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Midweek Review

Focus on Swiss role in Garnier ‘abduction’ as Furgler succeeds Mock

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

The new Swiss Ambassador, Dominik Furgler, presented his credentials to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Sept 30. Furgler, who succeedes Hanspeter Mock, steps in close on the heels of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI), on political victimization, raising the issue of Inspector Nishantha Silva taking refuge in Switzerland. The PCoI directed the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to inquire into the whereabouts of the policeman. The PCoI wants him brought back to Sri Lanka.

Having comfortably won the 2019 Nov 16 presidential poll, Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed the PCoI to investigate allegations of political victimization, as well as interference and undue influence on the judiciary, and police, during the previous government. The PCoI consists of retired Supreme Court Justice Upali Abeyratne (Chairman), retired Appeal Court Justice Daya Chandrasiri Jayathilaka and retired IGP Chandra Fernando.

Furgler’s appointment took place amidst the on-going 45th session (Sept.14 to Oct 7) of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council where the UN, as well as UK-led Core Group raised accountability issues. They focused on the war and post-conflict issues, including a suspect arrested in connection with the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks.

At the onset of the Geneva sessions, the Core Group rather surprisingly accused the government of stepping up harassment, intimidation and surveillance, targeting civil society, since the change of regime, in Nov. 2019. It could well be part of the old Western tactic to go on the attack, no sooner the Rajapaksas were re-elected by the masses, with an overwhelming majority.

The Rajapaksas are, no doubt, the bête noir of the self-appointed international community, led by the West, due to them not being servile as in the case of our ‘right to defend ourselves’ when threatened by terrorists.

We are not for a moment saying that everything is hunky dory here, far from it. We do have a long way to go. But we are definitely not the cannibals that the West would like to paint us.

A spokesperson for the BHC reiterated the allegation in response to several questions raised by The Island as regards the recent statement by the UK’s International Ambassador for Human Rights, Rita French.

The BHC spokesperson has sent The Island the following response, on Sept 26: “The statement from the Core Group, in Geneva, agreed among Canada, Germany, North Macedonia, Montenegro and the UK, reflects recent reporting, discussions and analysis by a range of sources on the operating environment for civil society in Sri Lanka. Concerns have been publically raised and documented about increased harassment, intimidation and surveillance by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and several international NGOs. The UK has regular and wide-ranging conversations on these issues with civil society, as well as the Government of Sri Lanka”.

Rita French alleged that civil society and human rights groups, in Sri Lanka, experienced an increasingly hostile operating environment. French alleged “Instances of intimidation, harassment and surveillance continue, including threats to families of disappeared persons. Individuals are detained indefinitely without appearance before court, such as lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah.”

Rita French conveniently refrained from mentioning why Attorney-at-law Hejaaz Hizbullah is in custody. The Attorney General compared Hejaaz Hizbullah’s conduct to that of the late British passport holder Anton Balasingham, the LTTE’s theoretician. Balasingham was buried in the UK, in Dec 2006. Nor did she mention the fact that Hejaaz’s case is before the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, the highest court in the land.

Though the West talks so much about human rights, their own record, even now, is appalling to say the least.

If the high profile project spearheaded by the Swiss mission in Colombo meant to humiliate the new Sri Lanka administration, in Nov. 2019, succeeded, the obviously staged abduction of Swiss Embassy employee Garnier Banister Francis, too, would have been put on Sri Lanka’s account with much glee in Rita French’s statement. The trumped up victim was formerly known as Sriyalatha Perera. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa thwarted the operation by rejecting the controversial Swiss proposal to evacuate Francis, along with members of her family.

Had the President succumbed to intense pressure, the Francis issue, too, would have ended up in the Geneva agenda. That is the undeniable truth. There hadn’t been a previous instance of a Western embassy employee being abducted and sexually abused by government agents. They cooked up unprecedented allegations to tarnish President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, both locally and internationally. Even before the Swiss Embassy brought the alleged incident to the notice of the government, New York Times reported, what later a section of the media called the Francis affair. However, a hasty NYT report dated on Nov 27, 2019, and the update, two days later, revealed the status of the operation, targeting Sri Lanka.

Switzerland Ambassador Hanspeter Mock presents his credentials to President Maihripala Sirisena on Sept.6, 2018, at the President’s House. Mock succeeded Heinz Walker-Nederkoorn.

