by Carole Verona
On April 23, Marco Bucci, the mayor of Genoa, Italy, appointed guitarist Beppe Gambetta an ambassador of the city. Gambetta was honored for representing Genoa all over the world, specifically in the U.S. Gambetta, who has performed in all 50 states, will perform for the first time at Pastorius Park on Wednesday, July 10, 7:30 p.m. He will be accompanied by upright bass player Rusty Holloway.
At the concert, Beppe will include songs from “Short Stories,” his latest album.
“My art is strongly defined by my traveling,” he said.
Singing in four languages, he will reminisce about his traveling life and will share his love of American roots music and his Italian heritage. Acoustic Guitar magazine even referred to him as “a virtual United Nations of influences: Italian, Ukrainian, Appalachian, Sardinian, Celtic.”
During the program, Beppe will pay tribute to Eddie Lang (born Salvatore Massaro), a native Philadelphian known as the father of jazz guitar, and will also play one of Giuseppe Verdi’s compositions. Beppe believes that artists are always doing two things.
“They are catching people with their display of technical ability, playing and doing difficult things with the music. And they are always trying to reach deep into the hearts of people through their passion and love of the music, going beyond the strictly technical aspects.
“I try to balance these two aspects, and I hope that people will enjoy this journey into my work. I try to bring people into the joyful aspect of the music, remembering important things from the past and building a little hope for a better world through art. Years ago, I was fortunate to be able to spend a couple of hours with Pete Seeger at his home. From this experience came the sense that the art of music brings people together.”
Beppe became interested in the guitar when he was 11 years old. He is self-taught and learned by listening to LPs, pointing out that this was the Led Zeppelin era.
“When I was 17, I got to listen to American roots music on some LPs my friends had and that were available for sale in Italy.”
He was especially influenced by the music of Doc Watson, a Grammy Award-winning American guitarist, songwriter and singer of bluegrass, folk, country, blues and gospel music. Watson, who died in 2012, was noted for his “flatpicking” style of guitar playing. This is the style Beppe emulated and perfected, so much so that in a review the Huffington Post called him “one of the best flatpickers anywhere.”
“I fell in love with American roots music because it comes from a unique melting pot that is probably the most complex melting pot in the world. I understood that roots music was my way to go. There were no teachers, no books or other material. So, I had to listen. It was a difficult way to learn. It was also a beautiful way to learn because it shows that if you love the art and the music, you will pursue it no matter what.”
In addition to performing, Beppe teaches, has written several books and has recorded instructional videos about the art of flatpicking.
“When you teach, you have to change your character. When you are on stage, there is some ego involved. But when you teach, you have to take away that part of it. You have to become really humble and try to explain in the simplest way the technique you are playing and the love you have for the music. Teaching is a beautiful part of my life …
“I have one important secret, a wife who shares my life and my passion. When Federica and I met 20 years ago, we decided to spend every single day of our lives together. Together, we organize festivals and events and share in the artistic production of the music. With a classical guitar diploma, Federica is a critical part of the artistic program.”
Beppe and Federica, who was born in Milan, organize a music festival in Genoa every May. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the indoor event attracts approximately 4,000 people. Beppe also travels with his espresso machine, which, he added, helps keep him “grounded.”
Beppe and Federica divide their time between their homes in Genoa, Italy and Lambertville, New Jersey. Beppe’s CDs and his book, “The Flatpicking Source Book,” will be for sale at the concert. Visit his website to learn more about Beppe and listen to his music.
Pastorius Park is at the corner of Millman Street and Hartwell Lane. If it rains, the show will move to Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s Chapel at the Inn, 500 W. Willow Grove Ave. The free Pastorius Park Summer Concert Series is supported by both the Chestnut Hill Community Association and the main sponsor, Chestnut Hill Hospital. Beppe Gambetta’s performance is presented by WXPN.