In 1976, Eric was elected as the Band’s first President, a position which he held for a total of eight years. He is also the Band’s Honourary President and, thirty-five years on, continues to play an integral role in our trumpet section.
Eric Rizzo’s involvement in the Band has its roots long before its formation. In fact, it goes back to when he was a boy in Malta. At the age of 10, he was already playing for the San Nikola Band of Siġġiewi. It was here that he first met Mro Joseph Darmanin who, in 1952, became their Bandmaster.
In 1956, Eric’s family emigrated to Australia, where he thought he would never have a chance to play with a band again. Some time later, however, in September 1968 he went to the Our Lady of Victories Festa in Horsley Park. He would always stay near the Army Reserve (then known as the Citizen Military Forces) band that performed there and this year was no different. As he approached, he was surprised to see Mro Darmanin conducting. After twelve years, they had met again!
Naturally, they greeted each other and Mro Darmanin quickly convinced Eric to join the Reserves. The very next day, Eric went with Mro Darmanin to the Barracks and he immediately signed up with the 17th Royal NSW Regiment where Mro Darmanin was a Warrant Officer and a director of that Regiment’s band. They were together in that Regiment until 1976.
Mro Darmanin had always been keen to form a Maltese Band and he was spurred on by his Parish Priest, Fr Ronald Darmenia, who also shared this wish. Mro Darmanin said to the men at the Army Barracks that Fr Darmenia had asked him if there was any such possibility. There were six Maltese in the Regimental Band: Victor Darmanin; Vince Attard; Sam Zerafa; Joe Zerafa; Joe Farrugia and Eric. They encouraged Mro Darmanin and on 4 February, the first rehearsal was held with other musicians who had been called around.
The first committee was formed in June of that year and Eric was elected President. Those first years were busy, fruitful years as they saw the Band grow considerably in a short space of time. In September the committee drew up a Constitution for the Band and this was unanimously adopted at the General Meeting held on 13 October.
The committee also worked to raise funds and sent letters to Maltese organisations in NSW and some prominent people asking for donations. There was a great response which allowed the Band to buy much needed equipment, including the first of a number of instruments, a tenor saxophone used by Louis (Ġiġi) Said.
Over the next few years, the Band performed at more and more events, quickly becoming an integral part of Maltese festi and other occasions, and gaining credibility wherever it was asked to perform.
In 1981, still under Eric’s leadership, the Band was able to uniform its members first by acquiring caps and later, by 1983, the Band was fully uniformed. Eric notes the assistance of Mrs Phyllis Darmanin, Mro Darmanin’s wife, for her efforts to uniform the women and girls within the Band. The uniform for all, in such a short period of time, was a remarkable achievement.
Eric once said that the Band has not only changed the lives of its Bandsmen, but also the lives of every Maltese person, even, it could be said in all of Australia. This is because it presented, at every Maltese festa, the Maltese culture as it is remembered from Malta.
In all, Eric has served the Band as President for eight years, with seven of these being from the Band’s inception. He also held the position of Vice President for many years afterwards and is the Band’s Honourary President. Today, Eric continues to play trumpet and is one of the Band’s most dedicated musicians.
He is very proud of the Band’s history and its position within the community and we, as fellow bandsmen, are very proud of Eric’s achievements and dedication to the Band.