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Midweek Review

US wants travel ban on Lanka Army Chief ‘technically, factually and legally right’

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, at the conclusion of a brief visit to Colombo recently acknowledged that the US decision to slap a travel ban on Commander of the Sri Lanka Army Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva could be wrong.

Responding to questions raised by a local journalist on behalf of a dozen scribes invited by the Foreign Ministry to cover the joint media briefing at the main auditorium of the Foreign Ministry following Pompeo meeting President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat, one-time CIA Chief said (verbatim): “All right. Thank you. I think there were three questions there. The last one, look, it’s a legal process in the United States. We’ll always continue to review it. We want to make sure we get it both(sic) technically, factually, and legally right. We’ll continue to do that.”

The writer was among those subjected to the RT-PCR test at the Foreign Ministry on the afternoon of Oct 26 in preparation of Pompeo’s press engagement along with Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena. Print and electronic media assigned to cover senior Chinese leader and top foreign policy official Yang Jiechi, who is a member of the Communist Party of China’s Politburo and the director of its Central Committee’s Foreign Affairs Commission, the top policy-making body, over a week before too were subjected to PCR tests.

 

Media denied an opportunity

Having asked both print and electronic media to be present at the venue by 9 am to avoid inconvenience, the briefing got underway just over two hours later. About 30 minutes before the much delayed commencement, the local media were told only one could be allowed to raise a question. We were told the US media accompanying Pompeo, too, would be given one opportunity. Local media present there quickly discussed and decided on a set of questions. Many an eyebrow was raised there as questions were directed to Pompeo, who responded first to the question as regards Lt. Gen. Silva’s predicament. The local media asked (1) why he chose to visit Colombo less than a week before US presidential election (11) whether US wants Sri Lanka to be part of its strategic alliance (US, India, Japan and Australia)) against China by finalizing MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation) agreement and SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) and finally (III) what is the status of US travel ban on the war hero and whether Sri Lanka requested him to reconsider the action taken against its Army Chief in terms of the Geneva Resolution co-sponsored by Sri Lanka in Oct 2015.

Sri Lanka media were deprived of an opportunity to raise contentious issues with Pompeo-the highest US State Department official to visit since then Secretary of State  John Kerry in May 2015. We wouldn’t have minded an exclusive given to one private television station, if sufficient time was allocated for at least three or four local print media representatives to question Pompeo.

Pompeo’s declaration that the US wanted to make sure their decision on the Sri Lanka Army Chief is technically, factually, and legally right over six months after the imposition of the travel ban highlighted the need to raise additional questions. In fact, the writer earnestly felt the need to question the Foreign Minister as regards incumbent government efforts to address accountability issues. Having announced Sri Lanka’s decision last March to quit Geneva Resolutions, the SLPP (Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna) government hadn’t taken tangible measures to address concerns expressed by a section of the UN community obviously directed by the US.

 

Controversial Pompeo tweet

Pompeo brashly tweeted on Feb 14, 2020: “I’m designating Shavendra Silva, making him ineligible for entry into the US due to his involvement in extrajudicial killings during Sri Lanka’s civil war. The US will not waver in its pursuit of accountability for those who commit war crimes and violate human rights.”

What about brazen committing of war crimes by the US servicemen in Iraq for example as amply reproduced by Wikileaks in one incident in particular, where an American helicopter gunship ruthlessly cuts down a team of Iraqi journalists with its machine guns, despite ability to see from the air they the victims were working for Reuters? To top it all the head of the above news messenger Juliange Assange is being persecuted by the UK/US for telling the truth to the world.

Pompeo conveniently side-stepped the local media query whether the Sri Lankan government requested him to reconsider the travel ban imposed on the Army Chief. The local media was also deprived of an opportunity to raise the issue with Minister Gunawardena. Statements issued by both the President’s Office and the Foreign Ministry made no reference whatsoever to the accountability issue.

Before dealing further with Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva’s matter, let me briefly discuss the US response to the 2019 Easter carnage, over a year after the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) carried out nearly simultaneous suicide attacks. Minister Gunawardena appreciated US support provided in the immediate aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks and the proscription of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) before 9/11 attacks.

In spite of the absence of conclusive evidence to prove a link between the Easter attacks and ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, aka the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or Islamic State. Daesh is its Arabic acronym), Pompeo blamed the carnage on ISIS. We were denied the opportunity to seek a clarification from Pompeo. Did the US receive information that could prove a direct link between Zahran Hashim’s group of killers and ISIS? Did the US share such information with the government of Sri Lanka during the previous administration or after the change of the government last Nov?

