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Midweek Review

Are we now moving towards a new Sri Lankan political culture?

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Rev. Fr. Vimal Tirimanna, CSsR

The general election of 2020 has become historical for many reasons. The Sri Lankan voters have overwhelmingly voted for the SLPP for the second time in just nine months, knowing well that in the process, they were freely approving the holding of the two most important public offices in Sri Lanka – the posts of President and Prime Minister – by two Rajapaksa brothers. Not only have they given an unprecedented mandate to them, but they have also decisively voted to send the oldest active political party in Sri Lanka – the UNP – into political oblivion. This particular election has many other salient features. To begin with, it is the election that was declared in April and took some four months before it could be really held. This was partly due to the Covid-19 threat and partly due to the alleged Constitutional blocks to holding an election (propelled by the understandable election phobia of most of the Opposition political parties). It’s also reported to be the most expensive Sri Lankan election thus far. It also will go down in history as the one that had so much of medical precautions surrounding the process of voting and counting the votes in view of the Covid-19 threat at a time when thousands of people are killed daily all over the world by the deadly virus. But one also needs to note that this was the election with least amount of violence in recent history in our country, a fact which is corroborated by all the election monitoring groups. As a matter of fact, no killing linked to elections was reported which is surely a major positive development. By conducting a peaceful general election under very strict health precautions (even though this cost so much of money) Sri Lanka has become a model to the entire world under the present trying conditions of health and economy all over the world. To those pessimist Sri Lankans (both within the country and outside of it) who always tend to see only what is negative in Sri Lankan ethos, the 2020 General Election is a clear indication that even with regard to local politics, there are quite a number of positive points that should never be ignored. As a matter of fact, this election could well be the moment of transition which marks the beginning of a new political culture in the country.

The massive mandate

No reasonable political pundit could ever imagine the ultimate result of this election, especially the margin of victory with which the SLPP won. Ever since J. R. Jayewardene master-minded the present proportionate system of electing members to parliament, and that too, under the preferential system of voting, at every General Election (except in 2010 when Mahinda Rajapaksa’s UPFA won immediately after the historical military defeat of the LTTE) it was hard for a single political party to muster even a workable majority to rule the country. Consequently, after each General Election, the winning political parties had to dilute their own manifestos and agendas to please those of the other parties with whom they were forced to form coalition governments. The fact that it was within such a crippling system of elections (which rarely reflected the overall will of the voters) that the SLPP won not just a simple majority but a nearly two-thirds majority, is surely a record. Only a massive wave of popularity could do this. Of course, during the election campaign, the SLPP clearly appealed to the voters to grant them a two-thirds mandate to right the wrongs and to untie the legal knots of the haphazardly formulated 19th amendment by the previous “Yahapalana” government. However, one wonders whether even the SLPP itself ever dreamt of coming closer to that target, realistically speaking. The fact that a vast majority of the voters as one block (so to say) have responded collectively to this call single-mindedly is itself a sign that they themselves freely chose to give a workable mandate to realize the agenda which the SLPP placed before them. This overwhelming voter response is also a flat refutation of the fears and phobias expressed continuously in the media and the Opposition political stages that granting such a two thirds majority would be unhealthy to democracy. It appears as if, a vast majority of voters en bloc had instead concluded that they rather need to give such a majority to the SLPP to correct those constitutional clauses of the 19th amendment which held the country at ransom during the last couple of years. As a matter of fact, the Sri Lankan masses were first hand witnesses to the glaring reality as to how the hands of the Executive President they elected with such a thumping majority hardly nine months ago were tied, thanks to the notorious 19th amendment. In short, this massive mandate is not only the Sri Lankan polity’s reaffirmation of the benevolent, well-intentioned policies of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa but it is also their clearing all potential obstacles for him to realize his dreams for the country. Now the President and his SLPP government will surely have no excuses not to realize the agenda they themselves had put before the voters.

