Nov 17, 2020: MPs were invited for tea, halfway during the presentation of the budget.(pic courtesy Parliament)
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Parliament on Monday (16) afternoon announced that following the budget speech on Nov 17th, the traditional tea party, hosted by the Minister of Finance, would be held this year, too, though being limited to Members of Parliament, Ministers, Ambassadors, High Commissioners and invitees.
The statement issued by the Department of Communication, Parliament, didn’t explain how the House intended to hold a tea party, in terms of health guidelines in place, due to the rampaging coronavirus. The statement refrained from explaining how those who had been invited were to maintain the required distance, among guests, as well as follow the strict laws, pertaining to wearing facemasks.
Parliament also announced that only Ambassadors/High Commissioners, and officials, authorised by the Ministry of Finance, were invited, and seats reserved in the Speaker’s Gallery, during the budget presentation, subject to health and safety regulations. The Public Gallery and the Media Gallery ,will remain closed, Shan Wijetunga, Director, Department of Communication, stated in a media communique.
The decision to go ahead with the party is surprising, in the wake of the growing threat posed by the highly contagious coronavirus. Recently, Parliament closed doors to scribes, after several journalists, who covered its proceedings during the fourth week of October, tested corona positive. During the same week, Parliament overturned its own decision to deprive All Ceylon Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader Rishad Bathiudeen of an opportunity to attend the proceedings. The original decision was taken on the basis that lawmaker shouldn’t be allowed to participate in the proceedings, as all those in custody were subjected to quarantine laws.
With the national economy in tatters, as a result of debilitating losses caused by the country being deprived of major revenue sources, due to the worldwide pandemic, lawmakers shouldn’t have been in the mood to join the party. The unprecedented Corona attack disrupted major revenue sources, namely tourism, garment trade and foreign remittances, while also hitting relatively smaller business enterprises. The losses suffered by the national economy and the projected losses are likely to be much bigger than the losses experienced during the conflict.
Having watched former JVP lawmaker and Chairman of the COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) Sunil Handunnetti, on Sirasa ‘Pathikada,’ on Monday morning, the announcement of the tea party, later in the day, seemed ridiculous. Responding to host Asoka Dias, Handunnetti lucidly explained the rapidly deteriorating financial situation, due to years of waste, corruption and irregularities, further worsened by the corona crisis. The JVPer painted an extremely bleak picture. Handunnetti pointed out how the incumbent government found itself in a deep financial crisis, with growing foreign and local debt threatening to overwhelm the country.
The JVP presence in Parliament has now been reduced to just three members, including one National List nominee (Prof. Harini Amarasuriya). In the previous Parliament, the JVP group comprised six with two National List members (Sunil Handunnetti and Bimal Ratnayake). Handunetti’s presentation was quite disturbing and underscored the urgent need for reforms to stop the rot.
The JVPer warned there were no short term solutions for the rapidly deteriorating situation. “The government cannot overcome depleted foreign reserves by printing money. Perhaps, printing money may seem a short-term answer, though the economic woes cannot be overcome by such measures,” he said
Parliament, as an institution, must review its duties and responsibilities. The country wouldn’t have been in the current financial mess if Parliament had fulfilled its obligations, in the past, under successive regimes. The bottom line is that the House has failed in its primary responsibilities with regard to ensuring financial transparency/stability and enactment of new laws.
Two key watchdog committees
Parliament will have to take tangible measures to drastically curb waste, corruption and irregularities, or face the consequences. Corona has dealt a massive blow to the national economy, already ruined by an utterly corrupt political party system. Parliament turned a blind eye to those hell-bent on cashing in, even at the expense of economic stability. There cannot be a better example than the Treasury bond scams, perpetrated in Feb 2015 and March 2016. The then President Maithripala Sirisena, having catapulted into power by an array of forces, led by the UNP, and, obviously, directed by foreign hands, used executive powers to save his benefactor, the UNP. Sirisena dissolved Parliament on the night of June 26, 2015 to deprive the then COPE Chairman, the intrepid Dew Gunasekera, an opportunity to present the report on the first bond scam to Parliament.
The then UNP-led government prevented police investigation into theTreasury bond scams. The President, in spite of growing differences with Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe, delayed the appointment of the Presidential Commission to probe it, till January 2017. Parliament received the report in late Dec 2017. Whatever the disputes between the government and the Opposition, the system ensures at least a debate on the report, but that, too, was sabotaged from within and was never held. Over a year after the last presidential election, and the incumbent government’s first budget, Parliament is yet to discuss the bond report. Can there be a system as corrupt as ours in any part of the world! Financial discipline seems the last thing in the minds of our people’s representatives as the situation now seems to be spiralling out of control.
