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Catalan Choral Societies

Belting it out

Alterna 2

Although stereotyped across the rest of Spain as gruff, taciturn money grubbers, the truth is that Catalans love to belt it out. One of the oldest jokes in Barcelona is how one Catalan starts a business, two start a corporation and three start a choral society. When the first operas were performed in the Llotja in the 18th century, jaws dropped. It wasn't long before songs flowed forth.

This was especially true during the 1850s Renaixença fervour, when an ardent Republican named Josep Anselm Clavé founded the first workers’ choral groups. There were 85 of them by 1861, and they were one of the great successes at the Universal Exhibition of 1888, which helped to seed new choral societies up and down Catalonia.

One of the most influential groups was the Orfeò Català, founded in 1891 by Clavé and Amadeu Vives. Its dedication to Catalan ideals and the working class is the reason why its spectacular floral bouquet of a concert hall, the Palau de la Música Catalana is jammed into such a small space in what a hundred years ago was a workers' neighbourhood; today the Orfeò—still going strong—often makes use of the sleek new Auditori, with its state of the art acoustics.

Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Images by: Manel