The high voter turnout

True to its firm belief in democracy, the Sri Lankan citizenry also kept to its usual high percentage of voter-turn-out, thanks this time to the Election Commission and the Health authorities who defied all prophets of doom with regard to the threat of Covid-19, and assured the voters of their safety and that of the others. Sure, as usual in Sri Lanka, at this general election too, there has been a noticeable drop in the percentage of voters using their right to vote, compared to the Presidential elections (except the one in 1988 under the JVP insurrection when it dropped to less than 30%). Yet a 71% of overall voter-turn-out at this election is something very commendable, especially when one considers the trying conditions under which the recent election was held. Not even in those so-called “Western democracies” (some of whom habitually try to give lectures on democracy to nations such as Sri Lanka) does one notice such a high percentage of voting even under normal conditions. Thus, in the USA, the voter turn-out at Presidential Elections remains around 60% while in Britain it has been less than 68% at all the recent General Elections. Perhaps, this high voter turn-out in Sri Lanka could be attributed to the important value our voters assign to elections based on the long tradition of exercising the franchise in Sri Lanka which goes back to 1930’s. However, as already mentioned, since 1978 Sri Lanka has had one of the complicated voting systems in the world. Yet thanks to the high literacy rate, as well as the experience in democratic traditions, the vast majority of voters seem to have not got lost in the polling booth in choosing their candidates so far.

The massive mandate given at this election has demonstrated once again that a winning political party need not always depend on minority political parties even when it means sabotaging their own agenda for the country for which the people had voted them. The unjustified clout which the minority political parties in our country (most of which are based on ethnic or religious foundations) had been enjoying since 1994 (a clout that usually held at ransom the will of the majority of voters in the last parliaments for nearly 26 years), had been neutralized by the voters at this election just as they did in the November Presidential elections. The winning party now need not depend on the minority parties and dance according to their tunes. While there is no denying that keeping to the best of democratic traditions the voices of both majorities and minorities ought to be represented and heard in parliament, in no way should this mean that using the political clout (in the form of the number of seats they have in parliament) the minority parties should dictate terms to the whole country as it has often happened in Sri Lanka during the last few decades. Lest this writer be misunderstood or misinterpreted, it needs to be repeated that minority representation in parliament and their involvement in the country’s decision-making are non-negotiable but in no way should it mean that they can suffocate the legitimate collective aspirations of the Sri Lankan voters as expressed at an election.

Unrealistic election promises

Promises by political parties during election campaigning is normal in any democracy. As a matter of fact, the voters need to know what the respective political parties would do if they were to be elected. A positive point of the recent General Election that should not escape the attention of any political analyst is the way the ordinary Sri Lankan voter (however poor and miserable his/her socio-economic condition may had been) has flatly refused to be hoodwinked by the unrealistic election promises of various political parties. Gone are the days when they would vote for two measures of rice or eight kilos of grain, as promised by political leaders of the caliber of the late Sirimavo Bandaranaika and the late J.R. Jayawardena, respectively. Just as at the last Presidential elections, at this election too, the voters have refused to be taken for rides by such cheap promises. If not, they ought to have elected with a thumping majority the newly formed SJB of Sajith Premadasa who continued to make bizarre election promises which could not be realistically maintained with our weak economy. The promise to give each person 20,000 rupees is an example in this regard. There were also others who were trying to keep pace with him but to a lesser degree. The promise of the UNP leader, Ranil Wickremasinghe to give “money in the hand” of every citizen, was one such example. The very high cost of living and the dwindling of job opportunities due mainly to the Covid-19 epidemic did not tempt the voters (especially those in the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder who form the bulk of the voters in Sri Lanka) to be hoodwinked by such enticing promises. Rather, they seemed to have been more interested in long-term, realistic programs aimed at promoting the common good of the country, first of all, by eliminating corruption and poverty. This surely is a mature sign of a nation in transition towards a new political culture.

