The big annual festival day is a busy one for festival activities: there are morning parades by graller musicians and trabucaire riflemen, the Giants Morning, Mass, the sounding of the bells, the La Mercè Communal Procession, the ceremonial dances by the Àliga and the giants, the human-tower performance by local groups, the La Mercè Parade and the closing giants’ walk… We have a really intense day ahead of us, full of cultural activities from early in the morning to late at night.
Here’s a summary of the day’s popular culture highlights, in chronological order:
- Morning parades by grallers musicians. 8 am, from Plaça de la Mercè to Plaça de Sant Jaume. Let’s make sure everyone knows it: today is the patron saint’s day and the whole city celebrates it in style. No more sleeping for you! Wipe the sleep from your eyes and open your ears. For those who live in the old quarter, if you don’t manage to wake up by yourself, the sound of the graller players is sure to do it for you. Good morning and happy La Mercè! Route: Plaça de la Mercè, Ample, Regomir, Ciutat, Plaça de Sant Jaume, Bisbe, Baixada Santa Eulàlia, Banys Nous, Ave Maria, Plaça San José Oriol, Plaça del Pi, Cecs de la Boqueria, Boqueria, Banys Nous, Ferran and Plaça Sant Jaume.
- Galejada trabucaire parade. 9.15 am, from Rambla de Caneletes to Plaça de Sant Jaume. After the graller players, we have… the Trabucaires. These old bandits no longer commit crimes like they once did, centuries ago, but they still make noise. A lot of noise. And their trabucs, or rifles, may not be loaded, but the explosions they produce are still just as intense as they used to be. Route: La Rambla (Canaletes fountain), Ferran, Plaça de Sant Jaume. Before the Galejada, the trabucaires will visit the Trust of the La Mercè Basilica for the traditional wreath-laying ceremony.
- Mass. 10 am, from Plaça de Sant Jaume. Some of the town councillors, accompanied by the entire Communal Procession, will head to the La Mercè Basilica to listen to the La Mercè mass. An intimate festival moment that is not perhaps as well-known as other celebrations, but is nonetheless very emotive. The best way to kick off one of the most special days of the year. Once in Plaça de la Mercè, the bells of the basilica will announce the arrival of the Communal Procession and the start of mass. Route: Plaça de Sant Jaume, Ciutat, Regomir, Ample and Plaça de la Mercè.
- Giants Morning: dance performance and parade of dwarves and giants. 11 am. At 11.45 am, from Plaça de Sant Jaume to Plaça de Castella. Boys and girls from all the neighbourhoods of Barcelona, but also many adults, wait all year round for the exciting moment when all the city’s giants perform their dances in the heart of the city. They’ll arrive on time, because they’ve spent the night at the Casa Gran and, after having been dancing for a while, they’ll go for a walk through streets and squares with their friends and fellow partygoers, the dwarves and capgrossos. Would you like to join in? Route of the dwarves and giants musical procession: Plaça de Sant Jaume, Ferran, La Rambla, Pintor Fortuny, Àngels and Montalegre.
- La Mercè Communal Procession. 12 noon, Plaça de la Mercè to Plaça de Sant Jaume. New this year, in addition to the pillars of honour of the seven human-tower festival groups in the city, on leaving mass the festive peel of the bells of the La Mercè basilica will sound. Afterwards, the Barcelona Communal Procession will escort the authorities, accompanied by music from the Municipal Band and performances from the human-tower festival groups. Once in Plaça de Sant Jaume, the Giants of the City and the Àliga will do their respective dances below the balcony. Route: Plaça de la Mercè, Ample, Regomir, Ciutat and Plaça de Sant Jaume (12.30 pm: Dances of the Àliga and the Giants of the City), inside City Hall.
- Dances of the Àliga and the Giants of the City. 12.15 pm at Plaça de Sant Jaume. The festival’s most solemn moment comes when, from the balcony of City Hall, the Mayor presides over the dances performed by the Àliga and the Giants of the City.
- Human-tower performance by local groups. 12.30 pm at Plaça de Sant Jaume. Featuring all the city’s human-tower groups: the Castellers de Barcelona, the Castellers de Sants, the Castellers de la Vila de Gràcia, the Castellers de la Sagrada Família, the Castellers del Poble Sec and the Colla Jove de Barcelona.
- Traditional dance at Palauet Albéniz. 12 noon at Palauet Albéniz. The little palace and the gardens surrounding it fill up with music and dance on the 21st, 22nd and 24th as all the city’s traditional and popular Catalan dance groups and sardana-dance groups pass through this venue. Look out if you come on Tuesday afternoon, because you can see the Maig dance group (5 pm), the youth of Joventut Nostra and Sant Jordi (5:30 pm) and the Nou de Novembre group (6:30 pm). Featuring the Sabadell group. The dancer Pol Jiménez will take part in the sardana performances.
- La Mercè Parade. 6 pm, from Carrer de Pelai to Plaça de Sant Jaume. One of the moments Barcelona residents have been waiting for: the La Mercè Parade, where most of the city’s giants, accompanied by members of the Communal Procession, beast figures and performance groups from all over Barcelona pass through city centre streets in a festive parade. This year, the parade will be closed by all the adapted giants in Catalonia: Normag from the Aspasim association, Ocellaire from Eixample and Frida. Route: Pelai (Carrer de Gravina), Plaça Catalunya, La Rambla (ascending side), Ferran, Plaça de Sant Jaume and inside City Hall.
- Sardana dancing 6.15 pm, in Plaça de la Mercè. Organised by the sardana-dance group Agrupació Cultural Folklòrica Barcelona. With music by the Cobla Marinada music ensemble.
- Choral concert 7 pm, in Plaça del Rei. Singers from the Catalan Federation of Choirs will fill Plaça del Rei with their voices, offering a display of the cultural work carried out by almost 450 associations. Performed by the Cor Drassanes group.
- Toc a plegar. 8.30 pm, setting off from Plaça de Sant Jaume and arriving at Palau de la Virreina. The Giants of the City say farewell to the festival as they parade back to their usual home, Palau de la Virreina. If you want to accompany them, you can participate in the closing ceremony of this year’s La Mercè. Have you ever seen the Counterdance of the Giants of the City? This is the moment when they dance one after another, at the door of the Virreina, until their bodies can go on no longer. New this year, passing through the Pi, the bells of the basilica will ring proudly from the top of the bell tower. Route: Plaça de Sant Jaume, Llibreteria, Veguer, Plaça del Rei, Baixada de Santa Clara, Pietat, Bisbe, Plaça Nova, Boters, Pi, Plaça del Pi, Cardenal Casañas, La Rambla and Palau de la Virreina.
- Concert by the Cobla Sant Jordi de Barcelona. 9 pm in Plaça de la Mercè. The City of Barcelona’s official Catalan music ensemble, the Cobla Sant Jordi, offers a final concert in the La Mercè Basilica, bringing the annual festival to an end.
- Pyromusical. 10 pm at Avinguda de Maria Cristina. The Pyromusical closes the festival in the most spectacular way possible; using pyrotechnics, lights and a lot of music. This year will commemorate 50 years since the first Beatles concert, 20 years since the reopening of the Gran Teatre del Liceu and 75 years since the death of Glenn Miller. In addition, there will be music from Barcelona’s twin city: Beirut.