Feature Profile – Castellers de Vilafranca / MMNY World Tour

“Imagine creating something beautiful and profound in five minutes. And then taking it down, and it completely disappears forever.”

Chances are you haven’t seen Castells — human towers — built in New York City before. This week, you’re in luck.

Make Music New York welcomes the U.S. debut performance of theCastellers de Vilafranca, a cultural association founded in Catalonia, Spain in 1948. The group’s 150 members will form Castells to the musical accompaniment of grallas (oboe-like wind instruments) and drums.

Castells are human towers built by members of amateur groups, usually as part of annual festivities in Catalonian towns and cities, traditionally in the square in front of the town hall balcony. The human towers are formed by castellers standing on the shoulders of one another in a succession of stages (between six and ten), with younger boys or girls at the top. Anyone is welcome to form the pinya, the throng that supports the base of the tower. In Catalan, the word “castell” means “castle”; the name was coined by local people to describe these human towers, which resemble castles in their height and complexity.

Castellers de Vilafranca are among the best in Spain, and their performances in New York will pay tribute to the World Trade Center reconstruction. This U.S. visit also coincides with an official visit by President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas.

The group also performs this week in conjunction with the U.S. premiere of The Human Tower, a documentary film about the the sport as it happens around the world. Director Ram Devinini calls these towers “a beautiful exploration and metaphor of society and the human soul,” and “one of the most significant community builders out there.”

“You’re thrown into this group of people, squashed together, and forced to become one. It’s an astounding and suspenseful thing to watch.”

Castellers de Vilafranca will build towers Thursday as part of Make Music New York’s World Tour, at Central Park: Naumberg Bandshell (4-4:30pm) and Battery Park (12-12:30pm).

Tonight (Wednesday) see the Castellers de Vilafranca’s world-record setting performance, as they build a human tower on the rooftop at 230 Fifth Ave from 8-10pm. They’ll also perform outdoors at the United Nations on Friday.

Castellers de Vilafranca | MMNY World Tour | Central Park: Naumberg Bandshell 4-4:30pm, Battery Park: 12-12:30pm | thehumantower.com