New faces in Parliament

In spite of the great trust the Sri Lankan citizens have consistently placed in democracy, especially in elections (of which the Opposition parties had a phobia), they have been continuously disappointed by the type of persons they themselves had elected. Not only did those members of parliament fail to keep what they had promised, but more so, their uncivilized, arrogant behaviour and highly corrupt practices in enriching themselves (such as the robbing of the Central Bank in broad day-light), and their other glaring abuses of power (such as letting free the real culprits of the Easter bomb attacks) had been disgusting to the majority of Sri Lankans, so much so that quite a number of them even opting never to vote again! Things in this regard had deteriorated so much that many citizens have come to believe

that the easiest way to enjoy power and status, and at the same time mint money at one’s will (and that too, often, without any professional qualification or hard work) is to become a member of parliament. In short, people had come to perceive that to be elected to parliament was the easiest way for ‘nobodies’ to become ‘somebodies’. It is in this sense that a vast number of Sri Lankans, both rural and urban, had been longing to see a new political culture, especially among their elected representatives. As is well-known, there has been a clamour in the country for some time now for new faces in our parliament, replacing the hackneyed corrupt and unruly political lot, and thank God, at this election a good number of new faces have been elected who hopefully will not disappoint their electors. At the same time, more than 70 members of the last parliament have been defeated. Another gratifying aspect is the amount of professionals that have been elected. Although the mere fact of being a new face or a professional is no guarantee of decent and ethically respectful politics, at least the voters have placed their trust in the new faces and professionals they had elected, hoping that they would not rob our national assets in aggrandizing themselves as it had been happening in recent decades, thanks to some hooligans and uneducated riff raff entering parliament. The new faces and the professionals, together with two newly formed political parties, the SLPP and the SJB as the main political parties (though both of them still have some corrupt and useless members of the bygone years) in this new parliament, we Sri Lankans now have a good opportunity to re-kindle our hopes for a new political culture in Sri Lanka.

A Mandate to change the 19th Amendment/ the Constitution

One of the main mandates asked by the winning SLPP from their General Election platforms had been the request to grant them a two-thirds mandate to change the Constitution, especially to change the disastrous 19th amendment which was hurriedly enacted immediately after the general election in 2015, mainly to keep Mahinda Rajapaksa from coming to office again.

It was so haphazardly drafted with this single intention that even the noble democratic elements that were used to camouflage it (such as the establishment of Independent Commissions) paled into an insignificant horizon. Moreover, the 19th amendment crippled the functioning of that very “yahaplana government” itself, especially in the latter part of that government. The many unprecedented legal knots and riddles with regard to the constitutional matters during the past few years sprang forth mainly from that notorious 19th amendment. Now that the people have given a resounding mandate to change it, the new government should not hesitate to do so as early as possible, but at the same time taking precautions to safeguard those positive aspects of it, such as the establishment of Independent Commissions, and making sure that under the new Constitution, the members appointed to those Commissions be really “independent”.

One of the main factors that paved the way towards the deterioration of the well-establisehd democratic political culture in our country was the introduction of the proportionate system of voting and electing members to parliament in 1978. The preferential system of voting which came along with it had been mainly responsible for the in-fighting even within the same political party, thus, paving the way to a violent political culture in our country since then. It is high time to put an end to this root cause of political violence at elections, which the country had suffered for more than four decades. Also it would be imperative for any new Constitution first of all to respect the will of the voters that is normally expressed through their franchise. As such, the recent phenomenon of MP’s getting elected from one political party and then crossing over to another after the elections should be stopped at any cost because this is a brutal betrayal of the voters, especially under the present system of elections. If this is not checked through some provisions to the Constitution, it could lead to a serious erosion of people’s confidence in democracy and in elections.

Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, a fact which no Constitution can afford to ignore. Fair representation for the ethnic and religious minorities in the country’s decision-making is a must. It is in this sense that the new Constitution should assure that those ethnic and religious minorities be given seats in parliament through what is now known as “the National List” or some other list similar to it, so that those minority ethnic and religious groups (who cannot get their representatives elected at the elections) would have their representation in parliament. Under the first Constitution of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) there was a list of reserved seats for this purpose under the title “Appointed MP’s”. The 1972 and the 1978 Constitutions also wished to continue this practice through what came to be known as the “National List”. But unfortunately, for the past four decades or so, instead of giving representation to those minorities of our country through that list, what we have witnessed is the shameless practice of filling this list with the cronies who are supporters of the respective political parties, or still worse, with those defeated candidates. We witnessed this shameless act at the last parliament, when the ruling UPFA appointed six of its defeated candidates to fill their National list, while the UNP and the JVP, too, did the same. This is nothing but a thundering slap on the face of the Sri Lankan voters (and eventually on democracy) – namely, to bring in the very persons whom they had rejected at elections! The new Constitution ought to prevent such shameless, undemocratic practices.

The Need for a Benevolent “Dictator”

To get out of the messy political culture we had been in, we, the Sri Lankan citizens need a political leadership with a firm and resolute will. This is what most of the citizens in ordinary parlance intend when they say “We need a benevolent dictator”. Of course, we need a “dictator” in Sri Lanka, but not a dictator with the true literal sense of the word, but someone who acts like a dictator using his/her legitimate authority but always well within the Constitution. Such qualifications may sound as a tautology, but what is meant is that we need someone who can take decisions for the common good of the country, with firm and resolute will, ignoring all political party affiliations and favouritisms. He/she ought to be someone who upholds law and order, irrespective of the status or political affiliations of persons. Ever since his election in November 2019, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has shown many signs of such resolute and impartial leadership for the good of the country. His commendable way of coordinating the available persons and resources in our country in the fight against the world-wide threat of Covid-19 is a case in point. The unprecedented mandate given to him at this General election is a clear endorsement of the style of leadership he has been exercising during the past nine months. Now that he is given what he wanted, namely – a parliament that would cooperate with him in implementing his programs for the common good – one hopes that he would continue this style in exercising his role as President of our country (as the head of State) in the coming years too so that at last we as a nation could now begin our journey realistically towards a new political culture in our beloved motherland. We as a nation that believes in democracy and elections cannot afford to be disappointed again!

 


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Midweek Review

‘Professor of English Language Teaching’

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It is a pleasure to be here today, when the University resumes postgraduate work in English and Education which we first embarked on over 20 years ago. The presence of a Professor on English Language Teaching from Kelaniya makes clear that the concept has now been mainstreamed, which is a cause for great satisfaction.

Twenty years ago, this was not the case. Our initiative was looked at askance, as indeed was the initiative which Prof. Arjuna Aluwihare engaged in as UGC Chairman to make degrees in English more widely available. Those were the days in which the three established Departments of English in the University system, at Peradeniya and Kelaniya and Colombo, were unbelievably conservative. Their contempt for his efforts made him turn to Sri Jayewardenepura, which did not even have a Department of English then and only offered it as one amongst three subjects for a General Degree.

Ironically, the most dogmatic defence of this exclusivity came from Colombo, where the pioneer in English teaching had been Prof. Chitra Wickramasuriya, whose expertise was, in fact, in English teaching. But her successor, when I tried to suggest reforms, told me proudly that their graduates could go on to do postgraduate degrees at Cambridge. I suppose that, for generations brought up on idolization of E. F. C. Ludowyke, that was the acme of intellectual achievement.

I should note that the sort of idealization of Ludowyke, the then academic establishment engaged in was unfair to a very broadminded man. It was the Kelaniya establishment that claimed that he ‘maintained high standards, but was rarefied and Eurocentric and had an inhibiting effect on creative writing’. This was quite preposterous coming from someone who removed all Sri Lankan and other post-colonial writing from an Advanced Level English syllabus. That syllabus, I should mention, began with Jacobean poetry about the cherry-cheeked charms of Englishwomen. And such a characterization of Ludowyke totally ignored his roots in Sri Lanka, his work in drama which helped Sarachchandra so much, and his writing including ‘Those Long Afternoons’, which I am delighted that a former Sabaragamuwa student, C K Jayanetti, hopes to resurrect.

