Playing Around on the Gralla
Catalan musicians Ivan Caro and Pilar Planavila incorporate fun into each of their performances, which embody the musical traditions of the Pyrenees. For the Folklife Festival, they specifically chose high-energy, feel-good songs. They wanted the audience to leave feeling happy and full of life. When Caro performs, he unleashes his childhood on stage, giving the audience something about which to be excited.
“I get to be a kid again,” Caro explained. “Once I’m on stage, I feel like I’m about to eat it. I feed on the energy of the crowd: their smiles and the awe of the children.”
As a child, Caro started playing the gralla because it was the cheapest instrument available to him. Immediately, he connected with the ancient instrument and knew it was the right choice. Similarly, Planavila began playing accordion at the age of nine, by suggestion from her parents. Here too, a match was made and her love for the accordion leads her to teach others how to play.
“This is the first time I’ve left my country,” Planavila began. “I’m very grateful to be able to do that and to perform my music for a whole new audience. Everyone is so encouraging and interested. They’re engaged and asking questions. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The audience, then, plays a major role in each performance. They take part in an exchange with the musicians and leave feeling all the better for it. The Festival itself follows a similar model: visitors who are open-minded and thoughtful can leave having shared the energy and stories of these wonderful participants.
Rachel Barton is a media intern at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. She too found herself among the children, staring in awe at the performances. Quotes included were excerpted from an interview translated by Festival intern Ximena Banegas.