Cantigas to perform El cant dels ocells by Pablo Casals

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As part of Cantigas's upcoming spring concert, Gypsy Romance: Songs, Poems & Castanets of Spain, Cantigas will interpret a choral version of El Cant dels Ocells (The Song of the Birds.) This beautiful and melancholic Catalonian song was made popular by the renowned 20th century, Spanish musician, Pablo Casals, after he went into exile from Spain's dictatorship. Casals was one of the greatest cellists of all time and an ardent supporter of democracy. At the age of 94 he was awarded the United Nations Peace Medal in 1971, in recognition of his stance for peace, justice and freedom, and gave this famous speech before performing El Cant dels Ocells live for the U.N. Assembly:


This is the greatest honour of my life.

Peace has always been my greatest concern. I learn[ed] to love it when I was but a child. When I was a boy, my mother —an exceptional, marvellous woman—, would talk to me about peace, because at that time there were also many wars.

What is more, I am a Catalan. Today, a province of Spain. But what has been Catalonia? Catalonia has been the greatest nation in the world. I will tell you why. Catalonia has had the first parliament, much before England. Catalonia had the first United Nations. All the authorities of Catalonia in the Eleventh Century met in a city of France, at that time Catalonia, to speak about peace, at the Eleventh Century. Peace in the world and against, against, against war, the inhumanity of the wars. So I am so happy, so happy, to be with you today. That is why the United Nations, which works solely towards the peace ideal, is in my heart, because anything to do with peace goes straight to my heart.

I have not played the cello in public for many years, but I feel that the time has come to play again. I am going to play a melody from Catalan folklore: El cant dels ocells. Birds sing when they are in the sky, they sing: "Peace, Peace, Peace," and it is a melody that Bach, Beethoven and all the greats would have admired and loved. What is more, it is born in the soul of my people, Catalonia.

Video of Casals playing.

Pablo Casals, also known as "Pau" Casals, was born in El Vendrell, Spain in December 29, 1876 and enjoyed a long and robust international career, giving concerts and master classes throughout the world. Among his many accomplishments were a recorded concert for John F. Kennedy in the White House, and receiving the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom. While in exile, he lived in French Catalan, and later in Puerto Rico, where he founded the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra and the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico. He died there on October 22, 1973, just two years before Franco's regime in Spain ended. Having vowed never to return to Spain while under dictatorship, in 1976, Pau Casals was posthumously honored by the new Spanish government under King Juan Carlos. His remains were transported from Puerto Rico and interred in his hometown in 1979. In 1989, Pau Casals posthumously received the esteemed Grammy LIfetime Achievement Award.

You are cordially invited to our Gypsy Romance concert on Saturday, April 6, at 7:30 pm in Bethesda, MD, where Cantigas will perform El Cant dels Ocells and other beautiful songs. For tickets, call (301) 230-1361 or go to


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