How to spend other people’s money

9,430 Euros have been put at the disposal of the Magnificat Institute, the music school of the Custody of the Holy Land for its “Magic Lamp” project by the  Italian Ministry of External Affairs (project “Support the emergency education in the Palestinian Territories. Bethlehem, Jericho and East Jerusalem MAE 9226/AVSI/TOC).*

Congratulations, AVSI (non-profit Voluntary Association for International Service (tr))  and MAE, you found an emergency just as worthy as feeding the hungry in Southern Sudan and Mozambique!!

According to the website of the Custody, this is not only a concert, but a “prestigious initiative”. (Oh sure, like everything else you do!!)

Let’s see where all the money is going.

A composer by the name of Maroun Askar left some unpublished melodies, in this case, 12 short simple ones for kids to be used in this project. Harmonization is not a big production. These are done all the time in music schools in the first year of studying harmony.  Does that cost money if the arrangements are done by the venerable composer in residence?

Since it is the 7th edition of the Magic Lamp, one can compare it to what they did the past. Like many music schools, they cheaply publish their own material, either in house (photocopy or their own printing center) or send it out locally.

A booklet of 32 pages has already been produced mainly in black and white, similar to the previous ones, so this could not have been the main expense. Something was said to the effect that computerizing the melodies and arrangements  is “not a simple task” because the arrangements go from left to right and the melodies go from right to left. No big deal, actually, since they have their own books of hymns printed going the other way, so there must be a program already in place.  Transliteration is used however with languages going from right to left with music, or separating each syllable – no big inconvenience either.

They mention that other schools will use the scores but if the students are not taught to read music backwards, it is virtually unusable for them.  Again, how much does it cost to send a 32 page booklet either through the post or by internet to a relatively small number of schools?

“On top of everything else” a CD will be made to accompany the book. WOW, really expensive!!!  A record of the event will be made into a DVD. How much is that, $300?  Bringing in kids from local schools for the concert and adding a few instruments, is that where the rest of the 9000 Euros is going?

In the Middle East, the Magic Lamp traditionally has a genie inside who will fulfill every wish when you rub on it. The Custody says “we have an emergency“.  AVSI and MAE, respond in effect, like the genie, “your wish is my command”.

*Maybe Italians with money to spare and who cannot do simple math will accept that 9430 Euros are needed to harmonize a few baby melodies, publish, perform and distribute to a few schools.  English speakers tend to be more circumspect and critical, and surely not ready to waste money on bombastic schemes of the Church.   

But please note that the Church doesn’t NEED all that money for such a small project and to pompously receive it certainly not by misleading the public.  The way they justify themselves is simply ridiculous to whoever knows some music and how these things are done. There ARE emergencies in the West Bank -orphanages, etc. – but THIS IS NOT one of them.**

** Splattered all over the internet, particularly in Catholic News outlets(of course from Rome!)  are bombastic announcements of concerts (which in any music school are usual and normal) for the “joyous month of May” that includes the Magic Lamp:

Friar RICCARDO CERIANI, OFM, Magnificat Institute – Jerusalem: “The Magic Lamp involves the activity of the Magnificat in 360 degrees. We begin with the composition of the songs, or, as in this case, by looking for unpublished songs. These are then harmonized and arranged musically.

Then, we pass to the computerized edition which permits the printed publication of the score. The songs are taught to the children, both those that sing and those that play instruments. Then, from the concert, we produce a video, and in the proceeding days a CD is already recorded. Video, CD and musical score are put in a boxed set and sent to the schools… The School of Music of the Custody of the Holy Land, the Magnificat Institute, has entitled these concerts MOM, which stands for Magnificat Open Music…

So that, in this period of the year in which, in the Middle East, the feast of the Resurrection and spring happily coincide, this joy is appropriately expressed in music by those who represent new life: the children of the Holy Land! “

Strangely enough, they omitted to mention how much the Magic Lamp was costing the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in other words getting public money for something usually done de rigueur by any music school internally – 9430 Euro is about $13,500 – outrageous!!!

The point is if this were said by a regular guy in a business suit or in jeans and a tee shirt, it would not support the alleged halo of sanctity, therefore,  encouraging the suspension of critical thinking.***

Hear, hear!!! Sainthood by association is WRONG.  How much does it REALLY cost to put together a few mediocre arrangements of kiddie songs and send them to a few schools? This is a perfect example of despicable self-serving obfuscation.

*** Meanwhile, yet another initiative is afoot for spending money from various entities and also sponsored by local municipalities in Italy: “Pentagrammando la Pace insieme”. This is a little difficult to translate, since the 5 lines of the music staff is refered to as a pentagram in Italian and Spanish. Here it means that 9 young students of music will be making peace together between their home countries of Palestine and Italy by playing piano duets in public and by being coached by a few teachers.

Does this strain credibility? Well, not if you’re Italian and anything the Peace Monk does AUTOMATICALLY will contribute to World Peace and deserves serious attention and financial support.

