Friday, December 3, 2010

The Irish Who wrote the First Version of Japan's Anthem Kimigayo

The music for the first version of the Japanese national anthem, the Kimigayo, was penned by an Irishman, John William Fenton. Fenton, who was born in Kinsale, County Cork in 1828, came to Japan as a bandmaster with the British army in 1868, the year of Meiji Restoration. In the following year, he started training of the Brass Band in Japan for soldiers of the Satsuma clan at Myoko-ji temple in Yokohama. This band became the country's first military band.

When the Emperor Meiji inspected the troops consisting of 4 clans including Satsuma, the military band played for the first time in public. In this occasion, Fenton hastily composed a ceremonial melody to accompany the poem "Kimigayo". Over time, this became accepted as the national anthem, although the current anthem is different from Fenton's original version. Fenton is also known as the father of brass band music in Japan and is celebrated for his musical contribution to Japan.

Above is a first day composer featuring a conductor with a band on the cachet issued in Japan on 1989.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Alcatraz Island Discovery Related to Postal Service

Alcatraz Island is an island located in the San Francisco Bay, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) offshore from San Francisco, California, United States. Often referred to as The Rock, the small island early-on served as a lighthouse, a military fortification, a military prison, and a Federal Bureau of Prisons federal prison until 1963. Later, in 1972, Alcatraz became a national recreation area and received land-marking designations in 1976 and 1986.

Today, the island is a historic site operated by the National Park Service as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is open to tours. Visitors can reach the island by ferry ride from Pier 33, near Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. In 2008 the nation's first hybrid propulsion ferry started serving the island. Alcatraz has been featured in many movies, TV shows, cartoons, books, comics, and games.

During its 29 years of operation, the penitentiary claimed no prisoners had ever successfully escaped. 36 prisoners were involved in 14 attempts, two men trying twice; 23 were caught, six were shot and killed during their escape, and three were lost at sea and never found. The most violent occurred on May 2, 1946 when a failed escape attempt by six prisoners led to the so-called Battle of Alcatraz.

On June 11, 1962, Frank Morris, John Anglin and Clarence Anglin successfully carried out one of the most intricate escapes ever devised. The attempt was the subject of the 1979 film Escape from Alcatraz with screenplay by Richard Tuggle; directed by Don Siegel and starring Clint Eastwood as Frank Morris, Jack Thibeau as Clarence Anglin and Fred Ward as John Anglin.

The discovery of Alcatraz is related to the Postal Service. The San Carlos, a Spanish packet ship, discovered the Island of Alcatraz on August 5, 1775. The primary function of packet ships was the transport of mail. The Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala named the Island, La Isla de los Alcatraces, which translates to the Island of the Pelicans. Later the name was shortened and altered to the current name of Alcatraz.

The first U.S. Post Office opened on Alcatraz Island on March 6, 1874. At the time, Alcatraz was a U.S. Army reservation known as the “Post at Alcatraz,” which had been established in 1850. The Army post closed in 1933, and on January 1, 1934, Alcatraz became a U.S. federal penitentiary. The island Post Office developed a rubber stamp which featured a cartoon like pelican with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. That theme has been reproduced for the 75-year anniversary cancellation. When the prison closed in 1963, the Alcatraz Post Office also closed.

Above is an envelope with a special pictorial cancel featuring Alcatraz Island on the 75th anniversary of its station on August 8, 2009.

The Anthem of Mallorca

La Balanguera is the anthem of Majorca (Mallorca), Spain. Majorca ("Mallorca" in Spanish and Catalan) is an island located in the Mediterranean Sea, one of the Balearic Islands. It is largest by area and second most populated island of Spain (after Tenerife in the Canary Islands).

The capital of the island, Palma, is also the capital of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands. The Cabrera archipelago is administratively grouped with Majorca (in the municipality of Palma).

Like the other Balearic Islands of Ibiza, Formentera and Minorca, the island is a highly popular holiday destination, particularly for tourists from Germany, the United Kingdom and to a lesser extent, Ireland. The name derives from Latin insula maior, "larger island"; later Maiorica, "the larger one" in comparison to Menorca.

The official anthem is an adaptation of Joan Alcover i Maspons (1854-1926) poem based on an ancient and popular Majorcan children's song. The music is a work by the Catalan composer Amadeo Vives and in November 1996 the Consell Insular de Mallorca made it the anthem for the Island.

Amadeo Vives (18 November 1871 – 1 December 1932) was a Spanish musical composer, creator of over a hundred stage works. He is also known by the Catalan form of his name, Amadeu Vives. He is best known for Doña Francisquita, which Christopher Webber has praised for its "easy lyricism, fluent orchestration and colorful evocation of 19th Century Madrid—not to mention its memorable vocal and choral writing" characterizes as "without doubt the best known and loved of all his works, one of the few zarzuelas which has 'traveled' abroad" .

The envelope above with a special cancel featuring the score and lyrics of the anthem of Mallorca.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Latvian National Anthem on Stamp

Dievs, svētī Latviju! (God Bless Latvia) is the national anthem of Latvia. The words and music were written by Kārlis Baumanis (Baumaņu Kārlis, 1834–1904), in 1873. Baumanis, a teacher, was part of the Young Latvian nationalist movement. It has been speculated that Baumanis may have borrowed part of the lyrics from a popular song which was sung to tune of God Save the Queen, modified them and set them to music of his own. Baumanis's lyrics were different from the modern ones: he used the term "Baltics" synonymously and interchangeably with "Latvia" and "Latvians", so "Latvia" was actually mentioned only at the beginning of the first verse. Later the term "Latvia" was removed and replaced with "Baltics" to avoid a ban on the song. This has led to the misapprehension that the term "Latvia" was not part of the song until 1920, when it was chosen as national anthem and the word "Baltics" was replaced with "Latvia".

The stamp above featuring the Latvian anthem lyrics and composer, Karlis Baumanis was issued on 2010, the 100th Anniversary of the Republic of Latvia.

The UPAEP Symbols Series 2010: Suriname National Anthem on Stamps and FDC

"God zij met ons Suriname!" (God Be With Our Suriname, is the national anthem of Suriname. The anthem has its beginnings in a Sunday School song written in 1893 by Cornelis Atses Hoekstra called "Suriname's Trotsche Stroomen" (Suriname's Proud Streams). The song was set to a piece of music by Johannes Corstianus de Puy written in 1876. In 1959, after self-government was granted, the government asked the poet Henry de Ziel (whose pen name was Trefossa) to write lyrics for the anthem in the language popularly spoken in Suriname, Sranan Tongo. He also revised Hoekstra's lyrics of the second verse to remove the "negative tones" in some lines. Originally the anthem was song with de Ziel's verse first, but now it is performed with Hoekstra's Dutch verse first and de Ziel's Sranan lyrics as the second verse.

