The Silent Choirs, one of Barcelona’s more unusual festivals

Every year at Whitsuntide, some 20 humorous choral groups parade round the streets of Barceloneta in fancy dress, wielding various outsized objects. This really strange festival, which is also held in Raval, is known as “Cors Muts”, or ‘Silent Choirs’, and lasts throughout Whit Weekend. It represents the festive evolution of Catalonia’s choral tradition, which has had deep roots in the city since the 19th century. But it also casts aside the musical side to focus on the leisure and social side, because most of the choral societies that take part don’t sing.

The festival lasts three days and starts on Saturday morning with the first musical parade, a “cercavila”. It lasts from 8 am to midday and serves to send off the groups that are going to spend the weekend away. Their members dance round the streets to the rhythm of each group, carrying the group’s emblem under a shower of confetti. This celebration is repeated when they come back on Monday afternoon. Then, around 5 pm, there is another parade with a wilder atmosphere. Still imbued with the festive spirit they have enjoyed during their outing, the group members parade all dressed up and the fun lasts right up to midnight.

One of the festival’s most characteristic features is the outfits of the participants. Each choral group differentiates itself from the rest by wearing vivid printed T shirts and coloured square scarves, accompanied by hats, fans, necklaces and sunglasses. But, apart from their dress, what is really striking about the festival is the wooden objects brandished by most of the participants, representing axes, rudders, harpoons, tridents, oars and so on. That goes a long way to explaining the origins of the festival, when the choirs were grouped by guilds and in a seafaring neighbourhood like Barceloneta there used to be lots of sea trades.

The Silent Choirs of Raval

Raval also holds a Silent Choirs festival on the same days Its origins and procedure are the same as those of Barceloneta, apart from a couple of differences. The tools brandished by most of the Raval groups reflect the neighbourhood’s working-class, craftsmen’s past, with forks, knives, grills and penknives in abundance. Fireworks also play a big role here because the groups also hang cascades of fireworks at the entrance to their centres.