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Srinehru Hmong school gets new Facilities

Jazz under a Lanna sky on the lawn

Third Debussy concert

Srinehru Hmong school gets new Facilities

Scott Jones

Stunning road to Srinehru Hmong School on Doi Pui becomes a river during the rainy season.

If you had a high-powered telescope and knew exactly where to look, you could see the Srinehru Hmong School peeking through the jungle on Doi Pui. Standing on the mountain, you feel like you’re a few hundred years in the past looking down on Chiangmai in the present.

As the crow flies, Srinehru School is about eight kilometres from the centre of Chiangmai. By roads, perfect to non-existent, it’s considerably further. You take the scenic, beautifully paved road to Wat Doi Sutep for 32 km, then several more past the Phu Ping Palace. Soon the road narrows to one asphalt lane snaking through the jungle. At the junction to the town of Doi Pui, you take a right towards the national park and the road degenerates quickly. The right fork at the first park building takes you down a dirt road to the main park that will test your courage, driving skills and your vehicle.

From the park to the village of Khun Chang Khian where Srinehru is located, you’d better have a 4-wheel drive, an off-road motorcycle, a bicycle and massive legs, or a Honda Dream with a native Thai chauffeur and several tranquilizers. You’ll wonder whether you’re on a road or river bed. During the rainy season, it can officially be called a stream. The good news: It’s an absolutely stunning trip (especially in January when the Japanese cherry trees are in bloom) with a welcome stop at the coffee hut at a 30 year coffee plantation just before the town where you can reassemble your skeletal system.

Canteen extension allows students to eat together as well as adding more room for assembly and meetings.

Stories of kids injured in the toilets and being portaged to the hospital in Chiangmai during the rainy season compelled FERC (Foundation for the Education of Rural Children) to help the school. About 175 children attend Srinehru. Though they’ve had donations of solar power facilities and a fancy computer room from other organizations, it’s difficult to concentrate on learning when your legs are crossed because you don’t want to tackle the toilet. The entire septic system was disintegrating, the water system was marginal and the canteen had to serve lunch in several shifts. The sinister odours confirmed the need for assistance. The money for the project was raised in February 2005 at our 6th Annual FERC Gala Give and Live Benefit at Baan Wongmalee, but Mother Nature prevented construction completion until September.

Before: Dangerous broken toilets, leaking septic system and very bad odors.

Several folks from FERC, the Rotary Club and the Thai Worldwide Foundation ventured up one dry Saturday in late October to see the completed project and were greeted by most of the school children playing on the school field, dressed in their multi-colored, traditional Hmong clothing.

All of the facilities are built soundly and are now being used routinely. After a couple of growing seasons to cover the excavation and construction remnants, the buildings will complement the sweet, serene atmosphere of the school. We were treated to a few songs with clapping, wai-ing and thanks from all the children.

Now: New bank of safe, clean toilets for 175 Srinehru students.

The septic system, new toilets and canteen addition cost about 400,000 baht with a substantial portion of the expenses incurred by the transportation of materials up the mountain. The delivery of the water tank was halted by water from the sky and the stream road. The Rotary Club and the Dutch non-profit Samsara Foundation added another 30,000 baht for the water purification system. Annelie Hendriks from Samsara supervised the construction of the entire project.

While the rest of the folks rattled their bones back in their trucks, I chose to stroll the five kilometers to my motorcycle left near the park entrance. It was a bright sunny day, perfect for a stroll through the mountains. At the coffee hut, I met a couple of travelers from Belgium, and after a bit of conversation about why I was walking through the jungle with a riding jacket, gloves and helmet, the Muslim woman gave me 500 baht for another of our donation recipients, Children’s Garden Orphanage near Doi Saket, as her humanitarian service during the Islamic month of Ramadan. That money will take care of all lodging, food, education and medical expenses for the 30 kids at Children’s Garden for a day. Then I met another man on the road, Ron Bator from Canada and Chiangmai, who is looking for projects to help with a newly-formed Betterment for Life non-profit organization.
I think I’ll make it a point to walk through the jungle everyday.

FERC, a registered non-profit in USA and Thailand, partners with Give and Live, a registered non-profit in the USA, and the Samsara Foundation to raise funds, present events, build schools and dormitories, and provide learning materials, scholarships, and necessary living expenses for needy children in Thailand. Please visit our websites for more information and donation opportunities: www.giveandlive.org and www.rural-thai-edu cation.org.

Srinehru students in traditional Hmong dress sing thanks for the new facilities.

The water purification tank was waylaid by the water during the rainy season.

Jazz under a Lanna sky on the lawn

Michael Vogt

The Bangkok International Big Band were “In the mood” for a great performance

The ever-growing popularity of Jazz music, especially amongst young people, was clearly reflected last weekend, when around 600 music enthusiasts on the opening night came to see and hear, a great variety of Jazz music, on the lawn of the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi Resort Chiang Mai.

The performances covered many corners of Jazz music, be it Standard, Acid, Fusion, Big Band and Pop Jazz, and the stage was set amidst the magnificent backdrop of Chedis and architectural wonders, adding this special and unique extra touch of Lanna heritage, giving the festival itss name, “Jazz under a Lanna sky”.

