dimecres, 11 de març del 2009

Pau Casals, "El cant dels ocells" or a song full of meaning

It's five year now since the terrorist attacks in Madrid and I'm feeling a little touchy today (what a contrast with yesterday!). Two years ago, in remembrance of these attacks a beautiful song, originally a traditional Christmas Carol but now internationally known as a song that symbolizes peace and freedom, was played. I saw some images of that day today and it deeply moved me, not only because the victims have fallen into oblivion by the government (which cares more about political battles than them) but also because I realised how well a song can represent a universal feeling.

As I pointed out, the song "El cant dels ocells" (The song of the birds) was originally a Christmas Carol but, when Pau Casals popularized it, the song got its current significations. But how was it exactly? Why this switch in meaning? To know the answer we must focus into this brilliant cello player that was Pau Casals.

Pau Casals was born in El Vendrell (halfway between Barcelona and Tarragona) in 1876. So, when the Spanish civil war broke out he was already 60 years old. He survived the war, but as he was anti-fascist (against Franco's regime) and very pro-Catalan (he was independentist), he had to exile from the country. He died of a heart attack in Puerto Rico in 1973, two years before dictator Franco's death. Sadly, he never saw his country free again.

He was passionate about music and since he saw a fake cello when he was a child, he became a passionate of the instrument. He took his musical studies in Barcelona and played all over the world: the USA (he was even invited to the White House during JF Kennedy presidency), Russia, England, Austria, South America, Hungary.

However, what he is most known for is as a peace activist (he won several Peace awards and, curiously enough, his name "Pau" means "peace" in Catalan) and as the composer of the Himne a les Nacions Unides (United Nations Hymn), as well as for the speech he delivered in the UN in 1971, aged 95. His words, though being immensely nationalist, show the wish of peace he had rooted inside.

(Source: wikipedia and http://www.paucasals.org/en/home, youtube)

This is the speech he delivered in the UN Day (and he of course, played El Cant dels Ocells after not having played for many years):

And here you can see himself playing the song. It is the image most Catalans have of Pau Casals: himself and his cello:

Let the bird of peace flight. In memory of all victims of war, and today, specially those in Madrid 11/03/2004. Don't let them fall into oblivion.

3 comentaris:

Anònim ha dit...

Un post molt bonic i molt sentit, el contrast perfecte amb el d'ahir.


Jim Morrison ha dit...

I went to the Pau Casals museum at his house in El Vendrell last month. It is well worth a visit.

Anònim ha dit...

Casals performances of the SOng of the Birds have always moved one, and echo one as movingly as ever.

Perhaps the UN Security Council should play it at the beginning and end of every session.

And will the Catalonians extend a hand of support to Catalan people in France. There as in so many countries, central government and state power, and the dominant language speakers, are determined to suppress other languages and cultures. ANd the world is a poorer place for that.