Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Libertango - the Graller Version

The collection of videos of Libertango played on unusual instruments expands today with a video of the group Els Carreter performing on a set of gralles accompanied by a timbal (snare drum). The gralla is one of several Catalan versions of the ancient shawm. Shawms are usually associated with the Renaissance period but predate that period and have their roots probably in the middle East. Many European cultures have had shawm derivatives in their folk music history but only in Spain have the instruments continued to flourish - particularly in Catalonia. The name of the instrument derives from the Catalan word for Jackdaw, a noisy member of the crow family, and the double reed of the instrument can indeed be made to sound very much like the bird. The familiar oboe is a refined derivative of the shawm. 

The members of Els Carreter are Ramon Fontova, Oriol Junyent, Pau Plana, Albert SolĂ© on gralles and Robert Querol on timbal. They appear to play modern, fully chromatic versions of the gralla although the sound is much the same as the traditional open hole model. Els Carreter were formed in 2001 in the city of Lleide in the western part of Catalonia. The performance in this video comes from Festa Major de Vilafranca in August of this year. Els Carreter were one of thirteen gralles ensembles performing - you can find the full program here.  If you want to hear more traditional music played on gralles, view this video. If you want to learn more about the gralla, visit

I am no judge of gralla playing but Libertango is all here - perhaps from an arrangement originally created for four clarinets - and I enjoyed it.

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