Fusion Jazz with ETC, featuring Thostten on the trumpet

Jennifer Kim, one of the featured artists on both nights, said after her performance that “the feeling in Chiang Mai is very special, and distinguishes Jazz events from shows in other parts of the country. Here (in Chiang Mai), it all seems to be more natural, and we can feel the spirit of the audience on stage. Jazz festivals in other parts of the country are certainly great fun and entertaining, but they simply feel more commercial, whereby Chiang Mai is simply natural.”

Although Chiang Mai certainly has its own pool of prominent musicians such as “Big Boy and Friends”, bands and soloists were also brought in from Bangkok, such as “Breakfast Wine”, “ETC”, the “Bangkok International Big Band”, and soloist Sekpol Unsamran, better known as “Koh, Mr. Saxman” and Jennifer Kim, promoting her latest album “Nothing to lose”. As this festival took place on the eve of HM The King’s birthday, a known Jazz lover and musician himself, each band included one of His Majesty’s compositions, adding an auspicious touch to the festival.

Jennifer Kim and Koh Mr. Saxman during their jazzy rendition of “Quando quando”

The festival also aimed to promote tourism to Chiang Mai and the North, as well as creating awareness for, and interest in, “music” in general, especially to the younger ones. The Bangkok-based “Sax Society”, a music school founded by Koh and thus primarily and obviously focused on the saxophone, had a group of students performing, after having only studied for eight weeks. “There’s no better way of distracting young folks from drugs and alcohol abuse through music, and for us teachers it’s a challenging, yet rewarding mission
to search for that music
al talent sleeping inside
of everyone”, said Koh. More information via www. saxsociety.com.

Obsessed with the Dhara Dhevi as well as with Jazz music were (from left) Sun Subsaeng, Suchet Suwanmongkol, Koh Mr. Saxman, saxophonist Prasit “Sin” Sisuktaveerat, and Michael Vogt, Chiangmai Mail.

This Jazz festival was the first one after a break of 10 years, and it was not planned to be a big event. The organizers and musicians wanted to learn about Chiang Mai’s response and interest, and both were positive. Rest assured that Chiang Mai won’t have to wait another 10 years for the next festival, and organizers behind the scenes already spoke about bringing in international artists for 2006. It sounds like Jazz has found a new destination, and cool Jazz can now be enjoyed in the cool north.

The magnificent stage, perfectly illuminated and sound-checked

Third Debussy concert

Gus Peterson

Yuttapong Sakthamcharoen conducts Pitijet Vichitporn, Chaipreuk Mekara, Bennett
Lerner and Judith Utley in Ravel’s Introduction
et Allegro.

As was announced at the first concert of this festival in July, each Debussy concert will bring a different set of instruments. This time those were, besides the piano, the flute and the clarinet, and very prominently, the harp.

Debussy often used the harp to enrich the timbres in his orchestral works, but in many of his compositions the harp acts as a solo instrument. On this evening we listened to a beautiful example of this last group, “Deux dances” (Two Dances), composed in 1904, originally for harp and string orchestra. Both the ‘Dance sacr้e’ and the ‘Dance profane’ were magnificently interpreted by Judith Utley, with piano accompaniment from Bennet Lerner.

Judith came back at the end of the concert, when she played the solo part in Maurice Ravel’s “Introduction et Allegro” for harp, flute, clarinet and string quartet. Here again, the string part was played by Bennet Lerner on the piano. Although the undulating motion of the strings was somewhat missed, in this form the composition was favorably transformed into a kind of quartet, with the voices of Pitijet Vichiporn’s flute and Chaipreuk Mekara’s clarinet nicely competing with the silvery tones of Judith’s harp.

Annette George gave an intimate rendition of Debussy’s composition for solo flute, “Syrinx” (1913), which is considered by many musicians to be the ultimate piece for flute. The composer originally gave it the title “La flute de Pan”, referring to the Hellenistic river nymph Syrinx, who, while trying to escape from the god Pan, was transformed in reed, from which Pan then created the first shepherd’s pipe.

Harpist Judith Utley’s interpretations of Debus-sy and Ravel were great-ly appreciated by the public.

The name of the French composer was also present in Thorsten Wollmann’s composition “Prelude on the Name of Claude Debussy”. Chaipreuk Mekara played it on clarinet, with Bennett on the piano. After which followed Chaipreuk’s own composition “Young Memory”, also for clarinet and piano. The editor of the printed program in this case even gave the name of this piece in Thai, an honor that was not awarded to Debussy, whose often beautiful French titles were only given in their English translation.

Bennett Lerner again chose two compositions for piano solo from Debussy’s extensive list. He started with the picturesque “Suite bergamasque”, four dances, written in 1890. It includes one of Debussy’s best known piano pieces, “Clair de lune” (Moonlight), and was once described as ‘a first flowering of the essential Debussian atmosphere’. Later that evening he played the “Etudes pour le piano”, Book 1, giving it a very useful short verbal introduction. Written in the footsteps of Couperin and Chopin, they are truly ‘practice pieces’, but at the same time, they are poetic works of art, full of fantasy and charm. The interpreter here has the difficult task to overcome the considerable technical difficulties and make them sound like music. In both compositions Bennett Lerner proved that the fame he has earned as performer of Debussy’s piano music is well-deserved.

The 200 visitors to this concert proved that it is not impossible to arrive at Payap’s concert hall at night!

Happy musicians after a successful concert.