 The press dispatches read “momento così delicato per la Pace nel mondo”, meaning, “in such a delicate moment for Peace in the world” (don’t forget to capitalize Peace!).  One cannot help but wonder WHAT are they are talking about, what burning issue of World Peace these days they are referring to, unless one missed the beginning of World War III or something.

Also, it doesn’t seem like Palestine and Italy are at war or at the brink of it, the home countries of these music students. Put bluntly, how can 3 Palestinian and 6 Italian kids  contribute to Peace in the World by getting coached for a few piano duets?  How much MONEY is involved in this intiative that includes plane tickets, accomodation, publicity, etc.,  for the three, their teacher and the Peace Monk?

This is only one more example of yet another manufactured self-serving initiatve that has to bring CONSTANTLY to the public that PEACE is being made even if the premises are so transparent that one can step right through them.  This silly venture should make it clearer to those who may have had doubts about it: music or peace are NOT the objectives.  Music is being used to self-promote and also justify raising yet more money.  There is usually one promotional event for the Peace Monk on the average every two months or so. This is yet another step (tappa) on the road to the Nobel Prize.  So much for “humble” religious. They must be dinosaurs.


9.430 euro sono stati messi a disposizione dell’Istituto Magnificat, la scuola di musica della Custodia di Terra Santa per il suo progetto “La Lampada Magica”   finanziato dal Ministero degli Affari Esteri Italiano (“Sostenere l’emergenza educativa nei Territori dell’Autonomia Palestinese, di Gerusalemme est, Betlemme e Gerico”/9226/AVSI/TOC MAE).

Congratulazioni, AVSI (Associazione Voluntari per il Servizio Internazionale) e MAE, avete trovato una situazione di emergenza così come degno di nutrire gli affamati nel Sudan meridionale e il Mozambico!

Secondo il sito della Custodia, questo non è solo un concerto, ma una “prestigiosa iniziativa”. (Oh, certo, come tutto il resto si fanno!)

Vediamo dove tutti i soldi stanno andando.

Un compositore con il nome di Maroun Askar ha lasciato dei melodie inedite, 12 corti, quelli più semplici per i bambini, per utilizzare per questo progetto. Armonizzazione non è una grande produzione. Queste sono fatte tutto il tempo nelle scuole di musica per il primo anno di studio armonia. Ritiene che costano denaro, se gli arrangiamenti sono fatte dal venerato compositore in residenza? 

Come questo è la 7° edizione della Lampada Magica, si può paragonare a quello che hanno fatto il passato. Come molte scuole di musica, che pubblicano il loro proprio materiale senza grandi spese, sia nei locali (fotocopia o il centro stampa proprio) o inviarlo a un negozio locale.

Un libretto di 32 pagine è già stato prodotto principalmente in bianco e nero, simile a quelli precedenti, quindi questo non avrebbe potuto essere la spesa principale. Secondo loro, per armonizzare le melodie non è  “operazione non così facile”, perché gli accordi vanno da sinistra a destra e le melodie vanno da destra a sinistra. Nessun grosso problema, in realtà, poiché essi hanno i loro libri di inni stampati nella direzione opposta, quindi ci deve essere un programma già in atto. Traslitterazione è usato però con le lingue che vanno da destra a sinistra con la musica, o separando ogni sillaba – nessun grande inconvenienza.

Essi indicano che altre scuole utilizzeranno le partiture, ma se non si insegna gli studenti a leggere la musica a ritroso, è praticamente inutilizzabile per loro. Ancora unavolta, quanto costa inviare un libretto di 32 pagine sia attraverso la posta o via internet a poche scuole? 

“Quest’anno c’è una grande novità in aggiunta a tutto il resto” un CD sarà fatto per accompagnare il libro – davvero molto costoso! Una  registrazione della manifestazione sarà trasformata in un DVD. Quanto è che – $300? Portando in bambini delle scuole locali per il concerto e l’aggiunta di alcuni strumenti, è quella in cui il resto dei 9.000 euro sta andando?

In Medio Oriente, la Lampada Magica ha sempre un genio dentro che soddisferà ogni desiderio quando si strofinano sulla parte esterna. La Custodia dice “abbiamo una situazione di emergenza”. AVSI e MAE, rispondono in effetti, come il genio, ” il tuo desiderio è il mio comando”.

*Forse gli italiani sono pronti di gettare via i soldi e che non possiamo fare la matematica semplice possono accettare che 9.430 euro sono necessari per armonizzare le melodie semplice, pubblicare, eseguire e distribuire ad alcune scuole. I locutori inglesi tendono ad essere più circospetti e critichi, e sicuramente non pronti a sprecare denaro su progetti in silenzio come pecore.

Ma vi prego di notare che la Chiesa non ha bisogno di tutti quei soldi per un progetto di piccole dimensioni e alla pomposamente lo ricevono di certo non indurre in errore il pubblico. Il modo in cui si giustificano è semplicemente ridicolo per chi conosce un poco di musica e di come queste cose siano fatte. Ci sono emergenze in Cisgiordania, orfanotrofi, ecc. – ma questo non è uno di loro.


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