The stamp with FDC features the score and lyrics of Suriname's national anthem issued on September 2010 (UPAEP symbols series).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dangerous Running

I'm a nocturnal creature. My physical and creative powers are at its peak after the sun sets. In the country where I live, I always have difficulty waking up very early. It takes me some time before going into full gear; that usually occurs later in the day. It is a struggle for me to join morning runs because I always felt that I would fall back to sleep while running. There has always been this theory in my head that if I lived in the other side of the world, where it's daytime during our nighttime, then I would become a daytime creature. This was proven right when we visited the United States a few weeks ago. Upon awakening, I go into full throttle and hit the road for an early morning run. I never experienced jet lag since arriving in the Land of the Free.

I love running in the cold and in environments where the scenery is picturesque. These qualities were present in the nature preserve park adjacent to where we stayed. Running is supposed to be a safe, non- contact sport. It never occurred to me that you can run dangerously until I decided to do so at a nature park in Lincoln, California. Here, there.....the threat of death lurks while you run. A big sign is posted as you enter, "Be Alert!!! Expect the Unexpected. Watch for Rattlesnakes". I felt my face turn ashen for a while. Suddenly the treat of running became a threat. Still, I decided to run, positioning myself at the center of the smooth and well-paved cemented road, so I can easily spot an attacking venomous snake. I was told that some years back, a runner was bitten as the snake darted from a tree. So my eyes were focused up as I passed by the massive hundred-year old oak trees of this park which was formerly a ranch.

In the 1850's, William Moore and his wife Hannah and their three children established the first homestead ranch in this area- the New York Ranch. The ranch had an area of 160 acres and contained a small house, barn, and some other buildings. Life was hard for the Moore's, and after 10 years of ranching, they sold the property to George Whitney for US$ 1,500. In 1868, George and his sons moved to the area and acquired an additional 20,000 acres. He developed the property by building homes, roads and bridges and raising livestock. The Twelve Bridges community is named after the twelve granite bridges which he built. We can still see these granite bridges today but a mere 500 square meter piece of real estate now costs a million dollars!

The run was very satisfying. The vast oak woodlands and riparian vegetation were unique to someone from the orient. And so was the fauna. I saw a jackrabbit, a squirrel, an eagle and several species of birds, but none of those venomous snakes- Thank God! " You've run 7 kilometers", the sweet female voice of my iPod conveyed. I had to stop, not because I'm exhausted but because the sun was beginning to scorch in spite of the cold wind.

I took a deep breath and smiled, glad to be alive after the run.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Non-Boxer Boxing Personalities I Met at Gaylord Texan

In Dallas, we stayed at the hotel where the PacMan was staying, the luxurious Gaylord Texan at Grapevine, Texas. It is centrally located between downtown Dallas and Fort Worth and about 30 minutes from Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, the venue of the the fight between multi-divisional champion, Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao and the larger "Tijuana Tornado", Mexican Antonio Margarito. We arrived the day before the fight and our Sudanese cab driver, Jamal told us that a lot of Filipinos had been arriving at Dallas since 2 days ago. Several boxing personalities were spotted around Gaylord- these are some of them, starting with the non-boxers (writers, commentators, promoters, relatives, etc).

Wakee Salud. At first I thought he would be an intimidating andboisterous personality but I was gravely mistaken- he is a gentle giant. The long time Pacman friend and promoter is really a kindhearted person, always willing to share his thoughts about his ward's fights. When I first saw him, he was limping in pain and I quickly asked him, "What's the problem"? He told me that the incessant walking since he arrived caused the pain which he thinks is muscular in origin. I asked permission to examine his legs, queried a few more questions, and gave him some analgesics after wards. He was very thankful. He kept on commenting that she is very "buotan" (kind), referring to my younger sister, Mary.

Another personality I encountered was Mr. Elie Seckbach. He is sports writer for Fanhouse and a prominent You Tube personality. I love watching his videos and reading his commentaries at Philboxing.com because he is a certified Pacmaniac. In one of his many interviews at the Gaylord lobby, he ask me who's gonna win the fight, and of course, I said the Pacman. He is a very likable person with a charming smile; he looks better though with his cap on due to hints of alopecia. He was also kind enough to give me an autographed picture after I asked for one.

At first I didn't recognized him because he looks too American. But, on closer inspection, I knew it was Michael Marley, the "White Gorilla". Mr. Marley is a sports writer of the Examiner.com and also a Pachugger. He loves Filipinos and knows more about Philippine culture than most Filipinos. An ardent follower of his column, my first impression of him was that he was a Filipino pretending to be an American writer. But I was mistaken, he really is an American with an American face and accent. He was having some pictorials with a Philippine celebrity when I approached him. "You should have pictures with her" he quipped, "No, Mr. Marley, I wanna have pictures with you". I told him I was from Cebu and is a regular follower of his column. He thanked me and wished me well. After I had photos with him, several of the fans followed suit. I was a little proud that I was the first one to recognize him.

We were fortunate to have dinner with Wakee Salud and his companion, Rowel Pacquiao, Manny's younger brother. He was shy and seriously quiet. We had dinner at the Old Hickory Steakhouse at Gaylord. The steaks were very expensive and not extraordinary. The best steaks in Dallas, for me, is the Ranch Steakhouse located downtown. He was seated far from me so I was not able to strike a decent conversation with him. I wanted to ask him how Manny was as a kid and if they ever had a fist fight? I was quite sure who'd win if ever they had one.

At the Gaylord store, my wife got a Pacquiao-Margarito official T-shirt. I got a limited edition poker chip (only 500 copies made) and the official event boxing glove for US$60. When we had our lunch at the Mexican restaurant, we saw Mr. Freddie Roach and had the gloves signed. I expected Manny to sign the other side of the glove the next day, however, I was disappointed that he had to fore-go with the signing due to his painfully swollen hands. Roach was smiling and was very accommodating in spite of the bodyguards. I also had a picture taken with him. As he walked down the corridor, an young American fan was shouting at the top of his lungs "the trainer of the greatest boxer in the world, Mr. Freddie Roach" He just walked on.

The day before the fight, we attended the mass with Manny Pacquiao. After the mass, we approached Buboy Fernandez, Manny's long time buddy and assistant trainer, for a photo op. He was very busy packing all of Pacs belts that were blessed during the mass. He then smiled and lifted Manny's boxing shoes, for a perfect shot. He has remained humble through all these years.

