A whole year to celebrate the 40th Festival of Torroella de Montgrí


Torroella de Montgrí, 22 May

Dear friends,

Since the summer of 1981, when we first dreamt of setting out on the adventure of creating a great festival, the history of music in Torroella de Montgrí has been a series of dreams that have gradually come true. The dream for 2020 was to celebrate our 40th Festival by putting on a splendid programme. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to change our plans, but we don't want to cancel the celebration. For this reason, the anniversary we had planned for the summer of 2020, between 31 July and 21 August, has been transformed into a whole year's festivity, beginning on 23 July, 2020 and lasting until the end of August, 2021.

The starting date for the 40th Torroella de Montgrí Festival will be 23 July, 2020, forty years to the day of the first concert of the very first Festival in 1981. It will be the start of a whole year of events which will culminate in the summer of 2021. We will re-programme a number of the concerts we had planned for this year but which we have had to postpone on account of the restrictions in force due to the pandemic. All these events will be organised according to the health regulations and social distancing requirements in force at the time, thereby guaranteeing the safety of artists, audiences -- if these are permitted this summer -- and everybody in the team of staff that makes the Festival possible.

We have already begun preparing a documentary on the history of the Festival, which will be broadcast on TV3 and La2, and we are looking into the possibility of organising a concert without audience in the Espai Ter concert hall in cooperation with the Corporació Catalana de Mitjans Audiovisuals and the RTVE a Catalunya. This concert would be broadcast live on radio and television at the end of July. We are also working on a series of lectures that would be made available by streaming. Details of this summer's events will be announced in the near future.

We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to all those who have contributed to the preparation of this year's Festival programme, now postponed until 2021, and to the transformation of the 40th Festival into a whole year of celebrations which will keep us in contact with our audiences. We are also most grateful to the governmental organisations and our sponsors for their understanding and support, and to all the members of our audiences for their continued fidelity to our concerts.

With undiminished enthusiasm, we are working to adapt our programme to the new circumstances resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. Our aim is still to programme the best classical music at the Torroella de Montgrí Festival. We will continue to dream as always, but remain fully alert to ensure that our dreams continue to come true.

We hope to see you all again at our concerts as soon as it is possible.

These are difficult times, but with the help of music, we'll pull through!

Keep in good health!

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Torroella, town of Music

Thanks to its geographical situation and cultural history, Torroella de Montgrí has always been open to the musical influences that have arisen in the course of history, and the tradition continues to the present day, thanks to the receptive attitude of the town’s inhabitants, and constant effort and hard work on the part of local cultural associations.

The heritage of ancient civilisations, the music of important centres of worship, the monarchies which employed musicians of French origin and adopted the Ars Nova style, cultural interchange with other countries – all these were key elements in the process of musical innovation. The Catalan nobility also played its part, and this spirit of artistic renewal led to a steady increase in the importance of the Musical Chapels. Torroella de Montgrí was no exception in this process. The Royal household in the town provided the houses of the nobles and the townspeople’s festivities with troubadours and other musicians. The whole town lived and breathed music.

The guilds and the system of musical patronage at the church of Saint Genís came into being in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period of great economic growth. There are municipal documents of the time referring to professions related to music and the arts, such as instrumentalists, maestri di canto (mentioned as early as 1515) and makers of altars, reredos and religious images. A new, affluent social class came into being, which in turn led to an increase in social and musical activity.

Studies by Joan Radressa i Casanovas give an exhaustive list of the posts of responsibility held in the parish and the names of the citizens holding those posts. This information has its origin in the Llibre de Possessions from the 14th century and the Llibre de la Consueta from the 18th. The town’s Musical Chapel ceased to exist in the course of the 19th century, although there is little documentation from before 1700 referring to its activities.

The evidence suggests that plainsong and polyphonic chant were in common use and that quality of performance was high. The organist and composer Francesc Civil i Castellví has described the importance of the Musical Chapel of Torroella, whose members were often asked to perform with the Chapel at Girona Cathedral. In his doctoral thesis, Xavier Daufí also mentions the first performances at Torroella of two Italian-style oratorios.

Despite economic ups and downs, it seems that the Musical Chapel at Saint Genís continued over the years with its double function of musical performance and choral training of the choirboys. Well-known composers such as Anselm Viola and Benet Julià were born in Torroella, and received their early training at the Chapel before moving on to Montserrat.

In the mid-18th century, economic recession led to the same performers having to take charge of all aspects of musical production. This, together with the influences of Italian musical practice, led to a similarity of styles in both secular and religious music. During this period, the church of Saint Genís was the starting point for musicians of renown such as Arquimbau, Serratosa, Prat, Marqués and Juncà. These were men whose ambition was to secure a good professional post, or to move up to positions of responsibility in more important centres of musical production. Also at this time the custom was established of hiring cobla bands to play at ceremonies or festivities.

In the early stages of the French revolution, the political situation, with economic recession and disentailment of property, led to a fall-off in interest in the music performed by the Chapels and a reduction in the economic contributions they had previously received. In the course of the 19th century, the musical posts of responsibility at Saint Genís came to be abolished.

We hope that in the near future further research will be carried out, and that more musical evidence and other data will come to light, providing us with further details of the history of our Musical Chapel. It was an important institution, in which the town’s inhabitants could in past times develop their interest in music and communicate to future generations the importance and the pleasure of making music an integral part of daily life.

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