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NAZARENO TADDEI, A JESUIT AHEAD - 2 MUSIC


di ANDREA FAGIOLI

MUSIC

 

What else have you got left of the Trentinian attitude?

Surely the passion for chants. Three or four of us would meet to sing, and we never took singing classes. It was our instinct. Sometimes we would hum the melody in counter melody, using the third.

Since you have introduced this subject, let me ask you something, I know that you have created some mountain chants, that you founded the Alpine Choirs and that since 1960 until 1964 you worked as a culture consultant in the office of two legislatures for the self-governing province of Trento. So, with respect to the mountains, what has the music meant to you?

I've already mentioned the sense of choral singing, which is harmonic sense, not only melodic, because harmony is produced by unity. It's the unity inside multiplicity that I studied first with cinema and later with other communication methods; it's the structure that became my strength. From this sense of harmony I got the idea of 'language structure', obviously at the time I didn't even realize. Anyhow, this harmonic sense of trying to reach unity put the germ of an idea that I developed without realizing that I was doing; the multiplicity of voices, and the multiplicity of the notes in the unity of the ensemble (actually it's the multiplicity of the notes that creates the melody). This harmonic sense fills your soul, because God is three in one, the unity of multiplicity in the infinite. I think, with my chants, I gave moments of joy to some Brothers, to some Italian miners working in Belgium especially on Christmas Eve, to some girls in India and to many of my students after dinner.

Could you mention some titles of chants that you wrote and the name of the choirs that you created?

I wrote at least ten chants: «Le campanelle del Trentino», «L’armonica 'n Val de Sol», «O che bela maitinada»… I assisted the Choir of Cai in Padua, from which it was created (and then they separated) the Choir of Tre Pini. The Choir of Cai had just been created and they needed a master, it dates back to 1944. The group was attending the Jesuit Antonianum, that's how I got the chance to know them. I created several chants for that Choir and some became even compulsory pieces in the competitions.

In the autumn of 1944 the guys from the choir came to the Padua station to say goodbye as I was leaving for Rome and they sang one of my farewell chants at the end of four years of study, song and friendship. I found many of those guys about 45 years later, the 17th of March 1990 when the Cai Choir of Padua celebrated its anniversary with a wonderful concert in the big Auditorium Pollini filled with an enthusiastic crowd. The wonder is in the perseverance of those 45 years of Choir. For such a long time they met twice a week to sing. They obviously did it for personal satisfaction but also to share with others moments of joy and serenity through their concerts. The choir requires perseverance and sacrifice; it's a moral and civil training school. The Cai Choir is still active, quite often it performed outside Padua and outside Italy. Same for the Tre Pini Choir.

You graduated in composition and orchestra conducting at the Academy of music «Benedetto Marcello» of Venice...

Yes, it's correct. I even took a high mark, 9.5 out of 10. Pianoforte was the subject that kept my marks average low. I was a classmate of Luigi Nono and I also met Luciano Berio, who was studying with Ghedini. The director of the Academy of music was the old and famous Gian Francesco Malipiero who was also my professor. For composition my professor was Cumar and for orchestration my professor was the famous orchestra conductor Nino Sanzogno. He's the first one whom I heard performing «The Rhapsody in bleu» of Gershwin at the Fenice of Venice. I was enthusiastic. The piano was played by a very famous pianist, I'm not sure if it was Benedetti Michelangeli, who died not a long ago, or someone else just as famous.

When did this happen?
 

I graduated in 1949, four years after I enrolled. Actually it took me only four years to complete ten years of course. I was in Padua, the war had just ended and I was a student at the faculty of Literature and Philosophy, I especially remember professor Ferrabini, one of the founders (or something like that) of the «Italian encyclopedia Treccani» who during my exam had me talking about the Thomistical thesis of the First Matter and Substantial Form (that I had learned from Father Busa, who had been my master in Gallarate; I owe him to consider Saint Thomas my master of cinema) and he invited all the professors to listen to me. I took the monastic vows, but hadn't been ordained yet. I was in that period Jesuits call «Magistero», which means that once you are done with your license (in 1945 I licensed in Philosophy from the Papal University of Gallarate) you are sent to a University or to practice some duties for three or four years.