There were several other boxing personalities I met and had a photo op with. These include Chino Trinidad, a boxing writer and commentator, Mommy Dionisia, Pacman's mom, Alex Ariza, Pacman's conditioning coach and Mayor Bing Leonardia, Bacolod mayor and an avid Pacman supporter. I was looking for Mary Dumon and Dennis Guillermo, boxing writers, but unfortunately was unable to spot them. I'm so glad to have met these people and will forever cherish these encounters with them. Come to think of it, I never had a picture with an entertainment celebrity- except perhaps Mommy D?

Pictures above- with the mentioned personalities and my brother-in-law, Lyndon S. Uy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Van Gogh, Cezanne and Beyond and my Art Cube

Does too much excitement make you forget...or am I getting old?

A few weeks ago, during our visit to San Francisco, I had the opportunity to fulfill a dream in my life- to see the works of the great Masters of Art- Van Gogh, Cezanne, Gauguin. and the rest. While my wife was shopping at Costco, I saw an advertisement that the works of the post-impressionist masters are displayed in the de Young Museum at the Golden Gate Park. My wife was unable to come with me; she had to pack our things for our flight back home later that night. Good thing that my newly married sister, Mary Elizabeth, who also loves art, was kind enough to accompany me to the Musee d Orsay exhibit.

The Musee d Orsay is a strain station created for the Paris International Exposition of 1900 which was transformed into a museum by world renowned architect, Gae Aulenti. It first opened to the public in December 9, 1986 with its goal to highlight the art of the western world from the period 1848 through 1914. Its collection, one of the world finest, is composed of paintings, sculpture, drawings, decorative arts, furniture, photography and architectural work from this period consolidated from the collections of the Louvre, Jeu de Paume and Modern Art Museum in Paris as well as major gift from private collectors, artists and their heirs. Their collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings represents the finest survey of its kind in the world.

The museum was full when we arrived late in the afternoon. One has the option for an audio guided tour, but since we were pressed for time we skipped this one. The exhibit was entitled, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne and Beyond: Masterpieces from the Musee d Orsay, which was the second part of the two part exhibition, the first showcasing the Birth of Impressionism.

In this exhibit, eight signature paintings by Cezanne, such as the Bathers, were shown, illustrating his pioneering exploration of pictorial structure. Great works of Van Gogh were also featured, including, a Self-Portrait, the colorful Bedroom at Arles and my sister Mary's favorite, Starry Night over the Rhone. I kept trailing a learned "art critic" who was avidly explaining the paintings to her friends. I learned so much from her, like how the chair in Van Gogh's Bedroom at Arles was blocking the door, the simplicity of the floor and the who the pictures were in the frames. She said that Van Gogh was in depression during this times and ostracized himself from the world which led to his eventual suicide.

One of my favorite pointillist painters, Georges Seurat was also featured. My favorite was Model in Profile. His paintings are light and dreamy from afar, but when you go near the painting, you'll notice that all the strokes are in dots. It must have taken him a long time to finish one painting considering that a hundred thousand dots would be required for one work. Paul Gaugain's influential position is also represented through ten of his superb works like the Portrait of the Artist with the Yellow Christ and the Tahitian scene Arearea. Toulouse-Latrec also makes an appearance with bold The Lady Clown Cha-U-Kao and the contrastingly intimate, The Bed.

Other artist prominent artists featured in the exhibit include Monet, Signac, Denis, Moreau, Bonnard and Vuillard (the Le Nabis), and Henri Rosseau. His Snake Charmer was mystifying. Expansive canvases by the Nabis created a tapestry-like environment, filling the gallery space with the gaiety painted light and flat patterned color. It was truly a visual treat.

Riding a cab on our way home, I saw Ludwig van Beethoven's statue in front of the California Academy of Sciences building. We told the cab driver to stop cause I need to have myself pictured beside my musical idol. We alighted, and my sister took some pictures- which brings us back to my first statement. At the back of the life-like statue, I placed the Art Cube which I purchased from the Museum store before posing for pictures. I never got it back.

On our way to the airport for home, it suddenly dawned on me that the Art Cube was left at the Golden Gate Park. I sat at the pre-departure area dismayed and rode the plane for 16 hours thinking and dreaming about life, my wife and kids, the paintings and the Art Cube.

When we arrived two days later, my sister posted on her FB wall- "dorky brother, we found your cube"....

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Sixth Floor Museum, JFK and Assassinated Composers and Lyricist

Today marks the 47th anniverary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States, which took place on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, at 12:30 p.m. in Dealey Plaza. Kennedy was fatally shot while riding with his wife Jacqueline in a Presidential motorcade. God bless his soul...

I was fortunate to have visited the The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas Texas which is located on the sixth and seventh floors of an early 20th-century warehouse known in 1963 as the Texas School Book Depository. Opened on Presidents Day 1989, the Museum has since welcomed more than 6 million visitors from around the world—people of all ages seeking information and understanding about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The museum tours are self-guided. After the tour, JFK memorabilia is sold at the museum store near the entrance. I was able to get a sticker magnet which showed JFK on a postage stamp.

An assassination is the targeted killing of a public figure, usually for political purposes. Assassinations may be prompted by religious, ideological, political, or military reasons. Additionally, assassins may be motivated by financial gain, revenge, or personal public recognition. Assassination may also refer to the government-sanctioned killing of opponents or to targeted attacks on high-profile enemy combatants.

In figurative language usage, the word assassination may also be used in colloquial speech as a hyperbole, as in the phrase "character assassination", meaning an attempt to impugn another character, and thus kill ("assassinate") his reputation and credibility.

The word assassin is derived from the Arabic word Hashshashin, referred to the Persian designation of the Nizari branch of the Ismā'īlī Shia under the instruction of Hassan aṣ-Ṣabbaḥ during the Middle Ages. They were active in the fort of Alamut in Iran from the eighth to the fourteenth centuries. This group killed members of the Arab Abbasid, Seljuq and crusaders élite for political and religious reasons, but mostly targeted the knights Templar and the ruling Sunni kings in the name of the Fatimid Shia Sultans of Egypt. Later, after Egypt became Sunni during the campaigns of Saladin, Assassins continued on their own account.

The earliest known literary use of the word assassination is in Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1605).

Some of the anthem composers who were killed, shot or assassinated include Thomas Sankara (Burkina Faso), Amilcar Cabral (Guinea-Bissau), Juan Jose Landaeta, Nie Er of China (suspected- drowning) and Barthelemy Boganda of Central African Republic (suspected- plane crash).

