Swiss youth adapt Laudato si’ to music and stage it

A first sold-out theatrical production with a message of solidarity is presented on stage in the canton of Valais in Switzerland. The show stems from the artistic talents and creativity of a group of young people who were inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical and aim to raise awareness across all generations.

By Adelaide Patrignani

Pope Francis’ call for integral ecology resounded loudly in the Swiss Alps. In the canton of Valais, in the south of Switzerland, where one grows up between peaks and vineyards, a group of young Catholics decided to make the message of Pope Francis heard through art.

Benjamin Bender and Guillaume Délèze are 23 years old. The first is a professional actor, involved with children and young people, the second studies philosophy and musicology at the University of Friborg and has been composing for the piano for about ten years. Each of them put their talents into practice to give a theatrical form to Laudato ifthe 2015 encyclical for the safeguarding of our common home.

Genesis of a show

Their projects began to take shape even before the coronavirus pandemic. In Valais, many young Catholics frequent the “DJP (Déjeune qui prie)” network, which since 1997 has offered a Saturday morning meeting where the participants recite the lauds together and then have lunch. The DJPs are held in the diocese of Sion, but also include other events such as the “Open Sky Festival”, which takes place every two years in the town of Fully and welcomes around 1,500 young Catholics gathered for several days of prayer. , concerts and testimonials. .

During the last edition of the Festival in 2019, an amateur performance sought to retrace the life of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. The success of this performance prompted young people to plan a new show for the 2021 edition of the festival, coinciding with the Laudato if Year claimed by Pope Francis.

We “were faced with an incredible challenge”, admits Benjamin, who was actively involved in the project with other young volunteers. “We had to produce art from a theoretical text, an encyclical”: we just had to take up the challenge concretely. The young authors went in search of those who put Laudato if in daily practice: a monk from the Cistercian abbey of Hauterive, a basket maker”, characters in their own right in the show.

Then the pandemic turned the project upside down somewhat. The 2021 edition of the Open Sky Festival has been postponed, but “it gave us a little more time to dig deeper into what we wanted to convey as a message”, explains Benjamin. It took the bands about a year and a half to write the play.

Over the months, the team has grown and now includes a dozen actors, extras, a choir of young people from the village of Bramois, and volunteers: in total, more than 30 young people between 16 and 22 years old. .

Swiss youth wear Laudato si’ on stage

Evangelize through music

The group formed by Guillaume is more limited – eight young people from Valais – but there is no lack of dynamism and ambition. The members – each of whom plays both traditional and more modern instruments – have come together in the parish band that leads mass once a month. They then decided to found Echo – to evangelize in their own way. “In our songs, we want to talk about our faith as we could talk about it to people outside the faith”, summarizes Guillaume. In their first song, they wanted to talk about ecology. To do this, Guillaume studies the document of the pope in depth and writes the lyrics of the songs starting from what “marked him the most”.

Again, the pandemic changed the originally planned stages of the project; but covid resistant. the main obstacle remains “everyone’s agenda”, notes Guillaume. Despite everything, the young people had “a lot of encouragement” for their project, and it’s a great incentive to persevere, especially since “several songs” are already in preparation.

The path to holiness

There is no bluster behind the artistic endeavors of young Valaisans, only the desire to touch people’s hearts at a time when environmental and social challenges are knocking at the door of the peaceful Swiss canton. While traditional values ​​are abused, the Church wants to point out references and open bold new horizons from the Gospel.

Laudato if is not only a beautiful text from the Pope: it is an appeal addressed to all of us, explains Benjamin. This encyclical is a legacy. It’s not enough to read it, you have to put it into practice.” “The mountains give life to so many people in Valais, but we are destroying them”, worries Benjamin. old people transmit to us, to achieve a serene sobriety”, confides the young actor, evoking his region where the intergenerational links, while remaining strong, tend to loosen.

Benjamin insists on the need for everyone’s involvement for an integral ecology. “Young people are very committed, but we all need to be committed together,” he stresses, noting that “in the Church and among adults, things are dragging on a bit….” The deepening of this commitment is the sign of a true journey of faith: “It comes close to the concept of the saints next doorthat is to say taking care of our neighbours, our relations, our environment…”, he adds. “The saints next door” of which the Pope speaks in the Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete and exultate is a testimony that is particularly close to the heart of Florian, another young actor in the group.

The musicians of Echo – several of whom, like Guillaume, also took part in Benjamin’s musical show – set themselves “three objectives: to make beautiful music, to carry a message of faith, and to be able to help economically those who most need this kind of assistance. “

The works produced are, for the moment, broadcast via YouTube, but the young people would like to sell their music to raise funds for associations. This is why they created the “Dreamsailer Music” label, which brings together Echo group and other musical projects carried by Guillaume, in this charitable perspective.

New perspectives

Finally, after months of patient and creative effort, dreams are beginning to come true. Last October saw the release of Echothe first title of “Harmonie”, with a video shot in the rocky and green landscape of the Rhône Valley that speaks of the beauty of Creation.

Four girls, the singers, a violin, a trombone, a piano and a drum set: the group is atypical, but the title foreshadows the result: a true harmony to which the group of musicians testifies with freshness and dynamism.

On April 12 and 13, “La Coloc MC” (“La Coloc de la Maison Commune”) was presented by Benjamin and his troupe in a place as atypical as it is emblematic in terms of integral ecology: a fruit warehouse near Riddes , right in the middle of the orchards. The warehouse decorations are understated and made from recycled or salvaged materials. “We are anchored in a sustainable reality, and this allows us to favor local realities”, explains Benjamin.

More than 250 spectators at each performance: a “really enthusiastic” public, visibly impressed by these young people committed to the Church and sensitive to current issues.

“We don’t just do theater or we play a play: it’s really a human adventure”, continues the young actor from Valais, noting that many of his companions have matured over the course of this project. “Everyone is ready to set off again for another adventure”, but for the moment there is no defined project.

Others will certainly answer the call of Laudato if to put it into practice: indeed, a Laudato si award was created after the second performance, aiming to financially support integral ecology projects in the region. Christian Thurre, permanent deacon and ecology delegate for the diocese of Sion, awarded the first prize to a collective that intends to transform a 900m² plot into a permaculture space with a social project that revolves around an attic. The second prize, an incentive prize, was awarded… to Echo band. The Valais Church relies heavily on the creativity of young people so that the message is embodied in a society that needs passionate and consistent witnesses.

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