The largest festival of traditional culture in Europe plans to showcase the “Llibre Vermell” after its discovery at Fira Mediterrània
Fira Mediterrània’s National and International Plan of Action has promoted the booking of Catalan groups in other countries
Over the weekend, the Traditional Folkloric Dance Group of Rubí, the Francesc Valls Chamber Choir and the Magister Petrus Ensemble performed the Cants i danses del Llibre Vermell de Montserrat at Rudolstadt Festival in Germany, which is one of the largest and most prestigious festivals for traditional culture and music in Europe. The Catalan groups’ performance of the Llibre Vermell in Germany is a direct consequence of its being performed last year at Fira Mediterrània Manresa.
The Llibre Vermell is not the only artistic project to be performed outside Catalonia as a result of Fira Mediterrània. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival in the USA, dedicated this year to Catalonia, showcased a variety of groups that first performed at Fira Mediterrània, and Fira was a member organisation of the Catalan programme commission in Washington. In a similar vein, the following acts also performed abroad: Chicuelo & Mezquida in Algeria, Biflats in Castella and Pau Figueres in Portugal, among others. These performances stem from initiatives included in Fira Mediterrània’s International Plan of Action.
The Plan of Action consists of action points based on co-production and exchange - artistic, professional and/or communicative - of which the main objective is to promote professional opportunities and provide artists with new mechanisms for exhibiting Catalan creativity. The 2018 National and International Plan of Action features some forty points, for countries and regions in Europe, the Americas and Africa.
The Cants i danses del Llibre Vermell de Montserrat in Rudolsdtadt
Bernhard Hanneken, the artistic director of Rudolstadt Festival (Germany), was one of the international booking agents who saw Cants i danses del Llibre Vermell de Montserrat at last year’s Fira Mediterrània. He was entranced by the Traditional Folkloric Dance Group of Rubí, the Francesc Valls Chamber Choir and the Magister Petrus Ensemble’s performance. As a result, it went to stage as a headlining show at the German festival. The performance took place on Saturday 7 July in the courtyard of the majestic Heidecksburg Palace, and it was made possible through sponsorship by the Catalan Ministry of Culture’s Directorate General for Creation and Culture.
Last year, Cants i danses del Llibre Vermell was performed at the Abbey of Montserrat, an unbeatable location for the adaptation of the medieval manuscript, dated 1399, which is a forerunner of medieval music in Europe. The production showcased by Fira, in collaboration with the Pyrenees Festival of Early Music (FEMAP) and Ésdansa Festival, and sponsored by the Catalan Ministry of Culture, highlighted Father Gregori Estrada’s discovery of the work’s connection with traditional culture due to there being choreographies danced by pilgrims. For four days, Rudolstadt Festival saw more than 300 performances by 150 companies and artists on over 20 stages throughout the city. It is estimated that the festival line-up attracts more than 25,000 visitors during every day of the event.
Catalan representation at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in the USA
From 27 June to 8 July (with a pause on 2 and 3 July), Washington DC hosted the 51st Smithsonian Folklife Festival, with Catalonia as its guest culture. It is considered to be the most prestigious event in the world devoted to immaterial cultural heritage, and it represented an unbeatable showcase opportunity to publicise not only culture, traditions and cuisine - the main object of festival - but also Catalonia as a modern country, with an economy increasingly driven by its creativity and knowledge. Activities with the Catalan seal of approval featured at this cultural event were organised by the Catalan Government and the four Provincial Governments of Catalonia (Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona), in collaboration with Adifolk and Fira Mediterrània, among other organisations. Fira Mediterrània delegates were in the programme commission, and the line-up featured a range of groups that had previously performed in Manresa. These included Maria Arnal and Marcel Bagés, Les Anxovetes, la Cobla Catalana dels Sons Essencials, Joan Garriga, Yacine & the Oriental Groove, the Aranese singer Alidé Sans, the dance expert Ivan Caro, the traditional dance group Ciutat Comtal and the Catalan Federation of Catifaires (floral rugs), among others.
Concerts abroad as a result of the National and International Plan of Action
The National and International Plan of Action has also been an instrumental factor in booking Catalan groups for performances in other countries. These groups include a joint project by the Flamenco guitarist Chicuelo and the young jazz piano prodigy Marco Mezquida (a project that originated at the 2016 Fira Mediterrània), which has toured many cities and countries. One of the most recent performances to take place in this regard was a concert organised by the Ramon Llull Institute and the Algerian Agency for Cultural Outreach, a partner of Fira Mediterrània's international outreach plan, in the Algerian Opera House “Boualem Bessaih”, in February. In May, Les Anxovetes and Joana Gomila performed at the Euro-regional “Traditional Cultures in Dialogue” Forum, the closing event of the latest euro-regional project in which Fira Mediterrània participated. More recently, the lively cobla band (a Catalan folk ensemble comprising mainly wind instruments), Biflats, performed at FolkSegovia. In the future, the guitarist Pau Figueres will perform in the Portuguese cycle Outonalidades, through a collaboration agreement between D’Orfeu, its organisers, and Fira Mediterrània.
Other initiatives abroad
The exchanges and particular initiatives of this International Plan of Action are not the only mechanisms available to groups from Fira Mediterrània to perform abroad. The fact that international booking agents attend Fira Mediterrània means that the booking of artists abroad is an increasingly regular phenomenon. This year, the band Hora de Joglar will perform at Sziget in Hungary, one of the largest festivals in Europe. Recently, representatives of the game-manufacturer Tombs Creatius visited London with its wooden human-towers team, the Xics del Xurrac, which was a co-production with Fira Mediterrània in 2016. Furthermore, among many other projects, Muchacho & los Sobrinos, one of the last groups to perform at last year’s Fira Mediterrània, will tour Norway in conjunction with Førde Festival.
Cants i danses del Llibre Vermell de Montserrat at the last edition of Fira Mediterrània