The stamp above was issued by Niger in 1998 to commemorate John F. Kennedy's assassination.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Falling for Napa

A week ago, my wife and I were in California to attend the wedding of our beautiful youngest sister, Mary Elizabeth Avanzado (Tambis). One of our side-trips was a visit to quaint yet intoxicating Napa Valley, a grape-growing region located in Napa County, California, USA. Considered one of the top wine regions in the United States, it is one of only nine Great Wine Capitals on earth, with a history dating back to the nineteenth century.

After a smooth hour and a half ride from Sacramento, we were taken to the picturesque countryside of Napa, a place vibrant with colors of amber, green and crimson. The shades of the flora were changing, and the leaves falling fast, signifying that winter is around the corner. The air was sweetly aromatic and the temperature comfortably cool. We arrived around 2 pm and had a late lunch at a/k/a Bistro in downtown St. Helena. We were greeted in a bustling bar area and comfy lounge serving up handmade cocktails which won them Diner's Choice award last year.

The setting is sophisticated yet casual with butter-cream walls, concrete floors, twig-wrapped light pendants, an eco-friendly fireplace and a soaring wall of wine. a|k|a Bistro also features one of the most compelling wine lists in the Napa Valley, with 50 wines by the glass and 500 on the list. "The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars.", read the front page menu. I feasted on the succulent steak, crispy portobello fries with basil aioli and calamari. After the sumptuous meal, we visited some wineries and nostalgic vineyards for posterity. Four types of wine were tasted at the BV winery. My favorite was the one grown at the Creek. The combination of Mediterranean climate, geography and geology of The Valley are conducive to growing quality wine grapes.

John Patchett established the Napa Valley's first commercial vineyard in 1858. In 1861 Charles Krug established Napa Valley's first commercial winery in St. Helena. Viticulture, the science of grape-growing, in Napa suffered several setbacks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including an outbreak of the vine disease phylloxera and the Great Depression. The wine industry in Napa Valley recovered, and helped by the results of the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, came to be seen as capable of producing the best quality wine - equal to that of Old World wine regions.

Napa Valley is a very popular tourist destination in California with almost 4.5 million visitors yearly. It is also "The World's Best Wine and Food Destination" as awarded by Trip Advisor's 2010 Travelers' Choice Awards. You don't have to be a wine lover to love this place. If you love beauty and you love life then you'll surely love this enchanting place- I surely did.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The American Anthem in French

"The Star-Spangled Banner" is the national anthem of the United States of America. The lyrics come from "Defence of Fort McHenry", a poem written in 1814 by the 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet, Francis Scott Key, after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy ships in Chesapeake Bay during the Battle of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812.

The poem was set to the tune of a popular British drinking song, written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a men's social club in London. "The Anacreontic Song" (or "To Anacreon in Heaven"), with various lyrics, was already popular in the United States. Set to Key's poem and renamed "The Star-Spangled Banner", it would soon become a well-known American patriotic song. With a range of one and a half octaves, it is known for being difficult to sing. Although the song has four stanzas, only the first is commonly sung today, with the fourth ("O thus be it ever when free men shall stand...") added on more formal occasions. In the fourth stanza, Key urged the adoption of "In God is our Trust" as the national motto ("And this be our motto: In God is our Trust"). The United States adopted the motto "In God We Trust" by law in 1956.

"The Star-Spangled Banner" was recognized for official use by the Navy in 1889 and the President in 1916, and was made the national anthem by a congressional resolution on March 3, 1931 (46 Stat. 1508, codified at 36 U.S.C. § 301), which was signed by President Herbert Hoover.

Above is a postal card of the American Anthem in French.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Philippine Presidents: A Stamp and Photo Exhibit

This first-of-its kind exhibit from the collections of Cebu Stamp Club's Richard Allen Uy is presented to celebrate the assumption of Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III as the 15th President of the Philippines. To be featured are the stamps, covers and photo of the new president as well as those of all the past presidents. Included too are philatelic materials and stamps of the great icon of democracy, Cory Aquino. Philippine history will also be shown using stamps with some dating as far back as the Spanish dominion, American Occupation, Commonwealth Period, Japanese Occupation and the Republic Issues. So if you are free this Friday, October 8, 2010, please give it a visit at SM City Cebu.

Friday, October 1, 2010

"Il Canto degli Italiani" (The Song of the Italians)

"Il Canto degli Italiani" (The Song of the Italians) aka "Fratelli D'Italia" (Brothers of Italy), Mameli's Hymn, is the National anthem of Italy.

Il Canto degli Italiani (The Song of the Italians) is the Italian national anthem. It is best known among Italians as L'Inno di Mameli (Mameli's Hymn) and often referred to as Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy), from its opening line.

The words were written in the autumn of 1847 in Genoa, by the then 20-year-old student and patriot Goffredo Mameli, in a climate of popular struggle for unification and independence of Italy which foreshadowed the war against Austria.

Two months later, they were set to music in Turin by another Genoese, Michele Novaro. The hymn enjoyed widespread popularity throughout the period of the Risorgimento and in the following decades.

After unification (1861) the adopted national anthem was the Marcia Reale, the Royal March (or Fanfara Reale), official hymn of the royal house of Savoy composed in 1831 to order of Carlo Alberto di Savoia. The Marcia Reale remained the Italian national anthem until the birth of the republic.

Giuseppe Verdi, in his Inno delle Nazioni (Hymn of the Nations), composed for the London International Exhibition of 1862, chose Il Canto degli Italiani – and not the Marcia Reale – to represent Italy, putting it beside God Save the Queen and the Marseillaise.

In 1946 Italy became a republic, and on October 12, 1946, Il Canto degli Italiani was provisionally chosen as the country's new national anthem. This choice was made official in law only on November 17, 2005, almost 60 years later.

The postal card above shows the score and lyrics of the National anthem of Italy.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Brabançonne- English Version

The Brabançonne (Song of Brabant) is the national anthem of Belgium. The anthem has a French, a Dutch and a German version, for the three official languages of the country.

According to legend, the Belgian national anthem was written in September 1830, during the Belgian Revolution, by a young revolutionary called Jenneval, who read the lyrics during a meeting at the Aigle d'Or café.

Jenneval, a Frenchman whose real name was Alexandre Dechet (sometimes known as Louis-Alexandre Dechet), did in fact write the Brabançonne. At the time, he was an actor at the theatre where, in August 1830, the revolution started which led to independence from the Netherlands. Jenneval died in the war of independence. François Van Campenhout composed the accompanying score and it was first performed in September 1830.

In 1860, Belgium formally adopted the song and music as its national anthem, although the then prime minister edited lyrics attacking the Dutch Prince of Orange. The Brabançonne is also a monument (1930) by the sculptor Charles Samuël on the Surlet de Chokier square in Brussels. The monument contains partial lyrics of both the French and Dutch versions of the anthem. As many elements in Belgian folklore, this is mainly based on the French "La Marseillaise" which is also an anthem and the name of a monument in Paris.

The ending, pledging loyalty to "Le Roi, la Loi, la Liberté !" ("The King, the Law, Liberty!") is an obvious parallel to the French "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite" - with the republican sentiment of the original replaced in the Belgian version by the promotion of constitutional monarchy (the combination of "The King" and "The Law" is what produces "Liberty"). Actually, a slogan similar to the Belgian one - "la Nation, la Loi, le Roi" ("The Nation, The Law, The King") - had been used in the early days of the French Revolution, when that revolution was still considered to be aimed at Constitutional Monarchy rather than a Republic.

The postal card above features The Brabançonne translated in English.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Great Charlemagne

The national anthem of Andorra "El Gran Carelmany" (The Great Charlemagne) presents the nation's history in a first-person narrative. Charlemagne, King of the Franks and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, 742 - 814, was born on April 2, 742 in Northern Europe. Charles was the eldest son of Pippin III and Bertrada of Laon. ‘By the sword and the cross,’ Charlemagne became master of Western Europe.

In 768, when Charlemagne was 26, he and his younger brother Carloman inherited the kingdom of the Franks. In 771 Carloman died, and Charlemagne became sole ruler of the kingdom. At that time the Franks were falling back into barbarian ways, neglecting their education and religion. The Saxons of northern Europe were still pagans. In the south, the Roman Catholic church was asserting its power to recover land confiscated by the Lombard kingdom of Italy. Europe was in turmoil.

Charlemagne was determined to strengthen his realm and to bring order to Europe. In 772 he launched a 30-year military campaign to accomplish this objective. By 800 Charlemagne was the undisputed ruler of Western Europe. His vast realm encompassed what are now France, Switzerland, Belgium, and The Netherlands. It included half of present-day Italy and Germany, and parts of Austria and Spain. By establishing a central government over Western Europe, Charlemagne restored much of the unity of the old Roman Empire and paved the way for the development of modern Europe.

On Christmas Day in 800, while Charlemagne knelt in prayer in Saint Peter’s in Rome, Pope Leo III placed a golden crown on the bowed head of the king. Charlemagne is said to have been surprised by the coronation, declaring that he would not have come into the church had he known the pope’s plan. However, some historians say the pope would not have dared to act without Charlemagne's knowledge.

Charlemagne learned to read Latin and some Greek but apparently did not master writing. At meals, instead of having jesters perform, he listened to visiting scholars read from learned works. Charlemagne believed that government should be for the benefit of the governed. He was a reformer who tried to improve his subject’s lives. He set up money standards to encourage commerce and urged better farming methods. ‘By the sword and the cross,’ Charlemagne became master of Western Europe.

As is often the case, people considered great by historians are great killers as well. Throughout his conquests, Charlemagne was responsible for the death of masses of people who refused to accept Christianity, or their new king. Choosing to keep faith with their old gods and leaders, many thousands were slaughtered.

Above is a postcard from Andorra with the lyrics of the national anthem beside the Great Charlemagne.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Computers on Stamps and my Love Affair with the Machine

A few months ago, I visited a link in Delcampe, a stamp auction site, about "Cyber Philately: Computer Stamps- from Abacus to Internet", and a I was transported back in time to my love affair with the "ultimate machine".

Pocket computer- desktop- laptop- notebook- netbook- tablet PC. In a nutshell, that's the evolution of my computers.

Back in 1983, when I was in second year high school, my dad brought me from Japan, my first computer- the Casio PB-300 (picture below), a pocket computer with a built in thermal printer. To my knowledge, it was first the first computer with a built-in thermal printer but had only 2KB of RAM compared to mammoth 4GB of today. There were no elaborate graphics and software programs then. You can only see 12 characters in a line on a monochrome LCD for simple games and computation of algebraic formulas which was very helpful in my elective Calculus subject in high school.

I remember programming a basic shooting game and did some print outs of the program. Years later I saw the prints fade to oblivion. As far as I can remember, there were only two of us who had a pocket computer then-his name is Gene Cagas, now a pastor based in Cambodia. We had weekly competitions of creating the best programs. One time, he conceded defeat when he saw me making a simple shooting program (how complex can a program be, given only a line). In this program random alphanumeric characters would show up and when you press a button, the duration should be right enough to cause an arrow to hit it. If you press to short or too long it would undershoot or overshoot the target. Anyway, I had a really memorable time with my friend Gene. We always reminisce about it during our reunions. Unfortunately, this computer is now forever lost- I never knew if it was stolen or a relative of mine got it (most likely the latter).

During college in the 90's, I had several desktop computers, mostly cloned. I would just choose the sound card, video card, disk drive and all other parts and have them assembled by the supplier. Mostly, these desktops were optimized for gaming, an aspect of computer which I love until now. It was during this time that the internet became popular but dial-ups were sluggish. There was no broadband or WiFi then. I had these desktops during my medical technology years until medical school and residency.

During my fellowship years in 2002, I got myself my first laptop-the HP Compaq Presario. It was in vogue then and very expensive at 90 thousand pesos. It was impressive during its time- with 512 gigs of RAM, 60 GB of memory and Invidia video card capable of handling 3D games and graphics effortlessly. It had no Bluetooth and WiFI. I mastered Counterstrike and Unreal with this laptop and finished Half-Life- a science fiction, first person shooting game and my all-time favorite computer game. My weekly presentation of cases, journals and studies where done with this laptop. During my various symposium and seminars, it traveled with me.

After I finished fellowship and became a consultant with an aching back, the laptop became too heavy for me, so I switched to a notebook- the Acer Travelmate. This was definitely much lighter and smaller but less powerful. I don't really need the extra power because I rarely play graphic intensive video games, with its decent ATI Radeon video card, during these years. This time though, it already had a bluetooth and LAN. It was during this time, that I was into music composition and home recording using software synths like Rob Papen's Blue, Albino, Moog, Vanguard, etc. using the MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) keyboard. I had to get myself a Creative Audigy soundcard which fits snugly into the PCI port to play MIDI and sound intensive programs requiring ASIO like Ableton Live and FL Studio. I did my first home studio recording using this computer- mostly Electronica and Trance music.

When WiFI became ubiquitous, I shifted to a netbook- the Asus 1000HE. I got this because it is very light at two pounds and excellent for surfing. I got a Buffalo wireless router so I can surf anywhere at our home- which led to its eventual demise after using it for less than two years. While surfing at our comfort room, it slipped and broke the plastic edge. Although still functional, it was now cosmetically challenged. I gave it to my wife and got myself a new computer- the Tablet PC.

I was not really impressed with iPad. I mean why buy something expensive just to read and surf? I did some research on this, because I wanted a gadget that works like an iPad but had strong computational skills. These qualities I found in my new tablet PC- The Asus T101 MT.

It's lighter than a notebook but has multitouch features. I had problems with the netbook at night and during traveling when it's very difficult to use the keyboard. With the touch feature, this problem is eliminated. Play Chess, Scrabble or Plants and Zombies on the plane--no problem-- you just touch the screen to move or control the pieces. The websites are a pleasure to surf- you just touch and drag up or down, right or left or flick to scan or change pages. It has an Expressgate feature, a separate OS (operating system) with allows it to boot the system in 5 seconds so you can quickly connect to the internet, view your pictures, listen to internet radio or use Skype. You cannot, however save files in this OS, you have to shift to the Windows 7 OS. by just pressing a button. As of now, I'm very satisfied with this computer. With its handwriting recognition software, I wish I had this during my student days to take notes during lectures. Now, I give lectures, so I just use it for presentations.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Scaling the Great Wall of China

While the Great Wall of China is not one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it is typically included in the Seven Wonders of the Medieval World. In 1987, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) placed the Great Wall on its list of the world’s great national and historical sites. That the Great Wall is a single, continuous wall built all at once is a myth. In reality, the wall is a discontinuous network of wall segments built by various dynasties to protect China’s northern boundary.

After an hour and a half ride from the central business district in Beijing, we arrived at one of the five Great Wall stations in Badaling. Upon arrival, one can immediately see the watchtowers which were built at regular intervals along the Great Wall and could be up to 40 feet tall. They were once used as lookouts and fortresses as well as for housing garrisons of troops and stockpiled supplies. They were also signal stations, where beacons, smoke, or flags were used for messages. Their architectural styles are diverse considering the several dynasties that ruled when they were built.

The Badaling station didn't have a lift or a cable car, so the only way to reach the sixth watchtower was to walk and climb the steep and perilous stairs. Due to time constraints, we were only given an hour to accomplish this task. The distance from tower to tower was around 300 steps, and I can already hear my wife breathing heavily midway into the second tower. I had to leave her behind because her legs were shaking and felt she could not reach the highest towers without having a heart attack. The view became better and better the higher you go and at the fourth tower, which was my final stop, it was spectacular. There was a feeling of awe and praise for the Chinese for building this wall, reputedly the only man made object seen from space (later proven false). I offered a small prayer to the one million laborers who died while building this magnificent wall- also the the worlds longest cemetery. Because they had no time to dig for graves, all the dead laborers were also buried here. On the way down, I dropped by the Great Wall Store at the second tower to have my name engraved on the medal- proclaiming that you have conquered the wall.

The last battle fought at the Great Wall was in 1938 during the Sino-Japanese War, which was between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. Bullet marks can still be seen in the Wall at Gubeikou. While the Great Wall is currently a symbol of national pride, China struggles with how to manage and protect the Wall while controlling the mass-market development of it. Two organizations, the China Great Wall Society and the International Friends of the Great Wall, are dedicated to preserving it.

My Visit to the Madian Stamp Market in Beijing, China

It’s sad that Mr. Bin, the stamp seller, would not be able to read this blog and see his picture on the net because just like Twitter and Facebook, Blogger is also restricted in China. There is broadband connection is every Shangri-la hotel in China but there are so many sites you can’t visit. Our eloquent guide Jason, who majored in English and international tourism, told us that since the “Chinese workers union revolt”, early this year, most blog sites were restricted; and he lost several Facebook friends.

We went to the Madian district which was a smooth 45 minute ride from our hotel (luckily there was no traffic that morning) to look for the Stamp and Coin market which was located at No. 23, Huangsi Street, Xicheng District, (tel. number: 62040626). The staff at our hotel was kind enough to call the number to verify their address and to translate the address into Chinese. They hailed a cab and told the driver to take us there, further instructing us that the ride will cost between 30-40 yuan. It is a good idea a take pictures of your want list on your camera or camera phone so that you can show them the exact item you are looking for. Majority of the Chinese nationals doesn’t speak a word of English so common words like music and stamps are alien to them. So, I also got the Chinese for stamps (youpiao) and music (I forgot now) before we left. When they saw the picture, they immediately knew what I wanted.

In July of this year, China Post issued a set of foreign musicians in stamps- Bach, Beethoven, Haydn and Mozart, and I wanted to get these from its original country of origin. I was able to obtain all the four stamps (in strips of 4) and the first day covers. I was also able to buy the stamp of Tai Chuan-Hsien, the composer of the Banner song of Taiwan and a sheet of musicians from North Korea. I was also looking for the first day cover of the China anthem composer Nie Er, but it wasn't available, so I got a block of four instead.

The seller asked us where we were from, and after telling them we were from the Philippines, he displayed a sinister grin and pointed his fingers to his head- like a gun- and conveyed his dismay on the recent hostage taking by a disgruntled Filipino military man, killing 8 Chinese nationals. Bang bang bang…he said chuckling as he announced to the other stall vendors we were from the Philippines. He was very cordial and quick to get the items. It was a good thing that I had a picture of the stamp I wanted on my phone.

China has slowly evolved from a hard core communist to a quasi-democracy/capitalist country. Although with some restrictions, you can do whatever you want in China. Although they need to smile more, it's people are now tourist friendly. I learned many things in our short visit to China. I learned to respect their people and culture and to admire the many wonderful things they have contributed to the world. Basing on what I saw and experience, China's economy will surpass that of the United States in the next 20 years. Indeed, the dragon has awakened, and we, the rest of the world are now trembling.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Korean Anthem Composer in Meter Cover

The National anthem of South Korea is called 'Aegukga' which literally means "The Song of Love for the Country". Even though Aegukga is sung as the national anthem, the song has not yet achieved official status. The music of the National anthem of South Korea was composed by Ahn Eaktay but there is no surety about who actually wrote the lyrics of the anthem. Some believe that the lyrics were written either by Yun Chiho, a politician or by An Chang-Ho, pro-independence leader and educator.

