Fernando Méndez

The 30th of June 2020 was a historic day for Ourense. This date marks the beginning of a tradition whose aim is to remain alive for centuries. The "cathedral bagpiper", a symbol of Ourense that combines music, tradition and solidarity, was born as a tribute to the victims of the coronavirus, their families and the essential staff that sacrificed so much during the difficult months of the pandemic.

Bieito Romero, the leader of the group Luar Na Lubre, had the honour of being the first bagpiper to interpret the official hymn of the province of Ourense. He played it from the cathedral tower as a tribute where the bagpiper goes up to the highest point of Ourense's city centre - San Martiño Cathedral - and from there performs this melody of harmony and gratitude to the world.

It will take place 365 days a year, at 11.30 a.m., a moment that symbolises 11 March 2020, the date on which the World Health Organisation officially declared the pandemic.

This cathedral bagpiper will thus become a permanent reference point of this date, in which the province honours the solidarity shown by all the citizens of the Earth, an unbeatable example of brotherhood between human beings.

It is the first permanent world tribute to the crisis of COVID-19. And it takes place in the most international land: Ourense, a territory that in the 5th century was the capital of the first kingdom of the West; a province without sea but in which its inhabitants reach all the seas of the world with their working, creative and emigrating spirit, as well as their courage and illusion that leave a perennial bond in the collective feeling. These people, the ancient people of Ourense, have made us an example of effort, cooperation and development we have to be proud of.

The music of Manuel de Dios will sound every day at sunset in honour of those who left us during the pandemic, and in tribute to those who throughout the centuries will continue their work of solidarity in favor of others. 

"The cathedral bagpiper is also an example of collaboration of the Deputación de Ourense, the Bishopric and the cathedral of Ourense, carrying out an exciting and cooperative project, which has a fundamental element: the unanimous support of the bagpipers' association and musical and cultural groups of the province of Ourense, which are behind this initiative that unites music, culture and brotherhood.

The musical and cultural representatives coincide in highlighting the strength of this initiative, which has a popular character and is more traditional than our music, joining the most important musical figure of Ourense with the most important act of solidarity in favour of the victims of the pandemic. 

The participation in this event is open to all bagpipers who are together in musical, cultural and social groups from the province of Ourense and beyond. This is a solidarity project open to the world. The aim is to make all the bagpipers participate in a historical event that unites music and charity in the incomparable setting of Ourense cathedral and around our figure: the bagpiper.

The associations support the fact that groups of bagpipers from Ourense and Galicia, who belong to associations that are spread all over the world, can also participate. It also enhances the leading role played by the youngsters, who have combined their experience with that of the most veteran bagpipers, to make this event the biggest and most lasting musical event in time.  

In this sense, the promoter of this initiative, the president of the Deputación of Ourense, Manuel Baltar, stressed that the aim is to launch an international message of solidarity through the most universal language, music, from an immigrant territory like Ourense, which throughout its history has been characterised by being a town of harmony and unity, defined by the word that encompasses our way of being: Ourensanía.

There is a parchment received by each bagpiper to perfectly interpret the melody, which summarizes the feeling and the pride each one of them is feeling. Its text says:

"From the highest point in Ourense's historical centre - San Martiño cathedral - we can contemplate the tribute that the province of Ourense is paying to solidarity and harmony among the people of the world; without any doubt, these are the best feelings that human coexistence holds, so that we can unite and internationally remember what was the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, 2020.

For this reason, we have created this display of appreciation and respect for all the victims of the pandemic and their families around the world, as well as for the essential staff who worked with maximum sacrifice during the hard days of the pandemic. It will be officially implemented on 30th October 2020.

The cathedral bagpiper is a permanent reference point for this date, in which, at 11.30 am, this province honours the solidarity shown in all the continents of the world, an unsurpassable example of brotherhood between human beings.

A tribute that has been paid from the most international of lands: OURENSE, a territory that in the 5th century was the capital of the first kingdom of the West; a province without sea but whose inhabitants reach all the seas of the world with their working, creative and emigrating spirit, summarized in the courage of illusion, that leaves a perennial bond in the collective feeling of a population that i san example of effort, cooperation and development. The above, as citizens of Ourense, makes us proud.

In memory of what people have done, do and will continue to do, which is saving lives facing COVID-19; in honour of those who left us during the pandemic, and in memory of those who throughout the centuries have continued their work in solidarity with others, a bagpiper from the land of OURENSE, which has in its soul the essence of OURENSANIA, will perform every day and 365 days a year  from the tower of the cathedral of Ourense the OFFICIAL HYMN OF THE PROVINCE OF OURENSE, a work by Manuel de Dios, "Ourense no solpor".

The virtuosity of the CATHEDRAL BAGPIPER, a figure dressed in a cloak which symbolises our patron saint, San Martiño, and represents the personification of the History and Culture of OURENSE, is going to allow us to enjoy a melody that will sound in the city centre of Ourense. It will give us a feeling of belonging to a land, to a language, and to a reason for being, which is to continue making a better world every day".

This musical and poetic march, which is a tribute to the victims of COVID-19, will also have its own recognition. By remembering the famous saying of Ourense, we could say, starting from now:

"There are three things in Ourense

which now are four:

the bridge, the Christ, the Burgas,

and the bagpiper with its sound".

We are sure that this will probably be the most important cultural manifestation of this land in centuries, but it will last longer in the hearts of people because it unites emotion, music and tradition. There has never been so much respect, so many victims destroyed by an ilness in so little time... And never was the square of San Martiño in Ourense filled with such emotional applause, which is engraved in the stones of the walls of the city centre these days.

We wish for a thousand more summers for the "cathedral bagpiper" and for all people playing this music of solidarity. That's the way it's always been, and always should be.