Pau Casals' widow urges to recuperate the anthem the famous cellist composed for the UN

Marta Casals asks the Spanish Government to ask the UN to recuperate the anthem that 40 years ago Pau Casals especially composed. The anthem was used in the seventies, under U Thant’s term, and then forgot. The famous cellist wrote a song for peace.

CNA / Ariadna Matamoros

February 3, 2011 12:25 AM

Washington (ACN) .- The United Nations does not have an official anthem. Or at least this is what the organisation says when asked about it. However in 1971, the UN Secretary General at the time, U Thant, commissioned Pau Casals to compose an anthem for the organisation as an echo of Peace. And indeed, 40 years ago, the internationally renowned Catalan cellist did compose an anthem. Forty years later, in 2011, his widow Marta Casals asked the Spanish Government to take the first step in recuperating this special anthem. In an exclusive interview with the Catalan News Agency, Marta Casals said that it would be “very appropriate” for the Spanish mission to the UN to propose that this song for peace be played again. “Somebody has to bring it up”, she said before saying that how she knew how difficult it was to bring up the importance of the song in an organisation with so many different voices like the UN.

For Marta Casals, the anthem that her husband made for the United Nations has not been consolidated as in her words, “the UN are not used to using it”. According to her, contrary to the U.S., where anthems are very important because “everyone feels their homeland with intensity, there are numerous nations in the Organisation of the United Nations” so nobody can relate to one single anthem. However Pau Casals' widow feels that this song should be restored in the name of Peace and that official and private UN acts should start using this anthem as a tradition.

“When U Thant was the Secretary General, the anthem was always played when he was entering and leaving the room” recalls Marta Casals “but when he died so did the tradition” she laments before saying, “but I have kept all the letters from U Thant from when he asked Pau Casals to compose this song for peace”. In fact, Casals was famous for his advocacy work for Human Rights.

Coinciding with the fortieth anniversary of the creation of this special UN anthem, Marta Casals has urged both the Spanish and Catalan governments to act so that this song is played again and made known. “Sometimes music can rescue people from different ideologies”, she said before stressing that everything should be done to promote this song. “John F. Kennedy did it” she says referring to the invitation that the U.S. president gave to Pau Casals in 1961 asking him to play exclusively at the White House. “But nobody has done anything like this on behalf of the United Nations”, she laments.

A concert next October

However, the former Vice President of the Catalan Government, Josep Lluís Carod Rovira, announced last November that the Institut Ramon Llull (which promotes Catalan culture abroad) would begin the necessary steps to ensure that the choirs of the Catalan Choral Society and the Orchestra of Young Interpreters of Catalonia would interpret the new anthem of the United Nations in their Headquarters in New York on the 24th October 2011.

Carod Rovira also noted that they were working hard to ensure that Salvador Brotons could be the director of the choirs and that the concert would include a performance from the Manhattan School of Music. They were the ones that released the anthem back in 1971.

“I am a Catalan”

On the 24th October 1971, the song was presented to the world premiere at the UN headquarters in New York. The anthem was composed by Pau Casals and the lyrics by the English poet W. H. Auden.

According to various advocacy groups for the anthem of the United Nations, the song was banned after the concert due to pressure from Franco's Spain in retaliation for a speech that Casals gave to the UN on the 24th of October 1971. At 94, Casals said the following famous words in front of the UN General Assembly – “I am a Catalan”. Then he carried on qualifying “Catalonia as one of the world's major nations”. He remembered that Catalonia, in the Medieval times, had one of the first Parliament in the wolrd.

During the Franco dictatorship, Casals (El Vendrell (Catalonia), 1876 - San Juan (Puerto Rico) in 1973) was exiled to Prades in France and later in 1956 to Puerto Rico, where he founded the Festival Casals, the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra and the Conservatory of Music. During his exile, Pau Casals played the famous Catalan traditional song, “the Song of the Birds” at the end of each concert as a sign of political freedom opposed to the dictatorship in Catalonia and the rest of Spain.