On Friday 22 September, Festa Major bell ringing in the Gòtic neighbourhood will announce the imminent start of La Mercè 2023. From that moment onwards, Barcelona’s Festa Major promises four days of intense, participatory activities, along with artistic and music events that are community-based and… traditional. Because, as always, popular culture will play a leading role in the La Mercè programme.
As usual, the festive imagery will be focused on the most impressive, joyful, and on occasion, scary events: the Barcelona Communal Procession will set off from Palau de la Virreina (22 September, 7 pm), a festive procession led by the Gegants de la Ciutat [City Giants], the Capgrossos Macers, the Eagle and the Lion, among other figures (which this year includes Olga and Volodymyr, the giants from Kyiv). It will then wend its way to Plaça de Sant Jaume, for the Toc d’Inici. Fire, music, colour and solemnity, in order to mark the start of the city’s big annual festival. This will include the Passejada de Bèsties [Walk of Beasts], the Xambanga, the Passada de Nans i Gegants [Dwarfs and Giants] and the Cavalcada de la Mercè [La Mercè Procession] where you can admire giants and beasts. There will be exhibitions from casteller human-tower groups and the Falcons, trabucaires [riflemen] and grallers [musicians], and habaneras, and the concerts by cobla groups, choirs and bell ringers are also essential viewing for a traditional La Mercè.
And lastly, the Correfoc, or fire run, one of the most awaited events of the festivities. A feast of devils, dragons and fire beasts that will parade all along Passeig de Gràcia (23 September,8 pm). As we said, essential.
Once again, the Cobla Sant Jordi – Ciutat de Barcelona will have the honour of playing in the first big sardana festival of La Mercè 2023, on Avinguda de la Catedral (22 September, 7 pm), but it will also be closing the programme at the La Mercè Basilica, with a cobla concert inside the church, a solemn setting for a selection of sardanas and music by Eduard Toldrà, Enric Morera i Joan Druguet, among others (24 September, 9 pm). And between these two performances, there will be more dances involving sardanas, giants, the Eagle and the Barcelona Municipal Band, stick dancers and dance schools, among other activities that preserve or recuperate traditional Catalan dances (as is the case with MercèDansa). Furthermore, this year you can also sample some Ukrainian dances, thanks to the participation of folkloric groups from Kyiv, this year’s guest city for La Mercè.