally he works in the Arts and Culture industry and on Corporate Social Responsability both in the public and private sector.

Tyrone Grima
Tyrone Grima is a theatre practitioner and author. He works as Senior Lecturer and Researcher at
MCAST (Malta College for Arts, Science and Technology). His areas of specialisation include
queer theatre; the interface between theatre and spirituality; and the multisensorial approach in
theatre making. Tyrone’s latest literary work, the queer novel Frammenti, won the award for best
novel of the year in 2022. Tyrone is also the author of the first LGBT play written in Maltese,
Michel, which he co-produced and directed in 2008. His latest directorial works for the theatre are
the devised performance Għanqbut f’Moħħha and Jean Paul Sartre’s Bil-bieb mitbq.

Noah Fabri
Noah Fabri was born in 1999 and studied anthropology. Noah’s interests vary across a few artistic fields, but they focus mostly on literature and music. Noah has also worked in social practice art, theatre and film. Noah participates in DIY creative communities, where they’ve learned several collaborate practices that inform their work. Their main interests are walking, space, gender and the effects of politics on everyday life. Noah is also part of Geġwiġija, a community built around a pop-up library.

Mina Jack Tolu
Mina Jack is a trans and non-binary activist, politician, consultant, thinker, writer, and artist from the Mediterranean. They’ve been working on developing campaigns, raising awareness, and storytelling on LGBTQI rights, green politics, electoral campaigns, and roller derby for just over a decade. Their writing is self-exploration, historical reflection, and memoir-ish. When life as a trans person means living on the edge, truth is as powerful as fiction. Want to have a chat about anything from trans temporality to making politics bold and brave? Just get in touch, MJ loves distractions.

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