The original lyrics of the national anthem was probably written around 1907 in order to boost a spirit of loyalty and independence, as the nation encountered threats of foreign assault. Over the years, the lyrics have been revised by various leaders and evolved into what is sung today. Initially the anthem was sung to the tune of the Scottish folk song, Auld Lang Syne, taught by the American missionaries. However, a Korean composer named Ahn Eak-Tai considered it inappropriate to use the tune of another country's folk song and therefore composed a new tune. The new tune was adopted by the government in exile and since the founding of the Republic of Korea in 1948; Koreans have sung the Aegukga to the new music at all official events.

Three years following the liberation from Japanese rule, the new 'Aegukga' was adopted under the Presidential Decree of 1948, by the then President Syngman Rhee. The National anthem of South Korea consists of four verses with chorus, although only the first verse and chorus are generally sung. The anthem is a national symbol of South Korea which has been sung by Koreans for almost a century, to commemorate the patriotism of the nation's ancestors.

Above is the Korean anthem composer Ahn Eak-tai in meter cover in 2006.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"Jerusalem of Gold"

Naomi Shemer (1930-2004) - the most readily identified artist in the world of Israeli music following the establishment of the State. She wrote and composed hundreds of songs that became Israeli classics thanks to her wonderful integration of words and melodies. Her most famous song - "Jerusalem of Gold" - has become, in fact, a second "National Anthem" in Israel.

Jerusalem of Gold" (Yerushalayim Shel Zahav) was written by Naomi Shemer in 1967. The original song described the Jewish people's 2000-year longing to return to Jerusalem; Shemer added a final verse after the Six-Day War to celebrate Jerusalem's unification under Israeli control.

Naomi Shemer wrote the original song for the Israeli Music Festival on 15 May 1967, the night after Israel's nineteenth Independence Day. She chose the then-unknown Shuli Nathan to sing the song. At that time, the Old City was under Jordanian rule; Jews had been barred from entering, and many holy sites had been desecrated. Only three weeks after the song was published, the Six-Day War broke out. The song was the battle cry and morale booster of the Israeli troops. Shemer even sang it for them before the war and festival, making them among the first in the world to hear it.

On 7 June, the Israel Defense Forces captured the eastern part of Jerusalem and the Old City from the Jordanians. When Shemer heard the paratroopers singing "Jerusalem of Gold" at the Western Wall, she wrote a final verse, reversing the phrases of lamentation found in the second verse. The line about shofars sounding from the Temple Mount is a reference to an event that actually took place on 7 June.

The song has been translated loosely into many languages. It was also chosen as the "Song of the Year" in Israel in 1967. The song is the corps song of the Blue Stars Drum and Bugle Corps. The corps sings it before every competition.

The stamp above (block) features Naomi Shemer singing issued in 2004. Below is Shemer,part of a sheet of musician, composers, poets and singers.

"God Bless America", America's Unofficial Anthem

With this 2010 stamp, the U.S. Postal Service honors Kate Smith, the celebrated singer and entertainer whose signature song, “God Bless America” (composed by Irving Berlin), has been called America´s unofficial national anthem. The stamp art duplicates artwork created for the cover of a CD titled “Kate Smith: The Songbird of the South.” The artwork was based on a photograph of Smith taken in the 1960s.

Berlin originally wrote the song in 1918 while serving in the U.S. Army at Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York, but decided that it did not fit in a revue called Yip Yip Yaphank, so he set it aside. The lyrics at that time included the line, "Make her victorious on land and foam, God bless America..." as well as "Stand beside her and guide her, to the right with the light from above."

Music critic Jody Rosen comments that a 1906 Jewish dialect novelty song, "When Mose with His Nose Leads the Band", contains a six-note fragment that is "instantly recognizable as the opening strains of "God Bless America"". He interprets this as an example of Berlin's "habit of interpolating bits of half-remembered songs into his own numbers." Berlin, born Israel Baline, had himself written several Jewish-themed novelty tunes.

In 1938, with the rise of Hitler, Berlin, who was Jewish, and a first-generation European immigrant, felt it was time to revive it as a "peace song", and it was introduced on an Armistice Day broadcast in 1938 sung by Kate Smith, on her radio show. Berlin had made some minor changes; by this time, "to the right" might have been considered a call to the political right, so he substituted "through the night" instead. He also provided an introduction that is now rarely heard but which Smith always used: "While the storm clouds gather far across the sea / Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free / Let us all be grateful for a land so fair, / As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer."

More than just the dramatic words and melody, the arrangement for Kate Smith's performance was accompanied by full band, progressing into a grand march tempo, with trumpets triple reinforcing the harmonies between stanzas: the dramatic build-up ends on the final exposed high note, which Kate Smith sang in the solo as a sustained a cappella note, with the band then joining for the finale.

The song was a hit; there was even a movement to make "God Bless America" the national anthem of the United States. However, there was strong opposition by conservative southerners as well as conservatives who lived in rural areas where there were no Jews living in it, stating that because Irving Berlin was a foreigner and a Jew, that they would not accept their national anthem to be composed by a member of the minority class. Congress would have had to repeal the "Star Spangled Banner" in both houses of congress by two-thirds of the votes, which they lacked to this very day.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Jenneval- Belgian Anthem Lyricist

Louis Alexandre Dechet (Lyon, 20 January 1801 - Lier, 18 October 1830) was a French actor and is known as author of the text of the Brabançonne, the Belgian national anthem. His pseudonym was Jenneval, possibly named after the drama Jenneval, ou le Barnevelt français (1769) of Louis Sébastien Mercier.

Dechet worked in Ajaccio, Marseille and in 1826 at the Paris Odéon. Via Rijsel he finally came to Brussels, where he played at La Monnaie. In 1828 he returned to Paris in order to work at the Comédie Française, but returned to Brussels immediately after the July Revolution in 1830. He there served with the city guard which was responsible for maintaining law and order.

Dechet is said to have written the text of the Brabançonne during the first revolutionary gatherings at the café "L'Aigle d'Or" in the Brussels Greepstraat in August of 1830, shortly after the performance of the opera La Muette de Portici, which triggered the Belgian revolution.

During the Belgian Revolution Dechet became a volunteer in the revolutionary army and joined the corps of Frenchman Charles Niellon. He died during a combat against the Dutch near Lier. On the Martelarenplein in Brussels a column honouring Dechet is to be found, which was created by Alfred Crick and inaugurated in 1897.

The postal card above shows Louis Alexandre Dechet aka Jenneval, the Belgian anthem lyricist (French Version).