Ironically, the Western champions of democracy, including certain warped UN bodies, who are ever ready to hound this country on apparent trumped-up war crimes charges, are quite conspicuous by their total silence over the sins of their darling, the UNP, when it comes to highway robberies it staged here, like the bond scams, its numerous incompetency, including the handling of the country’s security.
The COPE, the PAC (Public Accounts Committee), as well as the Finance Commission, under the leadership of newcomer National List MP Dr. Charitha Herath, Prof. Tissa Vitharana (86-year-old LSSP General Secretary) and Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, respectively, bear a very heavy responsibility for ensuring financial stability. The economy is in dire straits. The country is facing such overwhelming challenges, in the wake of the corona-devastated economy, the two watchdog committees and the Finance Commission will have to stand firm or accept responsibility for economic ruination.
The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) lawmaker Dr. Harsha de Silva offered to accept the daunting challenge of heading both watchdog committees. The government simply ignored the former UNP Deputy Minister’s offer, though he served as UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s deputy in the yahapalana administration.
The SLPP has now taken the responsibility for maintaining financial discipline among its ministers. Would it be beyond the strength and capacity of COPE and PAC to ensure transparency in financial matters? The Finance Commission primarily deals with the allocation of funds among the Provincial Councils, established in terms of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, forced on Sri Lanka by New Delhi.
Dr. Herath faces an extraordinary challenge in leading COPE. Whatever political parties said, both COPE and PAC pathetically failed to improve financial discipline, though some of their revelations shocked the public. In spite of periodic revelations, those in power pursued their corrupt strategies, regardless of the consequences. None of those exposed by COPE had ever faced disciplinary inquiries, at party level, whereas those found guilty of corrupt transactions by courts were subsequently rewarded.
As part of the overall efforts to face the economic fallout, resulting from the unprecedented pandemic in our living memory, the government will have to take tangible measures to curb waste, corruption and irregularities. The economy is in such a bad shape, that lawmakers and the top administration cannot afford to continue corrupt practices, or receive further benefits for themselves, like for example brand new luxury vehicles, while the rest of us curse and suffer in silence.
A peacetime UN missive
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Office last Thursday (12) received a missive from Ms. Hanaa Singer, the UN Resident Coordinator here. Singer intervened, on behalf of those demanding that burial of Muslim corona victims should be resumed or face the consequences. Ms Singer concluded her letter by offering UN assistance in this regard, if Sri Lanka required such support. The UN official cunningly copied the letter to Health Minister Pavitra Wanniarachchi, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC. Naturally it became a cause celebre in newspapers and electronic media.
Why on earth does the GoSL need UN assistance to speak to the Muslim community? Let me reproduce Ms Singar’s missive to the Premier: “Allow me to reiterate the solidarity of the United Nations with the people of Sri Lanka in these challenging times marked by the COVID-19 emergency.
“Please be assured that the United Nations and its specialized agencies, funds and programmes, will continue providing support on the management of the epidemic.
“Across the world, the safe and dignified handling of those patients whose life has been tragically claimed by this virus has been an important part of the COVID-19 response.
“I am following with encouragement recent media reports that the current prohibition of burials of COVID-19 victims in Sri Lanka could be revisited shortly. In this context, I wish to take the opportunity to reiterate the concerns of the United Nations with the existing Ministry of Health guidelines, which stipulate cremation as the only method for the disposal of bodies suspected of COVID-19 infection.
“The World Health Organization, in its 24 March 2020 and subsequent updated interim guidance on 4 September 2020 on the ‘Infection prevention and control for the safe management of a dead body in the context of COVID-19’, notes that based on current knowledge of the symptoms of COVID-19 and its main modes of transmission (droplet/contact), the likelihood of transmission when handling human remains is low. The common assumption that people who died of a communicable disease should be cremated to prevent spread is not supported by evidence. Instead, cremation is a matter of cultural choice and available resources. According to World Health Organization guidance, people who have died from COVID-19 can therefore be buried or cremated according to local standards and family preferences, with appropriate protocols for handling the body.
“In the same context, I deem it important to inform you that I have received impassioned appeals from within and outside the Muslim community that perceive the current policy on burials as discriminatory.
“Against this background, I fear that not allowing burials is having a negative effect on social cohesion and, more importantly, could also adversely impact the measures for containing the spread of the virus as it may discourage people to access medical care when they have symptoms or history of contact.
I recognize that during epidemics, for reasons of public health, Governments often need to take difficult and at times unpopular measures. However, in this case, the negative consequences of not allowing burials seem to outweigh any potential epidemiological benefit. Considering the evidence-based guidance of the World Health Organization, as well as the commitments of the Government of Sri Lanka to respect and uphold the rights of all communities, I therefore express my hope that the existing policy be revised so as to allow the safe and dignified burial of COVID-19 victims.
