Òscar Boada © INTERKULTUR
Canta al mar - Festival Coral Internacional

How to tug at the heartstrings of a Catalan conductor

Òscar Boada in interview

In March 2017 the Catalan conductor and pianist Òscar Boada was announced the new Artistic Director of the INTERKULTUR event Canta al Mar in Callela / Spain. In the following interview he talks about the key aspects of Canta al Mar, the advantages of choir competitions and very special moments at choral events.

From your personal point of view: What is the most important feature of Canta al mar? What will be your focus acting as Artistic Director?
As far as I am concerned, I think that the most important feature of Canta al mar is bringing so many fine choirs from all over the world to compete and share their music and also, upon the local point of view, bringing so many choral tourists to a place like Calella. It allows this small Catalan village to get known by another kind of tourism. As the artistic director, my first endeavour will be focused in not making too many mistakes and allowing our choir visitors to enjoy their stay between us!!

Why should choirs decide to compete in an international choir competition – what are the advantages for both singers and conductors?
As an experienced participant in international competitions, I am definitely in favour of them. Children love to compete, they are, in fact, competing all day, and thus, I do not see any reason why participating in choral competitions should not be encouraged! This, of course, can be applied to adult choirs. The preparation for the competition is, in itself, a complete path to improve the level of the choir, without minding the actual level of the ensemble. If properly prepared, a competition will always lead the choir to a higher development.

You’ve acted as adjudicator for Canta al mar several times – do you remember one special moment or experience in Calella that you will never forget?
Canta al mar has been a very special festival for me and I will not forget two things: The competition of female choirs in 2014, unforgettable performance of all of them (I remember to give Golden Diplomas to all!) and, in a more personal way, the performance of my choir, Cor Vivaldi, as an invited choir in the concert of “Music and Light” in Calella's church. The response of the audience was absolutely incredible!

As our Artistic Director from Catalonia: Can you tell us a little about choir tradition in Catalonia?
Catalonia is a choral country. In fact, choral singing in Spain is located, mainly, in two parts: Basque country and Catalonia. Their traditions are, however, very different. While Basque choral singing has been nurtured by their wish of singing after a good and often overabundant meal, in Catalonia, choral singing was born as a way to bring the workers to great music, and avoid them singing songs of dubious taste, like ones they used to sing in their taverns. This has, believe it or not, affected our way to choral singing and while Basque choirs tend to be more expansive in sound and expression, the Catalan choirs have enjoyed a more "relaxed" or still way to choral music. Curiously enough, our tradition is not based on church choirs, but more in secular choral societies.

You’ve witnessed and listened to many choirs from all corners of the world. Do you have a favorite choir group or choir literature from a special country or region?
It's amazing how things are developing and how fast. Countries with almost no tradition twenty years ago have developed into choral countries in the last ten years! I've always admired the level and sonority of the Philippine Island choirs, and I still do it, of course, but last year, in Sochi, at the World Choir Games, I was brought into tears (very rare thing in me, when talking about music) by an incredible Taipei choir, the Müller Chamber Choir. Amazing ensemble and incredible director!

About choir literature, I was an admirer of the Finish school in my very first times as a choral director. Nowadays, I admire the work of several composers such as Kirby Shaw, in choral jazz and pop or Catalan composer Albert Guinovart who has been commissioned by us in several occasions or the many other composers with whom I've had the pleasure to work with. Working with composers is an amazing field!!

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