In Catalonia, the gralla is usually played in many street feasts, among them the exhibitions of "Castells" (human towers), the meetings to make the "Giants" or "Dwarfs" dance, or the same with the "Eagle" or other animal representations, dance of "stickmen", processions, "Ruas", etc.

The melodies played when the whole group move on foot, that serve to announce their arrival at the place of performance, are of the march or pasodoble type, and are called cercavila or passacarrer.

Example of Cercavila

And of course, music tunes are also played to accompany the performances of the groups we mentioned above, for example, during the raising of "castells" and during the dances to which we referred before. We now will see some of them.

Gralla at Castells Gralla at Gegants Gralla Concerts

Gralla at the Castells

in the year 1999 I began as gralla player at the group of grallas of the "Colla castellera Jove Xiquets de Tarragona" (CJXT), or for short, Colla Jove, where I still continue playing. Attached below are pictures of some of the "castells" done by Colla Jove, on the seasons when these structures were erected for the first time:

Quatre de nou amb folre (4x9 w/sleeve), 26 Sept 1993 Tres de nou amb folre (3x9 w/sleeve), Santa Tecla 1994

The group of gralla players provide the music sounding when the "castell" is erected. As our gralla colleague Oriol Nicolau says: "The tune for castells consists of 5 parts, which are start, ascent, crowning, descent, exit. The start serves to alert the watchers and the member castellers (many do not see the construction as they are placed in different positions inside the "foot") that the attempt to build that castell has really started. The ascent part of the music is being repeated until the child crowns the structure and the music halts with a trill and a long note (aleta). The descent is marked with a fast and flowing melody to help dismantling the castell with swiftness, until the exit arrives, when the foot is dismantled and the castell is finished. Exit part can be short or long depending of each castell, and the music varies accordingly.

Click here to listen to the Tune for castells, the music played when castells are erected. Version is from the gralla players at Colla Jove.

And here you will find the transcription in score of this Toc de castells by the Colla Jove.

1. The music for the "Toc de castells" is very old and evolved from the different versions of "Ball de Valencians" that we know were performed already with gralla accompaniment before the 19 th. century. By the end of that century we find the first scores of this music, and the first recordings by the beginning of 20th. century, which prove to be rather similar to the present ones, but as the music has been transmitted by oral tradition, we find already many variations according to the place of origin. This is a living music and its players today continue to generate modifications according to the place and the time, showing nowadays many detail variations, which are noticeable when we listen to the players of each group.

2. For the spectators of a Castells performance, the music is its festive accompaniment, but as we remarked before, for the member who participates in its construction (many of them are placed where they cannot see its progress), it is also a guide which tells them, for example, that the "enxaneta" (little child) is preparing to cross the tower and crown the Castell. The music can also encourage the child who doubts to actually make this crowning and not running back, or provide a somewhat quicker rhythm for a faster climbing or, on the contrary, provide a slower rythm to calm the nervousness -and shakings- of those who have started to go down. All this produces still more musical changes every time that a Toc de castells is performed.

3. Even if we compare the score and the recording of the Colla Jove attached, we find differences between them, for example on the duration of the rests between the different fragments -in which only the drum is heard- which are longer on the recording. Also a difference can be noticed on the Aleta section, which we hear for two times on the recording. This is because that particular castle consisted of 5 pillars and in this case the "enxaneta" has to cross over two towers, while the Aleta is played two times.

4. The compass of notes in Toc de castells goes from G3 to G4, this is from the fingering corresponding to all holes closed to the one with all holes opened. A gralla score is usually written using these actual notes, but we should have into account that in this instrument, the tuning is half a tone lower than the standard A= 440 hz. being in fact around A= 415 hz., a fact that leads to many instances in which the gralla is considered a transposing instrument in B.

Other tunes of the castells repertoire are,

  • Entrance to the square,
  • the tune of the walking pillar,
  • the tune of vermouth,
  • the tune of procession and
  • the tune of dawn. And of course,

  • the repertoire of Cercavila, (see picture and explanation above).

    A picture of the Grallers of the Colla Jove (2007)

    Here is the link to the Web of the Colla Jove Xiquets de Tarragona.

    And the entry Casteller at Wikipedia.

    Castells information of current events at the digital magazine "La Malla": Canal Castellers.

    La Web dels is a web which talks about Castellers. As said there, it presumes to be unbiased.

    As an example, listen to the tune for castells as played by Escola de grallers de Sitges, tune that sounds very odd to the people of Camp de Tarragona.

    Gralla at the Gegants

    Historically, Castells equals Gralles, everybody will agree. However, Gegants (its meaning being "Giants") has been equal to Gralles mainly at the South part of Catalonia, but for me (being born in Terrassa) Gegants had always danced at the music of flabiol (small recorder). In general, the instrument played during Gegants depended on the geographic zone.

    But now the spread of Castells, and Gegants, and animal and other representations, has originated a major grow of gralla usage, and in this way, it has become the main instrument of the popular feasts all around Catalonia.

    Moorish Gegant Moro and Moorish Geganta
    from the town of Tarragona
    Main Feast in Terrassa:
    dragon and gegants

    General Association of Groups of Geganters in Catalonia.

    Article at Wikipedia on the Association of Groups of Geganters in Catalonia, where we also find general information on Gegants.

    Some information on Cultura Gegantera.

    Gralla Concerts

    In the last few years, and as the number of gralla players have been increasing enormously, we start to see more and more people who study the gralla as they would do with any other musical instrument: therefore, the quality level is gradually increasing, and there are more and more groups which can appear on stage and perform either a concert or a dancing session, with the music being not an accessory part but the main one:

    This link is to recordings of several groups at the 17th. Gralla Concert of Santa Llúcia, organized by the group Ganxets, Grallers del Baix Camp.

    And here we have a few recordings of this group, Ganxets, Grallers del Baix Camp.