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Violins on Chiang Rai hills
The charm of Lamphun
Violins on Chiang Rai hills
Tribes on the fly to Belgium with Geertje Podevyn
The Chiang Rai Youth and Hill Tribes Violin Concert which
took place on Sunday August 20 at Insii Thai House, Maechan, was the
culmination of a wonderful musical project done in collaboration with
Belgian violinist Geertje Podevyn, the Chiang Rai Youth Violin Orchestra and
the Rotary Club of Maechan, Chiang Rai.
violinist Geertje Podevyn (Khun Gerty)
Among the 200 invited guests, H.E. Jan Matthysen, ambassador of Belgium to
Thailand, could also witness what Podevyn has achieved in only two months
with young students who never played before: The Chocolate sound of Violin
Invited to Thailand by Count Gerald van der Straten Ponthoz, she came to
introduce the violin to 23 hill tribes students of Suksa Song Kraw Maechan
School during the months of July and August.
Podevyn gave her lessons at Insii Thai House, residence of Count Gerald and
Weerapong Boonklieng, a place well known among the local residents for
hosting art exhibitions and other exclusive charity events. The traditional
Thai-style environment of the property was ideal for concentration and
Paramet, conductor of the Chiang Rai Youth Violin Orchestra, teaches more
than 300 young violinists in Chiang Rai.
The progress of the students towards a perfect musical
sound has been astonishing and after only two months they were able to be
part of this exceptional concert performed in the beautiful grounds of Insii
Thai House together with 40 students of Ajarn Paramet and his Chiang Rai
Youth Violin Orchestra.
Violin Wonderland, Geertje Podevyn’s innovative approach to violin
teaching, is based on the perfect fifth, the interval of the strings of the
violin, and refers to old Flemish music from the medieval period. It is also
based on the interval of the Thai violin, the sau duang (two-string violin).
With this method, the sound of the young violinists looked like musical
eagles flying over Insii Thai House, very close to the sweetness of the Thai
music and the purity of Flemish medieval music from de Machaut and Orlando
di Lasso; natural beauty.
Violin Wonderland is like the Suzuki method, first without written music but
based on listening, feelings, the right movement, emotion and good food.
As Thailand is a country full of beauty and feelings, Geertje Podevyn
explored a new approach, different from the Japanese northern style: more
emotion from Southeast Asia.
Violin Wonderland combines Podevyn’s experience and passion for violin
with the excellent views of the 19th-century Belgian violin master Charles
de Beriot, the teacher of Eugene YSAYE, founder of the Queen Elizabeth
The Maechan children have been the first to fully experience Violin
Wonderland and it proved to be very successful.
3 students from Suksa Song Kraw Maechan School who will go to Belgium next
March: Saithip Bangkomnet, Chudaporn Wichaiya and Somphong Saeleaw.
They not only were eager to learn but they also had a lot
of fun, laughing and making jokes with Geertje Podevyn, who speaks Thai
“dek dek”, and cooking delicious cookies and pizzas!
Happiness has been the main reward for everyone involved, especially when,
at the end of the concert, it was announced that 3 of the hill tribes’
students would fly to Belgium next March to keep learning with Geertje
They will stay in Europe for two months, improve their violin skills and
learn the basics of the stringed-instrument maker’s profession.
Knowing that very few people in Thailand are qualified to repair violins and
other stringed instruments, it will be an occasion for the hill tribe
students to reach a brighter future with what they love: Music.
Pictures of the hill tribes’ violin project and concert can be viewed on
the website of Insii Thai House at: www.insiithaihouse.com
tribes violin students with (back row) Geertje Podevyn (left), Suksa Song
Kraw Maechan School director Wilaiwan (center), and Count Gerald van der
Straten Ponthoz (right) after the concert at Insii Thai House.
Gerald van der Straten Ponthoz (left), who invited Geertje Podevyn to
Thailand, the 3 students who will go to Belgium and the director of Suksa
Song Kraw Maechan School, Wilaiwan (right).
successful concert, the hill tribe violin students pose with Geertje
Podevyn, Wilaiwan and Count Gerald van der Straten Ponthoz.
tribes violin students pose for a photo with (back row from left to right):
Anurak, the music teacher at the school; Valerie McKenzie of “Morning
Talk” (Channel 11); Geertje Podevyn; the spouse of the ambassador of
Belgium in Thailand; H.E. Jan Matthysen, ambassador of Belgium in Thailand
and Wilaiwan, the director of Suksa Song Kraw Maechan School.
The charm of Lamphun
Enter Lamphun at the North gate and a main street lined
with Chinese shop fronts leads to a tiny department store - the Jamfar Plaza
- four floors of jumbled displays connected by a simple staircase.
Queen Cham Dhavi monument keeps watch on all that passes by.
There are no traffic jams, cinemas, skyscrapers or hotels in the city and
the nightlife comprises one karaoke lounge and a sing-a-song restaurant.
Regular eateries are also a scarcity and apart from Laenpae Lamphun
Restaurant - down by the river - most diners out can be found at a food
centre situated near the Queen Cham Dhavi monument.
Character, charm and cultural preservation make Lamphun - formerly known as
Hariphunchai - well worth a visit, as well as its beauty and far reaching
history, which is very much in evidence today.
Much of the old wall has been renovated, the gates reconstructed, and the
Kuang River winds its way between grassy banks to the southeast, where Wat
Phra That Hariphunchai can be found, with its solid gold umbrella,
Shan-styled structures, drum, gong, and a sala that houses four of
massive gong is a site to see.
Temples are abundant in Lamphun - some of them over 1,000
years old - and Wat Cham Dhavi, Wat Mahawan and Wat Phra Yun shouldn’t be
A useful stockpile of information on the history of the area is available at
the Haripunchai National Museum on Inthayongyot Road, where exhibits include
historical, developmental and archaeological items. There are prehistoric
human skeletons, ancient utensils and artifacts from the Dvaravati,
Haripunchai, Lanna and Rattanakosin periods.
A special room is devoted to a collection of inscription stones scribed in
Mon and Lanna. This exhibition is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but is closed
on Mondays and Tuesdays.
When local festivals are compared to Chiang Mai, