Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The National Anthem of Liberia

Liberia, officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country on the west coast of Africa, bordered by Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Côte d'Ivoire. Liberia, which means "Land of the Free", was founded as an independent nation by free-born and formerly enslaved African Americans. Recently it has witnessed two civil wars, the Liberian Civil War (1989–1996), and the Second Liberian Civil War (1999–2003), that have displaced hundreds of thousands and destroyed its economy.

The national anthem of Liberia, "All Hail, Liberia Hail" was composed by Olmstead Luca in 1869. The words to the anthem of this second oldest independent African nation were written by the nation's third president, Daniel Bashiel Warner, and adopted upon independence in 1847. Presumably, the anthem first had a different melody, as the current music was written in 1860.

Warner, an African-American, was born on Hookstown Road in Baltimore County, Maryland to a father who was a farmer and ex-slave who acquired his freedom one year before Warner was born. Warner's date of birth is unclear. Some records show that he was born on April 19, 1815. However, American Colonization Society documents list him as age nine when he emigrated to Liberia, with eight relatives, on the ship Oswego in 1823.That would put his birth year as 1814.

A member of the Americo-Liberian elite, he also served as a member of the Liberian House of Representatives and Liberian Senate.In 1877, he became an agent of the American Colonization Society.

Warner's main concern as President was how the indigenous people, particularly the indigenous people in the interior, could be brought into society and become cooperating citizens. He organized the first expedition into the dense forest, led by Benjamin J. K. Anderson. In 1868, Anderson journeyed into Liberia's interior to sign a treaty with the king of Musardo. He took careful notes describing the peoples, the customs, and the natural resources of those areas he passed through, writing a published report of his journey. Using the information from Anderson's report, the Liberian government moved to assert limited control over the inland region.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The National Anthem of Norway

The words for the national anthem, written by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, one of Norway's great dramatists and poets, were first published in 1859. The original poem had six verses; the first verse and last two verses are used nowadays as the anthem. The music was composed by Rikard Nordraak, cousin of Bjørnson and a friend of the famed Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, in 1864. It was first performed later that year for the 50th anniversary of their constitution, and caught on quickly. It became a part of the reading books in schools all over the country, and was sung by the children in the children's parades organized by Bjørnson on every 17th of May.

Rikard Nordraak was a Norwegian composer, born in Christiana (Oslo). He is best known for having composed the Norwegian national anthem. Nordraak's musical gifts became evident at an early age, but as for many other artists at that time, a different career was already planned. He was going to pursue a career within business, and when he was fifteen he was sent to business school in Copenhagen. Nonetheless his musical interests prevailed and instead of studying business he ended up studying music, and in 1859 he went to Berlin for advanced studies. After six months he had to return home and he continued studies in Oslo, and his first compositions came during the winter of 1859-60. In 1861 he went back to Berlin to continue his studies, and he stayed there for two more years.

The compositions that he himself marked opus 1, were published in 1863, and contained six songs with texts by the poet Bjornstjerne Bjornson, amongst others. At this time Nordraak also composed Ja, vi elsker, which in 1864 became the Norwegian national anthem.

He later wrote music for Bjørnson's play Maria Stuart of Scotland, and he published his Opus 2, Five Norwegian Poems, consisting of songs and poems by Bjørnson and Jonas Lie. This was the last of his compositions that would be published during his lifetime. In May 1865 he returned to Berlin to continue his education, but he was stricken with tuberculosis in October and died the following March, only 23 years old. Part of his life-story was dramatised in the musical Song of Norway.

Nordraak did not live long enough to produce much music. About forty compositions, mostly smaller works like songs, pieces for male choir and a few piano compositions, have been preserved. The biggest of these compositions, is the Scherzo Capricio for piano solo, given the opus number 3, published posthumously by Edvard Grieg. This is a kind of rondo, using several features from the Norwegian folk music; rhythms typical in slatter, and dissonances typical for the hardingfele. However, the thematic material does not have this connection with the folk music.

Nordraak’s main contribution to the Norwegian music history was, with his passionate patriotism and great love to the folk music, to be an inspiration for contemporary composers, such as Edvard Grieg. They met in Copenhagen and became close friends. When Grieg heard of Nordraak's death, he composed the famous Funeral March in Memory of Rikard Nordraak.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hymn of the Russian Federation

In the last few days of 2000, Russia's new president Vladimir Putin, decided to give the Russian people a new anthem, since a common complaint was not having words to their current anthem. So Putin, upon the advice of the Communists in the parliament who could vote down the bill, adopted the old anthem from the Soviet Union, identifying with the country's past. However, only the music passed the legislative process in early to mid December, 1999. The new words that were written by Sergei Vladimirovich Mikhalkov (the same person who wrote the lyrics to the old Soviet anthem!) to replace the Communist-style words were passed by Presidential order on December 30 of that year (many deputies objected to the mention of God in the anthem text.

Alexander Vasilyevich Alexandrov was born on April 13 in Plakhino, a village south-east of Moscow. As a boy his singing was so impressive that he travelled to Saint Petersburg to become a chorister in Kazan Cathedral. A pupil of Medtner, he studied composition at Saint Petersburg and in Moscow, where he eventually became professor of music in 1918.

Alexandrov founded the Alexandrov Ensemble, and spent many years as its director, in which role he first gained favor with Joseph Stalin, the country's ruler during the last two decades of Alexandrov's life. His choir participated successfully in the Universal Exposition of 1937 in Paris, and in 1942, Stalin commissioned him and lyrist Sergey Mikhalkov to create a new Soviet national anthem, which was officially adopted on January 1, 1944. It was very popular that it was used by the Soviet Union until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. It later became the National Anthem of Russia in December 2000, with Mikhalkov writing the new lyrics. He died on July 8, 1946, while on tour in Berlin.

Above is a stamp of the anthem composer, Alexandrov issued in Russia on 1983.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

An Autographed Glove from The Pacman and Freddie

Whether he wins or lose in his next fight, Pacquiao has already established himself as one of the greatest boxers of all time. It is not the number or quality of the fighters he defeated that made him great but the way he demolished these fighters. Any memorabilia from this great warrior would surely become a cherished possession in the not so distant future. Our children would be very thankful on inheriting something from "The Man" from Gensan. Thus, it was a pleasant surprise that Jinky, a college friend based in the United States who had friends close to Manny, volunteered (thru Facebook) to have an Everlast glove autographed during Pacman's pre-Hatton fight propaganda in Las Vegas. Here in this picture, is Jinky with Freddie Roach signing the glove and with Manny in a group picture. Thanks Jinks, I will never forget to tell my grandchildren you were the one who had the gloved signed.

A win against Shane Mosley in his possible next fight would earn him a record seven belts in different weight classes. Then an encounter and subsequent demolition of "Pretty Boy" Floyd Mayweather would forever cement his status as one of the greatest, if not the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time. Good luck Manny! I hope you'll come visit us soon so you can sign my Pacman Stamp.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The National Anthem of Cuba

El Himno de Bayamo is the national anthem of Cuba. It was first performed during the Battle of Bayamo in 1868. Perucho Figueredo who took part in the battle, wrote and composed the song. The melody, also called La Bayamesa, was composed by Figueredo in 1867. In October 20, 1868 the Cuban forces obtained the capitulation of the Spaniard authorities in Bayamo, the jubilant people surrounded Figueredo and asked him to write an anthem with the melody they were humming. Right on the saddle of his horse, Figueredo wrote the lyrics of the anthem, which was longer than the current official version. Figueredo was captured and executed by the Spaniards two years later. Just before the firing squad received the Fire command, Figueredo shouted the line from his anthem: Morir por la Patria es vivir. Officially adopted in 1902, the anthem was retained after the revolution of 1959. The arrangement commonly used, without credit in Cuba, is believed to be that of José Norman, author of Cuban Pete. The Cuban composer, Antonio Rodriguez-Ferrer was the author of the musical introductory notes to the Cuban national anthem.

In addition to the Himno de Bayamo, there are two other well-known Cuban songs called La Bayamesa. The first Bayamesa was composed in 1851 by Carlos Manuel de Cespedes and José Fornaris at the request of their friend Francisco Castillo Moreno, who is sometimes also credited with the lyrics. Many years later, in 1918, the composer Sindo Garay from, Santiago de Cuba composed a song that he called Mujer Bayamesa; popular usage shortened the title to La Bayamesa.

The Olympic Hymn

The Olympics Games (an international sporting event played every four years) has its own flag and "hymn", used when the Olympic flag is raised, usually during the opening ceremonies.

The Olympic Hymn first appeared at the first Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens, Greece. The lyrics were written in Greek by Greece's national poet, Costis Palamas and set to music by Spirou Samara for the 1896 Games. The hymn was unofficial until 1958, when the International Olympic Committee formally adopted it. (From 1896 to the 1960 Games, each country would commission local composers to compose an Olympic hymn for that particular Games. The 1960 Games was the first that the Olympic Hymn was played for since the first games.) Usually every nation that hosts the Games performs the Olympic Hymn in their own language, the original Greek lyrics, and a translation into English, is presented for reference.

National anthems play a big part in the Olympic Games. Starting with the 1924 Games, the winner's national anthem for each event is played as their flag is hoisted in celebration. Also, according to Olympic rules, national anthems cannot be longer than 80 seconds in length, causing some countries to create a shortened version of their anthem to be played at the Games in the event that their participant wins. (Ironically, the full version of the Olympic Hymn is several minutes long!) Also, a nation may choose to have another anthem played instead of their national one if they so choose; for example, at the 1992 Games, the former Soviet republics united under a team known as the "Unified Team", whenever a member of this team won their event, they chose the song "Ode to Joy" (currently used as the European anthem) to be played. During the 1980 Games in Moscow, several non-Communist countries that were participating chose to have the Olympic Hymn played. Also, because of conflicts with China, Taiwan has a special song which they use for such events known as the "Flag Raising Song".

Friday, June 5, 2009

The National Anthem of Italy (Mameli's Hymn)

The anthem was written in 1847, the lyrics by Goffredo Mameli, a young poet. As such, the song is often known as L'Inno di Mameli (Mameli's Hymn). Beginning in 1861, when Italy became a united nation, the song was known as the "March of the House of Savoy" and it became the official Anthem in 1947 when Italy finally was proclaimed a Republic.

There are different versions of how Mameli actually came to write the anthem. One reports that Mameli took the anthem to the musician Michele Novaro a friend, who lived in Turin. Novaro composed the music, and Mameli returned to Genoa where he presented words and music to his friends. Shortly thereafter, "Fratelli D'Italia" (Brothers of Italy, another common name for the anthem) was played for the first time, at a popular assembly. The tune gained popularity throughout the peninsula, in defiance of the Austrian, Bourbon and Papal police.

The other and equally persuasive story goes that one evening in 1847, in the house of the American consul, the center of discussion was the uprisings of the day. Urged by many of the consul's guests, Mameli improvised a few lines on the spot and later wrote the rest. A few days later a friend took the poem to Turin and read it aloud at a nobleman's party. The composer Michele Novaro who was a guest at the same party, tried a few notes on the piano and then, went home to compose the song. The anthem was sung for the first time the next day by a group of political exiles in the Caffè della Lega Italiana of Turin. The anthem was chosen on a provisional basis in 1947 as the national anthem, however, the choice was never officially confirmed or re-examined, so officilaly, the anthem has been the "temporary" anthem of Italy for over 50 years!

There is talk lately of replacing the anthem, firstly because the music is not up to the standards of Italian classical music tradition (ironically, some of Italy's greatest composers have composed anthems in this tradition, which are used by Central and South American countries), and also the lyrics refer to specific events that were familiar to the Italians of the time that the anthem was composed, but bear little to no resonance with today's Italians. However, "Il Canto degli Italiani" is very recognizable in Italy and would be hard to replace.

Above is a stamp of anthem writer Mameli. Below is a postcard with the score of the Italian anthem.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

My Response to Dennis Guillermo's Article in Philboxing.com

This is my short response to Dennis Guillermo's article, Apples and Oranges: Comparing Pacquiao and Mayweather which appeared in Philboxing.com

PACQUIAO convinced us that he is the P4P king- in the ring.
MAYWEATHER is convincing us that he is the P4P king- through his mouth.

PACQUIAO is a doctor of Humanities (conferred)
MAYWEATHER is a quack doctor- he loves ducking around.

PACQUIAO may retire after fighting MAYWEATHER.
MAYWEATHER unretired to fight PACQUIAO.

PACQUIAO prays before he fights,
MAYWEATHER prays for fights-- that's how desperate he is for money.

PACQUIAO fights men bigger than him (Hatton)
MAYWEATHER fights men smaller than him (Marquez)

PACQUIAO kneels to the Almighty before he fights.
MAYWEATHER thinks he is the Almighty.

PACQUIAO serves so others may live.
MAYWEATHER lives so others may serve.

The Joy of Running

I never thought I could do it, but I did. I had been using the treadmill for > 15 years as an adjunct to my resistance training in the gym; I never really enjoyed plodding on this motorized machine. But since a month ago when my wife lovingly asked me to buy one for her, I find myself using the contraption more than she does. With its imposing presence in our bedroom, we have the freedom to walk/run whenever we want. I run in the morning or late at night- it doesn't really matter as long as I'm running. My wife walks on it while watching her favorite shows and keeping an eye on our one year and 8 month old Vincent busy at play. This day, a month after we got the treadmill, I ran continuously for 49 minutes covering a distance of 5 Km- a personal best so far. I'll continue to run for its health benefits and for the natural high it gives.. what an endorphin release!!!

Monday, June 1, 2009

The National Anthem of Lithuania

This former Soviet state was the first republic to break away from the Soviet Union, in early 1990. Upon its independence, it readopted the anthem, "Tautiska Giesme", it first used in 1918 which first appeared in print in 1896.

Vincas Kudirka, a Lithuanian poet and physician, and the author of both the music and lyrics of the Lithuanian National Anthem, Tautiška giesmė, was born on 31 December 1858. He is regarded in Lithuania as a National Hero. Kudirka used pen names - V. Kapsas, Paežerių Vincas, Vincas Kapsas, P.Vincas,Varpas, Q.D, K., V.K, Perkūnas.

He began studying history and philosophy in Warsaw in 1881, but changed his major and began studying medicine the following year. During his studies, he was arrested as a subversive for having a copy of Das Kapital in his possession, and was expelled from the University of Warsaw, but later re-admitted. He graduated in 1889, and worked as a country doctor in Šakiai and Naumiestis.

Kudirka began writing poetry in 1888. Simultaneously he became more active in the Lithuanian national rebirth movement. Together with other Lithuanian students in Warsaw, he founded the secret society Lietuva ("Lithuania"). The following year the society began publishing the clandestine newspaper Varpas ("The Bell"), which Kudirka edited and contributed to for the next ten years. In issue number 6 of Varpas, in September 1898, he published the text of Tautiška Giesmė, which would officially become in 1918, the Lithuanian National Anthem, set to music written by Kudirka himself for a violin.

Kudirka gave much to Lithuanian culture, and also published a collection of Lithuanian popular songs. He was also a noted writer of satire.

He died of tuberculosis on November 16, 1899, at age 40. The second verse of Tautiška Giesmė was engraved on his gravestone.

The Latvian National Anthem

"Dievs, Sveti Latviju!" was originally written while Latvia was still a part of Russia. (This was the first song ever written to include the word "Latvia" in the lyrics). The composition of the song was a direct act of defiance against the Russians, who did not encourage national sentiments. Because of the Russians forbidding the use of the word "Latvia" in the song, it was replaced with the word "Baltics". The song was first performed publicly in 1873 at a singing festival, and first performed as a national anthem upon Latvian independence in 1918. It was officially confirmed as the anthem in 1920.

During the time that Latvia was part of the Soviet Union, the song was again forbidden, but upon leaving the U. S. S. R. in 1990, the anthem was again restored as the national anthem of Latvia.

Kārlis Baumanis, the composer and writer of the Latvian national anthem, was born on the 11th of May, 1835 in Viļķene (Wilkenhof). He created the Latvian national anthem "God bless Latvia" in 1870. He lived and worked in Limbaži (Lemsal) as a teacher and a journalist. Kārlis Baumanis died on 10th of January, 1905 in Limbaži at the age of 69.