Barcelona Music Walking Tour
Greetings from Barcelona! I'm in town for a writer's workshop and came a few days early to explore the city. Of course, my method was to do a "musical walking tour," except the "walking" part has been kind of pathetic. Being 6 months pregnant and swollen tree stumps for feet have made it amusing to say the least. But hey, I tried.
Barcelona is a mélange of culture, architectural whimsy and Basque-style tapas bars- the perfect city to get lost in your thoughts amidst the watermelon suco. And music is not exempt. Catalan music has some of the oldest traditions in Europe, from the classical leanings of Enrique Granados and Isaac Albéniz to the revolutionary Nova Cançó during the Franco Regime. Check out my interview with Catalan guitar pioneer Toti Soler who came up through the latter period.
Seeing Barcelona with a musical bent is a nice way to experience the proud cultural identity of Catalunya, much different than the rest of Spain, and dig into the depths of this imaginative city.
I started out in the neighborhood Sant-Gervasi Galvany where the flat I am renting is, and took the subway across town to the Museu de la Musica. In the Plaça Cataluyna transfer, I caught a violin duo playing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." A couple of young Italian guys and I walked away singing the chorus in our respective accents. Music bringing strangers together.
The Museu de la Musica is an incredibly impressive display of the world's musical instruments from ancient civilizations to 21st century recording technologies. Not only does it house 2,000 instruments but also is home to one of the best guitar collections in the world, so you know where I was hanging out. There's an interactive room where you can play a harp, or a cello, or an electric guitar. Enough said.
I then subbed my way over to the Liceu stop in Las Ramblas. This is where I hung out the rest of the day, as everything else was walkable. I took a short tour of the Gran Teatre del Liceu, the second largest opera house in Europe after the Bastille in Paris. The highlight for me was actually our tour guide who spoke in no less than 4 languages, was a classically-trained violinist and looked like she genuinely loved her job. We talked about music, California, her performances in Barcelona. Sometimes you meet people who you connect with, no matter how short the time. I was a little sad to say goodbye.
Right down the way is one of Barcelona's oldest musical haunts, Casa Beethoven. Like your grandmother's attic, it's been in the sheet music business since 1880. Montserrat Caballé, Josep Carreras and Plácido Domingo have all been loyal customers. It was kind of a time capsule, so make sure to at least do a walk-through, even if you don't play music.
Toti Soler told me to go to Casa Parramon, and so his wish was my command. Just a few blocks from Casa Beethoven, this music shop and luthier has a small yet plush collection of classical stringed instruments, but also some old world instruments. If Toti says go, you go. Definitely worth checking out if you are in the market for purchasing something.
No pregnant musical walking tour is complete without a lunch stop through one of the city's open markets. Luckily, la Boqueria was right there so I got my fill of sandía fruta, people-watching and suco.
I filled up my tank for the long(ish) walk to Casa Luthier, another music shop I had heard a lot about. Apparently the owner, guitarist Alicia Alcalay, founded the shop in 1978, and had also opened a classical music school, La Escuela Luthier de Artes Musicales. You can imagine I was a little more than excited to get there and bombard them with questions.
Good thing I had forgotten it was a Sunday, and Sunday many of the shops are closed in Barcelona. Boo-hoo. You win some, you lose some. I turned this caboose around and meandered back down toward the Gothic Quarter.
I capped off the day with a lovely "30 Minute Concert" at the Royal Artistic Circle with soprano singer Veronica Tello, a cool find if you're looking for something spontaneous not-as-committal as an Andalusian Flamenco show. But then again, you're speaking to a pregnant person who needed to get her feet up on some ice.
What did I miss? Leave a comment below for any more tips or suggestions. I love Barcelona!