Located about 50 kilometers from Barcelona, Manresa is a small, laid back Catalonian city. It has its picturesque Old Section as well as an impressive, well-appointed cathedral, and the famous monastery of Montserrat is perched on a nearby rocky mountaintop. But the Fira Mediterránia de Manresa, a four-day celebration and Trade Fair going into its 16th year, stirs the place up and brings the population into the concert halls and out onto the streets to enjoy a meticulously programmed whirlwind of music, cinema, dance, theater and more. The joint gets jumpin’. If you’ve got a trip to Spain planned in November, make sure you include this festival in your itinerary.
Because the event takes place all over town, it was necessary to pick and choose my coverage and up front I’ll tell you that what I have captured in my video is only a small slice of it. In particular, I did not cover the imported acts, because I was curious about the local Catalan culture specifically, and fine as these other artists were, I felt they would divert me from my focus. I’ll always regret not catching Hermanos Cuberos, who according to the festival book combine music from the Alcarra region of Spain with bluegrass! And there were many fine Catalan acts that I did not even get around to seeing.
And I also have to say a word about the food. It was everywhere, and if you knew where to go, (and could deal with the siesta closings) it was excellent. I brought back 2 bags of little dried local mushrooms which I am still using slowly, when the dish calls for their distinctive taste and texture. They are tiny treasures.
I was fortunate to be staying at the same hotel as Dave Ellwand who has researched and written about Catalan food, music and mores. Our conversations over breakfast were informative and tantalizing, so I simply had to include him at some point in the video; credit where credit is due. He has provided some links to further information and events below. And because this video is a quick survey, here are links to full songs.
To see the full song by Evo, go to: http://inter-muse.com/blog/2013/04/16/evo-performs-at-fira-mediterrania-de-manresa/
To see a (different) full song by Els Berros de la Cort go to: http://inter-muse.com/blog/2013/01/11/medieval-songs-of-sex-from-catalonia-els-berros-de-la-cort/
For full performance of “Waka Waka” by Els Laietans go to: http://inter-muse.com/blog/2013/03/16/els-laietans-at-the-fira-mediterrania-de-manresa/
For more information about the festival visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fira_Mediterrania_in_Manresa
For an archived radio programme about the previous year’s festival: http://www.prx.org/pieces/85507-mediterrania-taste-of-the-music-of-people-of-ca
CAT centre has an annual festival of Catalan/Valencian/Balearic/Basque performances from January to April as well as year-round music teaching and summer schools.* Information about all festivals is easiest to get on http://www.catalanarts.cat/web/?q=en
The Cathedral “La Seu” in Manresa was the venue for some lovely performances over the course of the festival. This one was particularly good, although I found the acoustics to be problematic. Sometimes you want that massive church echo (great for Gregorian chant); but sometimes it turns the music to mush. Even as I was shooting, I was wondering if the audio track was going to be usable. As it turned out, it wasn’t. So I was thrilled when the leader of the group, Efrén López sent me a recording that was made from the performance, and while it still had a goodly amount of reverb, it had decent separation of the sounds.
The group is made up of: Efrén López Sanz, Miriam Encinas Laffitte, Laia Puig Olives, Iván López Sanz, and for this performance, Pau Marcos. The song is “De la iensor qu’om vey” by Berenguer de Palou, a 12th century troubadour also known as Berenguier de Palazol or Palol. However you spell the name, the man could write a great melody, and although I do not speak Catalan (and don’t even try a computer translation, it is NOT going to work) I suspect the lyrics are equally eloquent. It is a song of unrequited love, and part of a series of songs the troubadour wrote on the subject of courtship. The arrangement is by Efrén López.
Here are the medieval Catalan lyrics (translation is welcome!):
De la iensor qu’om vey, al mieu semblan,
On nueg e jorn velh e pens e cossir,
Mi vurlh lunhar, si·l cor mi vol seguir,
Ab tal acort que mais no·l torn denan,
Quar longamen m’a tengut deziron
Ab belh semblan, mas tan dur me respon
Qu’anc jorn no·m volc precx ni demans sofrir
Ai! belhna dona, ab belh cors benestan,
De bel semblan e de gent aculhir,
A penas sai de vos mo mielhs chauzir,
Si·us vey o no, o si·m torn, o si m’an:
Non ai saber ni sen que mi aon:
Tan suy intratz en vostr’amor prion,
Qu’ieu non conosc per on m’en puesca essir.
Pero, dona, si·us vis cor ni talan
Que·m denhessetz l’amor qu’ie·us ai grazir,
So es us mals don no vogra guerir;
Mas, pus no·us plai, al ver Dieu vos coman;
De vos mi tuelh, e non ab cor volon,
Quar res ses vos no·m pot far jauzion;
Vejatz si·m puesc ab gaug de vos partir!
Senher Bernart, no·ns part ren viu del mon,
Mas la belha que·m destrenh e·m confon
Tem que·m fassa per mort de vos partir.
For more information about the festival visit: http://www.firamediterrania.cat/en
For more information about Evo, visit: http://www.myspace.com/evomedievalmusic
My first night at the festival I was told that if I wanted to hear the real down home Catalan music, the place to be was the Taverna, a tent performance space in the center of town. Throughout the festival that held true, but the first night deviated in that there was a competition of four young local bands. There was a jazz ensemble, a folk big band, an a capella group all performing traditionally based music, and ……this, which sent me spiraling into a Catalan Twilight Zone. In a good way. The shawm-like instruments being played are gralles (pronounced GRAI-yas) and they are most closely associated with that other unique Catalan pursuit, the building of human pyramids. Yes, when they build one of those there is always gralle music. But I doubt that it’s ever “Waka Waka.”
Anyway, these guys are absolute charmers, and they won the contest. I think they should be playing at every soccer game half time in Spain.
The sound of the drum was so loud that it shook the floor. That’s why frequently the camera loses focus, as the monopod and tripod reacted to the floor vibrations. Nothing I could do about it…..(that and the spotlights also drove me mad, but hey, that’s guerilla vlogging for ya.)