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hymn to Liberty- The Longest National Anthem in the World

The Hymn to Liberty (Ýmnos is tīn Eleftherian) is a poem written by Dionýsios Solomós in 1823 that consists of 158 stanzas and is the longest national anthem in the world, set to music by Nikolaos Mantzaros. In 1865, the first two stanzas officially became the national anthem of Greece and later also that of the Republic of Cyprus. According to the Constitution of Cyprus, the Greek national anthem is used in the presence of the Greek Cypriot president (or other Greek Cypriot), and the Turkish national anthem is used in the presence of the Turkish Cypriot vice-president. Cyprus stopped using the Turkish national anthem, however, when Turkish Cypriots broke away from the Government in 1963. Hymn to Liberty was also the Greek Royal Anthem (since 1864).

The hymn was set to music in 1865 by the Corfiot operatic composer Nikolaos Mantzaros, who composed two choral versions, a long one for the whole poem and a short one for the first two stanzas; the latter is the one adopted as the National Anthem of Greece. This anthem has been performed at every closing ceremony of an Olympics, to pay tribute to Greece as the birthplace of the modern Games.

Above is a postal card of the Greek national anthem in French.

The National Anthem of Australia

A prolific composer, Scottish-born Peter Dodds McCormick was moved to compose a national anthem for Australia when, having attended a concert of the world's anthems, there was no anthem for Australia. His original lyrics heavily emphasized Australia's ties to Britain (as Australia was a British colony at the time). Upon Australia's inauguration as a separate Commonwealth on January 1, 1901, the song was performed, but the British "God Save the Queen" was still the official anthem of Australia. At this time, the third verse of McCormick's original work was changed.

While "Advance Australia Fair" remained popular with the people in the decades following, no official national anthem other than "God Save the Queen" was declared. In 1974 the Australian Bureau of Statistics conducted a national opinion poll of 60,000 and in 1977 a plebiscite for a national song was conducted. On each occasion, Advance Australia Fair was the preferred option (the other choices were the existing anthem "God Save the Queen" and the popular national songs "Song of Australia" and "Waltzing Mathilda"), and it was in consideration of such support that Advance Australia Fair was proclaimed as the national anthem by the Governor-General on 19 April 1984. From the original five-verse song, only the first and third verses are the official national anthem, with slight changes to make the song more gender-inclusive.

Peter Dodds McCormick (1834? – 30 October 1916), a Scottish-born schoolteacher, was the composer of the Australian national anthem Advance Australia Fair.

Born the son of a seaman at Port Glasgow, Scotland, he arrived in Sydney (at that time the principal city of the British colony of New South Wales) in 1855. Details of his earlier years, prior to his arrival in Australia, are shadowy. He spent most of his life employed by the NSW Education Department. In 1863 he was appointed teacher-in charge of at St Mary's National School and went on to teach at the Presbyterian denominational school in the Sydney suburb of Woolloomooloo in 1867. He then moved to Dowling Plunkett Street Public School in 1878 where he remained until 1885.

McCormick was heavily involved in the Scottish Presbyterian Church and was active in a number of community and benevolent organisations. He began his involvement with Sydney's St Stephen's Church as a stonemason, working on the now demolished Phillip Street Church (where Martin Place now stands). The Rev Hugh Darling was so impressed with his singing on the job he asked him to join the choir. McCormick's musical ability led him to becoming the precentor of the Presbyterian Church of NSW, which gave him the opportunity to conduct very large massed choirs. He was also convenor of the Presbyterian Church Assembly's Committee on Psalmody. Also a talented composer, he published around 30 patriotic and Scottish songs, some of which became very popular. Included in his collected works was Advance Australia Fair, which was first performed in public by Andrew Fairfax at the St Andrew's Day concert of the Highland Society on 30 November 1878.

McCormick died in 1916 at his home in the Sydney suburb of Waverley and he was buried at Rookwood Cemetery. He had no children; he was survived by his second wife Emma. His obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald stated: "Mr. McCormick established a reputation with the patriotic song, Advance Australia Fair, which ... has come to be recognised as something in the nature of an Australian National Anthem".

The postal card above features the lyrics of the Australian anthem "Advance Australia Fair"

Sunday, August 15, 2010

National Anthem of Manchukuo Empire

The Manchu State (Manchukuo, Manshūkoku) was a puppet state in Manchuria and eastern Inner Mongolia. The region was the historical homeland of the Manchus, who founded the Qing Dynasty of China. In 1931, the region was seized by Japan following the Mukden Incident and in 1932, a puppet government was created, with Puyi, the last Qing emperor, installed as the nominal regent and emperor.

In 1934, Manchukuo became an empire ("The Great Manchu Empire") and the new emporer, Henry Puyi (it was under his reign in China that the "Gong Jin'ou" anthem was written) comissioned a new anthem, "Mǎnzhōu dìguó guógē" (National Anthem of Manchukuo Empire) to be written by Zheng Xiao-xun, the same person who wrote the previous Manchurian anthem. The Japanese wished for the anthem to be translated into Japanese, so that both Chinese and Japanese could sing the anthem, but Zheng died in 1938. The new anthem was eventually adopted in 1942 and was in use until 1945. The composer of the anthem was Kosaku Yamada.

Kosaku Yamada (9 June 1886 - 29 December 1965) was a Japanese composer and conductor.

In many Western reference books his name is given as Kósçak Yamada. During his music study in the Imperial German capital of Berlin from 1910-13 he hated the moment when people laughed at him because his "normal" transliteration of his first name "Kosaku" sounded like the Italian "cosa" meaning "what" or "thing" + the German "Kuh" meaning "cow"; which resulted in his choosing a somewhat fanciful transliteration of Kósçak Yamada ever since. Yamada was born and died in Tokyo.

After studying at the Tokyo Music School, he left Japan for Germany where he enrolled in the Berlin Hochschule and learnt composition, before going to the USA for two years. Yamada left about 1600 pieces of music. Especially, songs (Lieder) amount to 700 pieces of music excluding songs for schools, municipalities and companies. They were performed and recorded by many singers which include Kathleen Battle, Ernst Haefliger and Yoshikazu Mera. His opera Kurofune (The Black Ships) is regarded as one of the famous Japanese operas.

As a conductor, Yamada made an effort to introduce many orchestral works to Japan. He was the first performer in Japan of Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, Dvořák's Symphony No. 9, Gershwin's An American in Paris, Mosolov's Iron Foundry, Sibelius' Finlandia, Shostakovich's Symphony No. 1, Johann Strauss II's An der schönen blauen Donau, and Wagner's Siegfried Idyll.

The postal card above features a special postmark to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of Manchukuo empire anthem composer Kosaku Yamada (1886-1986).