Why did you decide to enroll in the Academy of music if you were already studying Literature and Philosophy?

Because while in the seminary during the war, thanks to the contacts with the Germans (in Trentino we were door to door), I understood that Hitler was working a lot with the radio and cinema and I understood that radio and cinema (we didn't have TV at that time) were instruments of great influence on people, because they brought people to do what the leader wanted to. It was then that I understood that clergymen had to do something in this field both to educate people not to be influenced and also to use those instruments to spread the Gospel. When I became a Jesuit I told my Provincial, Father Bianchini (he's the one who welcomed me in the Company, he died several years ago), that I wanted to devote my studies to those subjects. Unfortunately it was the end of the war and I couldn't go to Rome where there was the only institution of that kind. Italy was literally cut in half. So my Provincial told me: « You are talented for music, music is also part of cinema, so you can start studying some music». This is why I enrolled in the Academy of music of Venice. I would go there from Padua by Lambretta, a second hand one that my Superiors had given me. In Venice I also had the chance to know the beauties of a city unique in the world.

Is it true that during the war you helped the Partisans but you refused the «card»?

Yes, it's true that I helped them, even if it was a modest help; and it's true that when Lieutenant Galli (who then became deputy and Undersecretary of The Presidency of the Council of Ministers) offered me the partisan «card» I refused.

Why?
 

Because I thought I did too little and also because I saw things that honestly gave me a different image from the one that has been celebrated through the years about the values of the Resistance. Anyhow what I could do, both in Gallarate and Bormio, I did it willingly. I remember a young blond boy (I don't remember the name, also because at the time we would try to forget the names just in case we would get tortured) who would tell me «You tell us what we have to do. Then we will go do it!!». And by that «do» he meant to risk his life. I never saw him again.

What did you do for the partisans?

Well, in Bormio, when the American food aid didn't arrive (from the Soviet Russia we would receive only propagandists), the partisans were at risk of starving to death. So, with Brother Dassi, I tried to collect at least some bread left over from my community (it was bread made of straw) and at night I would leave it on the window of the chapel so they could come get it. In Gallarate I also kept contacts and cooperated with the group commanded by Lieutenant Galli. When I was going to Cepina to teach Catechism I would profit from that to keep in contact with a primary school teacher, an emissary coming from Milan, who would give me instructions to bring to the partisans. It was a coded message. For example «Tomorrow at 5 we want God» so the day after I would go to the church in Bormio and I would play «We want God» with the organ. I would hear the door opening, someone would come in and would listen to that song and would then leave. Sometimes I had to play truant, secretly in agreement with the Father Superior Gazzana, but with great scandal of the others who knew nothing. Some of them became Fathers Superior. It was too dangerous that they knew what was going on.

Do you remember other events of those years? 
 

One day, I was coming back by bus, I recall that some German soldiers got on the bus (Alpenjäger, not SS) they saw me dressed as a priest (even if I was still a student) and they came talk to me about their families, they showed me photos and they were emotionally touched.

What else did you do at the time?
 

I also helped some Jews to cross the mountains. In order to do that I trained walking on the cornices of the Institute of Gallarate.

What's the story?
 

Coming from the mountains I had already overcome the dizziness but since it was some time since my last walk in the mountains I wanted to be ready for the more dangerous passages, maybe even at night. Which is exactly what I did helping those people trespassing the mountains of Bormio. Walking on the cornices helped to win the fear. Then they made me stop, especially father Maraschi.

You mentioned you have seen or heard about something that gave you a different image of the Resistance, what was it?

