La Mercè 2019 is brimming with new experiences and more traditional events than ever before

The most traditional La Mercè festivities to date are about to start. The packed programme, which includes 57 traditional events, has now been presented.

On Saturday 14, this year’s festival will get underway with theCommunal Procession Exhibition, which will open at the City Hall since the Palau de la Virreina is undergoing renovations. This will change the logistics of some events such as the La Mercè Procession, which will finish at the City Hall.

Another prelude to the festivities will be the inauguration of the Giants Exhibition on 15 September, to be held once again in Pati Manning in the Casa de Caritat, and this year featuring a very special newcomer. After the Giants of the City’s ‘Let’s go to the festival!’ (5 pm) with guests Carnestoltes Giants, who this year celebrate their 160th anniversary, you will be able meet Normag, the city’s first special needs giant.

On Friday 20 the Barcelona Communal Procession will start out as usual from Palau de la Virreina (7 pm), following a bell ringing ceremony led by the Campaners del Pi (5 pm) and Manuela Carmena’s opening speech (6.30 pm). The inaugural traditional Catalan sardana dancing (7 pm) and the musical Toc d’Inici (7.45 pm) will round off the start of this year’s even more traditional annual festival. In the evening, the fire beasts will take over the streets of the Born neighbourhood for the Beasts Procession (10 pm).

The next day, Saturday 21, will kick off with the Bastoner Morning with stick dances and the street parade (11 am), followed by the MercèDansa (11 am), which this year features dances from different places, all of them with a flower theme. In the afternoon, you can listen to a concert by Cors de Clavé (6 pm), preceded by the whole ritual of the Fire Run (5 pm), which will once again take over Via Laietana. The Tablada drum session will start proceedings, followed by the concert from La Tabalada (6.15 pm), the little devil’s fire run (6.30 pm), the infernal drum session (7.45 pm), the lighting of the sceptres (8.25 pm) and the opening of hell’s door, and culminating in the La Mercè Fire Run (8.30 pm), the biggest of its kind n Catalonia.

On Sunday 22 the Falcons de Barcelona will invite their colleagues from Vilanova and La Geltrú to show us their human formations (10.30 am). One of the highlights of the day will be the traditional Catalan sardana dancing, with the 69th Sardana Dance Groups Competition (11 am) followed by various other dances (1 pm and 6 pm). The historical human tower performance will round off the day’s programme (12 pm) brought to us by the Castellers de Barcelona, the Castellers del Penedès, and the Minyons de Terrassa.

As tradition dictates, on Monday 23, the eve of the biggest day of the festivities, the parade of dancing giants ‘Xambanga de Gegants’ will take place, setting out from Pl. dels Àngels (8.45 pm). At 9 pm, the Palau de la Generalitat’s carillon will deliver the festival’s usual concert. This year there will be a new event: the Cercavila de Vigília, a Giant’s of the City procession from the City Hall to Pl. de la Mercè heralding the arrival of the most important day of the Annual Festival the next day.

As is customary, on La Mercè Day the “gralles” and the “tabals” will wake up city centre residents to the sound of Matins (8 am) announcing the start of the most eagerly awaited day of the festivities. The Trabucaires Procession starts at 9.15 am and the procession to the Missa solemnis with the Barcelona Communal Procession sets off at 10.10 am, followed at 11 am by the Giant’s Dance Display, now in its 25th year. As the service ends on the stroke of midday, the seven local human castle groups will make their human castles in front of the la Mercè Basilica to the sound of the temple bells, a new event for this year. Straight afterwards, the Communal Procession, the Municipal Band, the human castle groups and the city authorities will start the La Mercè Procession (12 pm), which will culminate in theÀliga Dance and the Giants of the City dance (12.30 pm). At 1 pm, the Human Tower Performance starts with the Castellers de Barcelona, the Castellers de Sants, the Castellers de la Vila de Gràcia, the Castellers del Poble-sec, the Castellers de la Sagrada Família, the Colla Castellera Jove de Barcelona and the Castellers de Sarrià.

At 6 pm, the great procession will fill the streets of the city centre taking its usual route. At its head will be the Guàrdia Urbana city police on horseback and one of Barcelona Fire Brigade’s historical vehicles. Taking part will be all the Barcelona giants and guest beasts, accompanied by lots of music. Bringing up the rear will be Barcelona’s special needs giants (Normag andOcellaire) and other giants who have been invited especially for the festivities. The traditional Catalan sardana dancers and choirs want to take part in the biggest day of the La Mercè festivities too. The Sardana Gathering will take place in Pl. de la Mercè (6.15 pm), the Choir Concert in Pl. del Rei (6 pm), and the Sardana Orchestra with the Cobla Sant Jordi – Ciutat de Barcelona at the la Mercè Basilica (9 pm).

The Giants of the City will bring the festivities to an end with their traditional musical Toc a Plegar (8.30 pm), and the Piromusical firework show will take place in Av. de Maria Cristina (10 pm)

The International Pyrotechnic Festival will light up the La Mercè festivities with two international pyrotechnic shows brought to us by Nazih Tabbara Fireworks from Beirut (Friday 20 at 10 pm) and Fuegos del Milenio (Saturday 9 pm and 10 pm).

And the festivities wouldn’t be complete without hearing some havaneres. Three groups will perform on the Sunday: Pescadors from L’Escala (12 pm), Barca de Mitjana (5 pm), and the company Haváname (7 pm) all the way from Cuba.

Traditional dance will feature heavily at this year’s MAC Festival. As usual, most of the city’s folk-dance and sardana-dance groups will perform throughout the festival in Palauet Albéniz. The surprise of the festivities will be the guest city, Beirut, who will bring various dancers to Barcelona. One of the highlights of the MAC is the puppet show ‘Amitié’, which will take place in Ciutadella and brought to us by Compagnie Nama all the way from Mali, with their huge puppets that are quite similar to giants.

Another now permanent fixture of the festival is the projection mapping that can be seen every night at the City Hall. This time the projection will be a tribute to Joan Brossa to commemorate the centenary of his death.

Not to be forgotten is the 50th anniversary of the Castellers de Barcelona, whose year-long celebrations will culminate during the annual festival. Apart from the two traditional human tower performances, an exhibition entitled “200 years of human castles in Barcelona, 50 years standing together’ will be set up in theOrfeó Martinenc from 12 to 30 September. The exhibition will take you through the two centuries of history of the human towers, with special emphasis on the half century of the city’s oldest human tower group.