 

Fugitive inspector Nishantha-Francis link

The report headlined ‘Sri Lankan Critics Fear a Crackdown Is Underway, and Some Flee’ with strapline ‘A Swiss Embassy employee was abducted and asked about asylum applications and investigators were banned from leaving just days after Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected’ by Maria Abi-Habib and Sameer Yasir dealt with how government agents sought information from Francis on Nov. 25, 2019, regarding Nishantha Silva, who left the country for Switzerland on the previous day. NYT quoted a spokesman for the Swiss Foreign Ministry, Pierre-Alain Eltschinger, as having said: “We can confirm that a local employee of the Embassy was detained against her will on the street and threatened at length by unidentified men in order to force her to disclose Embassy-related information.”

“Switzerland regards this incident as a very serious and unacceptable attack,” he said, adding that the Swiss government was “demanding an immediate and complete investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident.”

The NYT asserted those who had carried out the abduction tried to find information regarding Inspector Silva investigating Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The detective fled to Switzerland, with his family, on Sunday, Nov. 24.

Hanspeter Mock wouldn’t have undertaken such a high profile operation without consulting political authorities in Bern. The accusations, as regards Francis‘ abduction were meant to justify Nishantha Silva fleeing the country. NYT claimed Nishantha Silva fled because Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the presidential election. The Swiss operation went awry primarily because the President thwarted a bold bid to hastily evacuate Francis in a special flight brought exclusively for that. Had that happened, the Swiss could have denied Sri Lanka an opportunity to examine Francis, who claimed she was sexually abused. Luckily the Swiss bid failed. Subsequently, one-time Swiss Ambassador in Colombo, Jörg Frieden, was sent to inquire into the incident. Sending Frieden was nothing but a face-saving measure taken by the Swiss in the wake of the exposure of the clandestine operation.

Sustained media coverage humiliated the Swiss, though they received initial propaganda advantage thanks, to a NYT report. The Swiss debacle coincided with the exposure of a propaganda operation undertaken by the then Minister Rajitha Senaratne in the run-up to the Nov 2019 presidential election. Dr. Senaratne’s project was meant to propagate the lie that Gotabaya Rajapaksa operated death squads. Obviously, Dr. Senaratne’s project and the Swiss operation contributed to Western efforts to demean Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

 

Swiss eat humble pie

The Swiss made a desperate effort to pressure Sri Lanka to admit wrongdoing on her part. The Swiss backed by their Western allies, like a pack of hounds, sought to bring the case to an end by evacuating the woman, along with her family, in a special air ambulance, kept waiting at the BIA. In sheer desperation, Hanspeter Mock met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Dec 16, 2019 to bring negotiations, regarding the alleged abduction to a conclusion, in a manner favourable to them.

Alleging that the whole thing was nothing but total fabrication, the President told Mock that there was irrefutable evidence such as Uber reports, telephone conversations and CCTV footage that point to that fact. “The Embassy official must have been compelled by some interested parties to bring myself and my government into disrepute. It is not clear why the alleged victims acted in such a manner”, the President told the Swiss Ambassador.

By then, they had been fully exposed with Francis surrendering to the CID, on Dec 16, 2019. In spite of that, the Swiss accused Sri Lanka of violating the rule of law, in respect of Francis.

Investigations revealed Francis blatantly lied. Did the Embassy employee take such a course of action in consultation with some other interested parties? Did she receive the backing of the Embassy? And, most importantly, why did the Swiss consider Nishantha Silva’s life at risk and, therefore, felt the need to provide him political asylum, while cooking up this extravagant drama?

While the Swiss had been fighting a desperate battle to save face, the mother of Francis, and her three children, left for Singapore. This was revealed before Colombo Chief Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne on Dec 30, 2019, during the proceedings that led to Francis receiving bail. The UNP, too, had a hand in Garnier’s defence with Ranil Wickremesinghe and Dr Rajitha making statements, whereas an aide to Wickremesinghe, and a friend of the writer, Attorney-at-law Sudarshana Gunawardena, too, played a role. Gunawardena’s right, however, to assist the defence, as an attorney, cannot be disputed in any way.

When Senior State Counsel Janaka Bandara alleged that Francis could receive political asylum in Switzerland as her mother and her three children had already left for Switzerland, Defence Attorney Upul Kumarapperuma said they were in Singapore.

In a piece titled ‘The alleged abduction of Garnier Banister Francis’ posted on Dec 13, 2019, a writer declared the victim had been hunted. Examination of hand phone data revealed the Swiss Embassy employee was in touch with the then Director CID, Shani Abeysekera, Inspector Nishantha Silva, Observer Editor Darisha Bastian et al. Bastian had been a regular contributor to NYT. The sim card used by Francis had been issued to journalist Lakna Paranamana, the recipient of the Denzil Pieris Young Reporter of the Year award at the 2011 Editors’ Guild awards and a junior to Bastian at the now defunct The Nation newspaper. Investigations revealed that Inspector Nishantha Silva had been in touch with SSP Abeysekera, before the former left for Singapore.