“The United Nations avails itself of this opportunity to renew its highest consideration to the Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and stands ready to provide any relevant support on this matter.”
UNP in a bind
Four months after the last general election, the UNP and the Ape Jana Bala Pakshaya (AJBP) are yet to name their National List candidates. The UNP and the AJBP won a NL slot each at the August general election. The UNP had 106 lawmakers elected and appointed through its NL in the previous parliament, whereas AJBP has never had any representation in Local Government, Provincial Councils or Parliament before securing one NL seat last August.
In the 225-member Parliament, two vacancies remained when Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his capacity as the Finance Minister, presented the 2021 budget.
The AJBP suffered irreparable damage due to a simmering dispute between former lawmaker Ven Atureliye Rathana and Bodu Bala Sena General Secretary Ven Galagodaatte Gnanasara over the NL slot.
Ven Rathana sought the NL slot after making an abortive bid to get elected from Gampaha, whereas their Kuurnegala District nomination list containing Ven Gnanasara and others was rejected by the Returning Officer on technical grounds.
The court dismissed the AJBP’s appeal against the rejection of its lists in several districts, including Kurunegala. The contentious issue of who fills the NL slot is now before the court of law.
In terms of the Parliamentary Election Act and the Constitution, a political party, if so desired, can refrain from naming its NL members. When the writer raised this issue with the then Chairman of the Election Commission (EC) Mahinda Deshapriya explained that the concerned political parties could retain the vacancies. “EC has no power over NL appointments,” Deshapriya said, recalling how the USA (United Socialist Alliance) delayed filling its vacancy in Parliament, following the 1989 general election. The vacancy was filled in 1991 when Raja Collure took oaths as a Member of Parliament. The USA consisted of the Communist Party of Sri Lanka, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party, the Nava Sama Samaja Party and the Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya. The USA, in addition to one NL slot, won two seats.
Today, the vast majority does not remember how the UNP, by way of an infamous referendum, conducted in 1982, put off the general election, scheduled for 1983, to 1989. In other words, after the 1977 general election, that gave JRJ a 5/6 majority, there hadn’t been a general election, till Feb 15, 1989. At the violence-marred ‘89 poll, the UNP secured 125 seats, whereas the SLFP managed 67.
In terms of the system now in place, the appointment of NL members is the prerogative of the General Secretary of a particular party. UNP General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam will not move until party leader Wickremesinghe directs him. Contrary to expectations, Wickremesinghe refrained from making his decision before the vote on the 20th Amendment to the Constitution on August 22. The UNP is likely to keep its NL slot vacant during the budget debate, too.
There had never been a previous budget debate without the participation of the UNP. The failure to reach consensus on the NL slot has further weakened the party, with the SJB consolidating its position. With corona on the rampage, the SLPP, too, is likely to suffer, both in short and long term, in the absence of a cohesive strategy to meet the daunting economic challenges.
The SLPP winning a 2/3 approval for the 20th Amendment seems to be irrelevant as the epidemic continued to cause debilitating damage to the national economy. The government’s failure to properly ascertain/investigate the eruption of the second corona outbreak raised concerns among the public. The Attorney General seems to be on a collision course with the police, with the latter apparently adopting delaying tactics, an accusation, however, denied by the police. In the meantime, the origins of the second eruption remains a mystery, over six weeks after the detection of the first case in the second wave. The police cannot ignore the fact that the AG, issuing instructions as regards an inquiry, specifically referred to negligence on the part of the Brandix as well as government officials. Contrary to specific instructions received by the police, the police are yet to furnish a progress report on the corona eruption, as requested by the AG.
In the wake of the August defeat, the UNP appeared to have lost its prominent place in national politics. The UNP is unlikely to participate in the budget debate and, therefore, its NL slot is likely to remain vacant this year.
In spite of having an unbeatable near 2/3 majority, the SLPP, too, seems to be in some trouble, against the backdrop of the split over the 20th Amendment. Although the ruling coalition overcame differences and finally voted on Oct 22 for the 20th Amendment without division, political woes remain.
Minister Wimal Weerawansa complained to Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa, before the vote on 20 A, of an alleged attempt made by SLPP NL member Jayantha Ketagoda to convince some NFF members to vote for the new law even if their party decided not to. Political turmoil is set to continue as finances deteriorate.
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‘Professor of English Language Teaching’
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.
Little known composers of classical super-hits
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.
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).
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.
The Tax Payer and the Tough
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?