I have gone at some length into the situation in the nineties because I notice that your syllabus includes in the very first semester study of ‘Paradigms in Sri Lankan English Education’. This is an excellent idea, something which we did not have in our long-ago syllabus. But that was perhaps understandable since there was little to study then except a history of increasing exclusivity, and a betrayal of the excuse for getting the additional funding those English Departments received. They claimed to be developing teachers of English for the nation; complete nonsense, since those who were knowledgeable about cherries ripening in a face were not likely to move to rural areas in Sri Lanka to teach English. It was left to the products of Aluwihare’s initiative to undertake that task.

Another absurdity of that period, which seems so far away now, was resistance to training for teaching within the university system. When I restarted English medium education in the state system in Sri Lanka, in 2001, and realized what an uphill struggle it was to find competent teachers, I wrote to all the universities asking that they introduce modules in teacher training. I met condign refusal from all except, I should note with continuing gratitude, from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, where Paru Nagasunderam introduced it for the external degree. When I started that degree, I had taken a leaf out of Kelaniya’s book and, in addition to English Literature and English Language, taught as two separate subjects given the language development needs of students, made the third subject Classics. But in time I realized that was not at all useful. Thankfully, that left a hole which ELT filled admirably at the turn of the century.

The title of your keynote speaker today, Professor of English Language Teaching, is clear evidence of how far we have come from those distant days, and how thankful we should be that a new generation of practical academics such as her and Dinali Fernando at Kelaniya, Chitra Jayatilleke and Madhubhashini Ratnayake at USJP and the lively lot at the Postgraduate Institute of English at the Open University are now making the running. I hope Sabaragamuwa under its current team will once again take its former place at the forefront of innovation.

To get back to your curriculum, I have been asked to teach for the paper on Advanced Reading and Writing in English. I worried about this at first since it is a very long time since I have taught, and I feel the old energy and enthusiasm are rapidly fading. But having seen the care with which the syllabus has been designed, I thought I should try to revive my flagging capabilities.

However, I have suggested that the university prescribe a textbook for this course since I think it is essential, if the rounded reading prescribed is to be done, that students should have ready access to a range of material. One of the reasons I began while at the British Council an intensive programme of publications was that students did not read round their texts. If a novel was prescribed, they read that novel and nothing more. If particular poems were prescribed, they read those poems and nothing more. This was especially damaging in the latter case since the more one read of any poet the more one understood what he was expressing.

Though given the short notice I could not prepare anything, I remembered a series of school textbooks I had been asked to prepare about 15 years ago by International Book House for what were termed international schools offering the local syllabus in the English medium. Obviously, the appalling textbooks produced by the Ministry of Education in those days for the rather primitive English syllabus were unsuitable for students with more advanced English. So, I put together more sophisticated readers which proved popular. I was heartened too by a very positive review of these by Dinali Fernando, now at Kelaniya, whose approach to students has always been both sympathetic and practical.

I hope then that, in addition to the texts from the book that I will discuss, students will read other texts in the book. In addition to poetry and fiction the book has texts on politics and history and law and international relations, about which one would hope postgraduate students would want some basic understanding.

Similarly, I do hope whoever teaches about Paradigms in English Education will prescribe a textbook so that students will understand more about what has been going on. Unfortunately, there has been little published about this but at least some students will I think benefit from my book on English and Education: In Search of Equity and Excellence? which Godage & Bros brought out in 2016. And then there was Lakmahal Justified: Taking English to the People, which came out in 2018, though that covers other topics too and only particular chapters will be relevant.