Let me reproduce the relevant section verbatim from Pompeo’s speech: “Finally, this afternoon, I’ll travel – it’s important for me to take a moment to go and visit the Shrine of St. Anthony, one of the five sites that were attacked by ISIS on Easter Sunday of 2019. I’ll shortly have the chance to pay my respects to the hundreds of victims of evil terrorists, including five Americans. I’m proud that the State Department has offered substantial counterterrorism assistance to help Sri Lankans bring killers of Americans and their own people to justice. These Easter Sunday attacks represent the kind of sectarianism that Sri Lankans are ready to leave behind forever. Sri Lankans of all backgrounds –Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims alike – want a peaceful nation where their human rights are respected.

Did the US, too, warn Lanka over the Easter Sunday carnage?

Obviously, the State Department Chief lacked knowledge of the circumstances leading to the Easter carnage perpetrated by a group that had been infiltrated by the Indian Intelligence services. Sri Lanka received advance Indian intelligence on April 4, 2019. Perhaps, the Indians alerted the US, simultaneously. The day after the attacks, the then State Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva claimed on CNN, Sri Lanka received advanced warning from both the US and India regarding impending imminent attacks. But when CNN’s Christiane Amanpour sought clarification from the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina Teplitz, she contradicted Minister De Silva. Ambassador Teplitz claimed they had no prior knowledge of Easter attacks.

Against the backdrop of Pompeo confidently blaming ISIS for the Easter carnage perhaps the on-going Presidential Commission (P CoI) should write to US Ambassador Teplitz seeking the State Department cooperation. Sri Lanka needs international support, particularly the US to establish the identity of those responsible for the attacks. Archbishop of Colombo Rt. Rev. Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith on several occasions demanded that the government should make a genuine effort to identify those behind the dastardly crime against humanity, in addition to inquiring into lapses on the part of the then administration.

India offered support to Sri Lanka in dealing with the common threat of ‘Jihadi terrorism’ following the Easter Sunday suicide bombings that killed nearly 270 people, including 11 Indians and injured more than 500.

The then Indian High Commissioner in Colombo Taranjit Singh Sandhu gave the assurance close on the heels of the attacks.

Obviously Pompeo hadn’t been properly briefed of the Easter attacks. Had he been aware of the NTJ deliberately targeting Tamil Catholics too, in addition to Sinhala Catholics, he wouldn’t have compared Easter violence with over three decades of bloodshed caused by Indian military intervention in the early 80s.

Pompeo’s tweet on Feb 14, 2020 and his subsequent response at the Foreign Ministry revealed the failure on the part of Sri Lanka to properly present its case before the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) well over two years after Lord Naseby provided the country required ammunition. Pompeo appeared to have conveniently forgotten that US travel ban on Lt. Gen. Silva was imposed in terms of the Geneva Resolution. Sri Lanka remained silent in an obvious bid to describe the US travel ban as an isolated US matter rather than something in line with the Geneva project.

Pompeo’s tweet was nothing but an affront not only to Lt. Gen. Silva but the war winning Sri Lankan security forces, who achieved that almost impossible task despite the West forever repeating like a mantra that our fighting forces were incapable of defeating the LTTE militarily.

Pompeo’s motorcade escorted by elite personnel moved out of the Foreign Ministry, adjoining the President’s House about 10 minutes after the conclusion of the media briefing. Outside the Foreign Ministry across the road were several bomb disposal units, including that of the Army. The security contingent certainly found it easy to move Pompeo and his wife, Susan to St. Anthony’s church about three kilometres away as Colombo was under ‘quarantine curfew.’ Security was extremely tight due to Pompeo being high on the hit list of those fighting the US. The possibility of international terrorists mounting an attack on a visiting foreign dignitary can never be ruled out. In spite of Pompeo, in his capacity as Secretary of State designating Lt. Gen. Silva, who is also the Acting Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as a war criminal, the US official received security fit enough for a President.

 

Lanka’s failure in Geneva

Sri Lanka never really challenged international action against senior military officials, both serving and retired, since 2015 on the basis of Geneva Resolution 30/1. War winning Army Commander the then Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka is one of those who had been humiliated by international sanctions. The US denied him a visa on more than one occasion during the yahapalana administration. Top military strategist Major General Chagie Gallage, too, was denied an Australian visa during the yahapalana administration. The previous government did absolutely nothing on behalf of those unjustly dealt with in terms of the shameful Geneva Resolution carried to a fruition by our then Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera.