Dharisha Bastian, too, left the country, in November 2019, amidst the investigation. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in a statement datelined New York condemned the Lankan police probe, especially the seizure of Bastian’s laptop. The statement quoted Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher as having said: “CPJ strongly objects to the seizure of journalist Dharisha Bastian’s laptop and is concerned it could further endanger her sources. Sri Lankan authorities should immediately end this intimidation campaign against Bastian, which is clearly a retaliation for her critical reporting.”

The Swiss project ended up in disaster for those who planned the Blitzkrieg against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

 

Hanspeter Mock’s successor, Dominik Furgler, presents his credentials to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Sept. 30, 2020 at the President’s House.

A Swiss statement dated Nov 29, 2019

At the onset of the operation, the Swiss remained confident of bringing it to a successful conclusion. In spite of a section of the local media taking a hostile view, Mock, as part of his overall strategy, issued the following statement: “On 25 November 2019, a serious security incident, involving a local employee of the Embassy of Switzerland, in Colombo, occurred. The employee was detained against her will in the street, forced to get into a car, seriously threatened at length by unidentified men and forced in order to disclose Embassy-related information.

Several false pieces of information are circulating in the reporting of this incident. The Swiss Embassy in Colombo is issuing the following clarifications:

1.

The Swiss Embassy immediately lodged a formal complaint and is fully cooperating with the Sri Lanka authorities in order to support police investigation and initiate an inquiry over the case, while duly considering the health condition of the victim and their relatives.

2.

Due to a deteriorating health condition, the victim is currently not in a state to testify.

3.

It has been alleged that the Swiss government rejected a request for the extradition of an employee of the Sri Lankan Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and his family. No such request has been submitted.

The Swiss denied receiving a formal request from Sri Lanka for the extradition of Nishantha Silva. There is absolutely no dispute over that. The Swiss statement, issued in less than a week after Nishantha Silva reached Switzerland, stated the obvious. But, strangely, Sri Lanka hadn’t made a formal request for the fugitive policeman’s extradition, 11 months after he left the country. The PCoI taking up the disappearance should prompt police headquarters to take tangible measures in this regard. Wouldn’t it be the responsibility of Foreign and Defence Ministries to take up this matter at the highest level? Ideally, the issue should have been taken up at cabinet level, as well, as the National Security Council (NSC). Foreign and Defence Ministries owed an explanation as regards the failure on their part to address Nishantha Silva’s issue till PCoI raised it recently.

Having played politics with Sri Lanka, Switzerland demanded Sri Lankan judicial authorities ensured that the personal rights of Embassy employees were better protected and that national law and international standards complied with in the further proceedings.

The government never made an attempt to establish why the Swiss accommodated Nishantha Silva on its political asylum programme. The government lacked the will to inquire into the circumstances leading to Nishantha Silva ending up in Switzerland. Francis, too, would have ended up there if not for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s intervention. Now that the PCoI issued directions to secure Nishantha Silva’s repatriation, it would be interesting to see how those responsible proceed with the task.

The government unnecessarily getting embroiled in ‘20 A’ fiasco may neglect the missing CID officer’s case or Francis inquiry. The cases should be considered together and also examined against the backdrop of overall accountability accusations arising out of the 2015 Geneva Resolution. British Human Rights Ambassador French’s statement as well as other statements delivered/reports submitted at the on-going Geneva session underscored Sri Lanka’s responsibility to defend her armed forces.

Western powers continue to repeat the same accusations regardless of constant denials by Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s Acting Permanent Representative in Geneva Dayani Mendis during ongoing sessions pointed out the UN strategy.

Over a decade after the conclusion of the war successfully against the LTTE, despite numerous odds, Sri Lanka is still struggling to answer war crimes allegations. Sri Lanka’s failure to properly exploit Lord Naseby’s Oct 2017 bombshell disclosure is a mystery. Can it be deliberate? Or sheer negligence on the part of successful political leaderships? How can one justify such ignorance from those elected representatives? Handling of unsubstantiated war crimes allegations as well as the contentious Swiss matter is certainly not satisfactory. In spite of Sri Lanka withdrawing from the Geneva Resolution, the process continues as underscored by UN/Core Group statements made during the ongoing sessions and Sri Lanka’s response. Sri Lanka cannot ignore the threat posed by the Geneva process et al. Handling of the Swiss Embassy matter would indicate the incumbent government’s readiness to address overall threat on the human rights front.


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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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