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.