Sri Lanka never really challenged the Geneva Resolution adopted on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations. Successive governments should also be ashamed of their failure to effectively use Lord Naseby’s revelations to counter Geneva lies. Lord Naseby fought the UK government for over two years to secure official dispatches from the UK High Commission in Colombo during January –May 2009. They proved invaluable in Sri Lanka’s defence though the country lacked a cohesive strategy. Almost a year after the last presidential election, the incumbent government is yet to address the accountability issue properly.

The British High Commission in Colombo was rattled by Lord Naseby’s disclosure. In early Dec 2017, the British High Commission declared that Lord Naseby’s House of Lords statement pertaining to accountability issues in Sri Lanka didn’t reflect the UK’s stand.

The British HC said so in response to The Island query whether the BHC had discussions with the Foreign Ministry here or the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) as regards Lord Naseby’s call for reviewing Geneva Resolution 30/1. The following is the text of the BHC statement: “Lord Naseby was not speaking for the British Government when speaking recently in a debate in the House of Lords. As a Member of Parliament he is entitled to express his own views”.

Having failed to convince the Rajapaksa administration to co-sponsor resolution against its own armed forces, the US threw its weight behind the political project to end the Rajapakas reign in January 2015. Within weeks after August 2015 parliamentary polls, the UNP-SLFP coalition co-sponsored Resolution 30/1.

 

State Department forgets

Smith’s revelation

Pompeo quite easily forgot war time US Defence advisor here Lt. Colonel Lawrence Smith’s revelation as regards war crimes accusations. Obviously, Smith made his position clear at the first Colombo Defence seminar held in late May-June 2011 on the inaugural day.  Smith got it technically, factually, and legally right when he declared the Sri Lanka military didn’t commit war crimes. The American, perhaps inadvertently contradicted the Geneva Resolution (brainchild of the US) when he responded to a query posed by retired Indian Major General Ashok Metha to the then Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva. The writer was among those present there at that time. The US officer certainly based his assessment on official US data available to him and over two months after the UN released its Panel of Experts’ report – the basis for the Geneva Resolution. Lt. Gen. Silva is among those affected as a result of the Geneva Resolution.

The US State Department, quite embarrassed by its own defence attaché’s declaration, claimed Smith was there in a private capacity though in uniform. Funny isn’t it? Basically the US defence advisor and his British counterpart Lt. Colonel Anthony Gash basically defended Though the UN accepted allegations made by unverified sources in the so called Panel of Experts’(PoE)report, headed by very partisan Yasmin Sooka, that prohibited the release of its ‘sources’ for a period of 20 years thereby depriving Sri Lanka of a just inquiry. Ironically Sri Lanka never bothered to properly present its case against that hand-picked Kangaroo court appointed by the then UN Secretary General Ban KI-moon, especially for hiding the mystery accusers against us or before 47-members of the Geneva HRC in spite of a section of the UN quite brazenly exploiting bogus war crimes accusations to trigger political chaos here. Parliament ignored UN interventions. The UN went to the extent of recommending a new Constitution by way of addressing post-war reconciliation measures.

Having faulted the Sri Lanka Army, on three major counts, the PoE accused Sri Lanka of massacring at least 40,000 civilians. Let me reproduce the paragraph, bearing no 137, verbatim: “In the limited surveys that have been carried out in the aftermath of the conflict, the percentage of people reporting dead relatives is high. A number of credible sources have estimated that there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths. Two years after the end of the war, there is no reliable figure for civilian deaths, but multiple sources of information indicate that a range of up to 40,000 civilian deaths cannot be ruled out at this stage. Only a proper investigation can lead to the identification of all of the victims and to the formulation of an accurate figure for the total number of civilian deaths.”

The military/the country paid a huge price for not properly addressing the accountability allegations. The US travel ban on Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva is all part of measures taken by the West against Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration. If the wartime Defence Secretary, a US citizen at the time he held that coveted post, lost the 2019 Nov presidential election, the US may not have slapped the travel ban. The decision announced in mid-2020 is political. The US strategy vis-a-vis Sri Lanka is clear. The US threw its weight behind UNP- backed common candidate Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka at the 2010 presidential election. The US had no qualms in doing so having categorized Fonseka along with the Rajapaksa brothers, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Basil Rajapaksa war criminals.

Sri Lanka needs to keep in mind that Lt. Gen. Silva’s matter cannot be addressed in isolation. The government should review its Geneva strategy without further delay. US travel ban is part of measures taken in terms of the UN response to war crimes accusations. Let there be a comprehensive examination of all facts before making representations to the international community.


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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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