Ivan Kral

This week: The winner of our October competition; Radio Prague's special October 28 programme; St Vitus' Cathedral; street crime in the Czech Republic; new competition question for November. Listeners quoted: Nadia Alkon, Israel; Teodor Shepertycki, Canada; Victor Ling, Canada; Andrew H. Dral, US; Evelyn Coviello, US; David Eldridge, UK; Colin Law, New Zealand.

Hello and welcome to Mailbox.

First of all, thank you for the e-mails and greeting cards you sent us for the national holiday of October 28, the anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia in 1918. For example, Nadia Alkon from Israel sent us a beautiful e-card.

On that day we broadcast a special programme dedicated to patriotism in Czech music and on that subject, Mr Teodor Shepertycki from Ottawa, Canada sent us this query:

"My question stems from a very interesting 'Special News Report' about 'Czech patriotic music' on October 28. I found the article to be very informative, concise, and well-written. Much of the history associated with this subject was new to me. However, since no author(s) are credited for it I wondered whether such special reports are joint ventures by, perhaps, more than one person. Or, is there some other reason?"

If you look up the story on our website, you can see the names of the authors, David Vaughan and Patricia Goodson at the top of the page. I don't see how it would be possible for the names not to appear there simply because of the way Radio Prague's internet system works. The articles are saved automatically under the log-in name of the reporter who is saving them. I asked our internet team whether something like that would be possible, for example due to some quirk of the network, but they could not think of any such situation. So if you could not find the names there last week, it is a mystery, otherwise we have no reasons to hide the identity of our reporters.

Last week we also reported on the ruling of a Prague court which said Prague's monumental St Vitus' Cathedral belonged to the Catholic Church and not the Czech state. We got an e-mail from our listener Victor Ling, who is Chinese and listens to us in Canada.

"You discussed whether the cathedral belongs to the church or the people. I am a Catholic, but I think St Vitus' Cathedral should belong to the people. The cathedral was built by Emperor Charles IV who used public money to build it. The same goes for the romantic Charles Bridge, it belongs to the people to walk across it and enjoy the beauty. Since most Czech people are non Catholic, the minority Catholics cannot afford such a splendid cathedral. Let all people admire the wonderful art and historic heritage."

Thank you for that comment, Mr Ling.

Let us now return once more to a letter we read from two weeks ago that was sent to us by a listener from Australia and sharply criticised the state "of ethics and morality" in the Czech Republic.

Andrew H. Dral from California sent us this reaction to it:

"In regards to the comments about crime in Prague from Australia, I've been coming to the Czech Republic for ten years and have never had anything stolen or been accosted on the streets. I'm good to be robbed once or twice a year in the U.S., either my home or car. Prague is probably indicative of similar crime in any large city, yet I don't believe it's any worse than anywhere else. The natives have always told me to watch my wallet in the metro, but I've never had any problems. Counting the proper change from street vendors is another issue."

Thank you very much for your comments and valuable feedback and please keep those e-mails and letters coming.

And now it's time to announce the winner of last month's Mailbox competition. We asked you to tell us the name of a Czech-born rock musician who was born in Prague in 1948 but left for New York with his parents where he later played alongside Patti Smith, Iggy Pop and John Cale. After the fall of communism, he returned to his native Prague. At present, he is a songwriter, film composer and a sought-out producer.

The answer is not Jan Hammer as some of you wrote (we had Jan Hammer in the competition last year) but it is Ivan Kral. And here are some of the answers. This one came from Evelyn Coviello from New York.

"It took some detective work, but I figured out who collaborated with Iggy Pop and Patti Smith. The answer is Ivan Kral! This genre of music is before my time and I am not aware of his contemporary work. I cannot claim any prize to knowing the answer, because I didn't. So this deserves to go to someone who is acquainted with Mr. Kral's compositions. I'm wondering how popular he is in Czech Republic? I think I will seek out some of Ivan Kral's music, I saw a photo of him and he's quite hot for being 57!"

David Eldridge from England even sent us a link to a midi of one of Ivan Kral's songs.

"Ivan Kral has two well know songs, 'Bang Bang' and 'Dancing Barefoot'. A midi of 'Dancing Barefoot' I can't find. I love midis, the way in which they struggle to pretend they are something they aren't, real instruments."

And the winner this month is Colin Law from Auckland, New Zealand. Congratulations and your prize - an album by Ivan Kral - is in the post.

Photo: archive of Radio Prague
And now for our November question. We are looking for the name of one of the founding fathers of the world-famous fast-food chain McDonald's. Born in Chicago in 1902, the son of Czech immigrants from the town of Plzen, he tried many jobs before he met the brothers Dick and Mac McDonald. He went into business with them and acquired franchising rights to open a Mc Donald's restaurant of his own in 1955. With the opening of his first franchise he founded McDonald's Corporation (originally "McDonald's Systems, Inc."). He died a multimillionaire in 1984.

Please send us the name of the man by the end of November to the usual address, Radio Prague, 120 99 Prague, Czech Republic or [email protected].