Bepi de Marzi is at home in a cloister. He seems to be part of the baroque church, to fill its spaces and to be at one with its architecture. On 17 December 2014, Bepi and his famed choir, I Crodaioli, performed in the church of Santa Maria in Araceli in Vicenza.
This Baroque church, designed by Guarino Guarini, was commenced in the
consecrated, about 60 years later, 1743. It lost some importance during the Napoleonic period. The church was restored in the period to 1990 and is a fitting acoustic, spiritual and visual locale for Bepi de Marzi and his choir.
The theme of this concert was peace, peace against the horrors of war. Peace is a common element of Bepi’s work, that is often centred on the fields and mountains of horror around the Grappa in WW1. With this theme, after scanning the programme, it seemed that reflection should be a part of the preparation for the 400 souls present.
Yet, silence, just as peace, is possibly an unnatural state for human beings. This is no more in evidence than during any gathering of people of Italian heritage whose greatest joy is competitive communication, anywhere and at all times. Yet this does not decry their desire for peace, a desire which seems more apparent in Italian society than in those of the world powers and of many nearby nations.
Maybe the need for ‘chatting’ arises from the infinite tolerance of Italian mothers and grandmothers for the continual chatter from their progeny, something that would not occur in more northern climes. The oral competition died down as poems of war and peace were read. I Crodaioli emerged from behind the altar led by Bepi, a man who on first view reminds an anglo-saxon of a smiling Bilbo Baggins.
“His voice, as he tells of the emotions within each choral piece, is measured, inspiring and even commanding of attention. Yet many may have heard Bepi in other places and have not experienced what was about to occur”.
There were about 26 apparently ordinary men, men of humility, dressed similarly, mostly over middle age, the voices of I Crodaioli. A voice arises from one of the choir, more voices follow and the choir creates a sound that must be heavenly. How is it that these ordinary men can fill the church with such balanced chords? Not another sound is heard. One could believe that these 26 souls become filled with joy when they stand in the presence of heaven. Twelve times a story and twelve times a choir of ’ordinary angels’.
But what of peace? It is probable that nearly all present at this concert of peace shared the desire for peace expressed in the poems, stories and choral pieces, and the revulsion of the horrors of war. But how will this impact on humanity so desperately greedy and power hungry that we are able to commit atrocities below the worst horrors of mythology, and in the name of a balanced budget destroy families, villages, cities, states and nations?
For this scribe, enthralled once again by I Crodaioli and their special creator, Bepi de Marzi, the answer may be to just live peacefully and vote carefully. Others may follow or they may not.