The former book is bulky but I believe it is entertaining as well. So, to conclude I will quote from it, to show what should not be done in Education and English. For instance, it is heartening that you are concerned with ‘social integration, co-existence and intercultural harmony’ and that you want to encourage ‘sensitivity towards different cultural and linguistic identities’. But for heaven’s sake do not do it as the NIE did several years ago in exaggerating differences. In those dark days, they produced textbooks which declared that ‘Muslims are better known as heavy eaters and have introduced many tasty dishes to the country. Watalappam and Buriani are some of these dishes. A distinguished feature of the Muslims is that they sit on the floor and eat food from a single plate to show their brotherhood. They eat string hoppers and hoppers for breakfast. They have rice and curry for lunch and dinner.’ The Sinhalese have ‘three hearty meals a day’ and ‘The ladies wear the saree with a difference and it is called the Kandyan saree’. Conversely, the Tamils ‘who live mainly in the northern and eastern provinces … speak the Tamil language with a heavy accent’ and ‘are a close-knit group with a heavy cultural background’’.

And for heaven’s sake do not train teachers by telling them that ‘Still the traditional ‘Transmission’ and the ‘Transaction’ roles are prevalent in the classroom. Due to the adverse standard of the school leavers, it has become necessary to develop the learning-teaching process. In the ‘Transmission’ role, the student is considered as someone who does not know anything and the teacher transmits knowledge to him or her. This inhibits the development of the student.

In the ‘Transaction’ role, the dialogue that the teacher starts with the students is the initial stage of this (whatever this might be). Thereafter, from the teacher to the class and from the class to the teacher, ideas flow and interaction between student-student too starts afterwards and turns into a dialogue. From known to unknown, simple to complex are initiated and for this to happen, the teacher starts questioning.

And while avoiding such tedious jargon, please make sure their command of the language is better than to produce sentences such as these, or what was seen in an English text, again thankfully several years ago:

Read the story …

Hello! We are going to the zoo. “Do you like to join us” asked Sylvia. “Sorry, I can’t I’m going to the library now. Anyway, have a nice time” bye.

So Syliva went to the zoo with her parents. At the entrance her father bought tickets. First, they went to see the monkeys

She looked at a monkey. It made a funny face and started swinging Sylvia shouted: “He is swinging look now it is hanging from its tail its marvellous”

“Monkey usually do that’

I do hope your students will not hang from their tails as these monkeys do.

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Midweek Review

Little known composers of classical super-hits

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By Satyajith Andradi

 

Quite understandably, the world of classical music is dominated by the brand images of great composers. It is their compositions that we very often hear. Further, it is their life histories that we get to know. In fact, loads of information associated with great names starting with Beethoven, Bach and Mozart has become second nature to classical music aficionados. The classical music industry, comprising impresarios, music publishers, record companies, broadcasters, critics, and scholars, not to mention composers and performers, is largely responsible for this. However, it so happens that classical music lovers are from time to time pleasantly struck by the irresistible charm and beauty of classical pieces, the origins of which are little known, if not through and through obscure. Intriguingly, most of these musical gems happen to be classical super – hits. This article attempts to present some of these famous pieces and their little-known composers.

 

Pachelbel’s Canon in D

The highly popular piece known as Pachelbel’s Canon in D constitutes the first part of Johann Pachelbel’s ‘Canon and Gigue in D major for three violins and basso continuo’. The second part of the work, namely the gigue, is rarely performed. Pachelbel was a German organist and composer. He was born in Nuremburg in 1653, and was held in high esteem during his life time. He held many important musical posts including that of organist of the famed St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. He was the teacher of Bach’s elder brother Johann Christoph. Bach held Pachelbel in high regard, and used his compositions as models during his formative years as a composer. Pachelbel died in Nuremburg in 1706.

Pachelbel’s Canon in D is an intricate piece of contrapuntal music. The melodic phrases played by one voice are strictly imitated by the other voices. Whilst the basso continuo constitutes a basso ostinato, the other three voices subject the original tune to tasteful variation. Although the canon was written for three violins and continuo, its immense popularity has resulted in the adoption of the piece to numerous other combinations of instruments. The music is intensely soothing and uplifting. Understandingly, it is widely played at joyous functions such as weddings.