For example the day of the Liberation, we were back in Gallarate, the «blue» partisans of the area, who risked their lives in the morning (and they were the ones of the group I was helping) around noon accompanied me to meet the chief of the «red ones» who had just arrived and knowing what I did wanted to shake my hand. He said «Let me shake your hand» and he added: «Can you imagine? This hand killed five fascists this morning» I already knew that five fascists had been killed after the battle, in a treasonable way because they had already been arrested and disarmed by the «blue ones». «No» I answered «I'm not shaking your hand because you committed an act of cowardice». He was very impressed by my reply. After that episode we became almost friends, he came to see me several times and one day while we were chatting I tried to convince him «You are Communists, you have to be Italian Communists» and I was insisting on the «Italians» bit. «Do you realize that the Soviets were always coming to tell you what to do? You can't sacrifice Italy for Russia». Once he said: «We have a meeting and I'm going to bring this idea because I understand we can't be slaves of Russia». I never saw him again nor heard anything about him. Another bitter experience happened to me in Busto Arsizio where I was going to teach Catechism when I was in Gallarate. The place where I was teaching was owned by the guy that, years later, became the Honourable Pastore. Other than Catechism I was also doing something for the propaganda anti-nazist and anti-fascist. For example I remember that in that place I prepared the text for the fliers that were thrown from the plane the day of the Liberation. The day after the Liberation they told me that Pastore needed that room and I should not show up again. That way also the Catechism lesson vanished because they couldn't give me any other place in which to do it.

In the first post-war period in spite of the University and the Academy of music you also had time to found the «City of the boys» in Padua.

In 1946 I was teaching Catechism on Sunday at the Capitello of Pontesalboro, a hamlet of Padua, where there were all poor families. I had already heard of what then became the famous Nomadelfia of Don Zeno so I thought of organizing a summer camp for the youth of Pontesalboro. I talked to my Dean, Father Messori Roncaglia, former military chaplain of the submariners who was also Regional Delegate of Poa (Papal Insitution of welfare directed by monsignor Baldelli) and explained my idea, asking him for help. He told me:  «Listen boy, I will give you all you need on condition that you go to San Carlo Arcella, gather the boys and take them camping with those of Pontesalboro». Arcella was a place where none set foot before: neither the priest nor police. None ever dared. There were 8 years old kids who had already killed a man. They would assault cars using the bombs they stole to the runaway Germans. So I said:  «Father, if you give me the order of holy obedience I will go». The «holy obedience order» in the Company of Jesus is a serious thing; it's not the usual obedience. If there's an order of holy obedience it's a deadly sin to disobey. Father Messori Roncaglia thought about it for a moment and then said « Order of holy obedience», then he said «I suggest you take some candies before you go». So I jumped on my bicycle and went to San Carlo. I found the kids playing in a field and there were also some little girls. I was dressed as a priest and when they saw me they were all in a state of alert. None would come near me, apart from a girl who was probably ten years old. I gave her a candy and asked her if she wanted to come with me. Then all the boys run away. With the girl on my bicycle I started to go house-by-house but all the doors were shut. Suddenly the girl said: «Look what he gave me». They all came out, all around me and took the candies. That's how I broke the ice. You have to think about what it meant to have a candy at that time: it was a treasure. We started to make friends with them and to put together some money I would send them around to collect pieces of paper. Once they came to me at the Jesuit's home to tell me about their work. (Those were the times of Cianciulli). When they arrived I was mixing in a pinata, I was making some soap for the summer camp with the grease.  «What's that stuff over there?» the so-called ' Nuvolari' asked me, he was the smartest.  «Saón (soap)» I replied naively. What did I do! In a short time there were rumors saying that I was using kids to make soap. I had no idea. Later on I discovered that they all agreed  «When he comes, we'll get rid of him». To kill me they hid behind the door of one of the houses where I was going all the time, I don't know why that day I didn't go there. One of those boys was Armando who later became «mayor» of the City of the Boys. I had to fight but then I managed to create the first City of the Boys in the mountains, in Torrebelvicino that lasted some years until my superiors sent me to Rome. Those boys, today well-off grandfathers, came to meet me again after many years and I was very flattered by that.

(….) 
The other chapters: THE MOUNTAIN, THE CALLING, CINEMA AND TV, FELLINI, THE OTHER DIRECTORS, THE METHOD, THE MISSION, MENTAL ECOLOGY, HYPNOSIS, THE INTERNET
Andrea Fagioli, Nazareno Taddei un gesuita avanti, ed. Edav, Roma, 2000
 


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