 

Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary

The hugely popular piece known as ‘Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary’ appeared originally as ‘ The Prince of Denmark’s March’ in Jeremiah Clarke’s book ‘ Choice lessons for the Harpsichord and Spinet’, which was published in 1700 ( Michael Kennedy; Oxford Dictionary of Music ). Sometimes, it has also been erroneously attributed to England’s greatest composer Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695 ) and called ‘Purcell’s Trumpet Voluntary (Percy A. Scholes ; Oxford Companion to Music). This brilliant composition is often played at joyous occasions such as weddings and graduation ceremonies. Needless to say, it is a piece of processional music, par excellence. As its name suggests, it is probably best suited for solo trumpet and organ. However, it is often played for different combinations of instruments, with or without solo trumpet. It was composed by the English composer and organist Jeremiah Clarke.

Jeremiah Clarke was born in London in 1670. He was, like his elder contemporary Pachelbel, a musician of great repute during his time, and held important musical posts. He was the organist of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral and the composer of the Theatre Royal. He died in London in 1707 due to self – inflicted gun – shot injuries, supposedly resulting from a failed love affair.

 

Albinoni’s Adagio

The full title of the hugely famous piece known as ‘Albinoni’s Adagio’ is ‘Adagio for organ and strings in G minor’. However, due to its enormous popularity, the piece has been arranged for numerous combinations of instruments. It is also rendered as an organ solo. The composition, which epitomizes pathos, is structured as a chaconne with a brooding bass, which reminds of the inevitability and ever presence of death. Nonetheless, there is no trace of despondency in this ethereal music. On the contrary, its intense euphony transcends the feeling of death and calms the soul. The composition has been attributed to the Italian composer Tomaso Albinoni (1671 – 1750), who was a contemporary of Bach and Handel. However, the authorship of the work is shrouded in mystery. Michael Kennedy notes: “The popular Adagio for organ and strings in G minor owes very little to Albinoni, having been constructed from a MS fragment by the twentieth century Italian musicologist Remo Giazotto, whose copyright it is” (Michael Kennedy; Oxford Dictionary of Music).

 

Boccherini’s Minuet

The classical super-hit known as ‘Boccherini’s Minuet’ is quite different from ‘Albinoni’s Adagio’. It is a short piece of absolutely delightful music. It was composed by the Italian cellist and composer Luigi Boccherini. It belongs to his string quintet in E major, Op. 13, No. 5. However, due to its immense popularity, the minuet is performed on different combinations of instruments.

Boccherini was born in Lucca in 1743. He was a contemporary of Haydn and Mozart, and an elder contemporary of Beethoven. He was a prolific composer. His music shows considerable affinity to that of Haydn. He lived in Madrid for a considerable part of his life, and was attached to the royal court of Spain as a chamber composer. Boccherini died in poverty in Madrid in 1805.

Like numerous other souls, I have found immense joy by listening to popular classical pieces like Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary, Albinoni’s Adagio and Boccherini’s Minuet. They have often helped me to unwind and get over the stresses of daily life. Intriguingly, such music has also made me wonder how our world would have been if the likes of Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert had never lived. Surely, the world would have been immeasurably poorer without them. However, in all probability, we would have still had Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary, Albinoni’s Adagio, and Boccherini’s Minuet, to cheer us up and uplift our spirits.

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Midweek Review

The Tax Payer and the Tough

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By Lynn Ockersz

The tax owed by him to Caesar,

Leaves our retiree aghast…

How is he to foot this bill,

With the few rupees,

He has scraped together over the months,

In a shrinking savings account,

While the fires in his crumbling hearth,

Come to a sputtering halt?

But in the suave villa next door,

Stands a hulk in shiny black and white,

Over a Member of the August House,

Keeping an eagle eye,

Lest the Rep of great renown,

Be besieged by petitioners,

Crying out for respite,

From worries in a hand-to-mouth life,

But this thought our retiree horrifies:

Aren’t his hard-earned rupees,

Merely fattening Caesar and his cohorts?

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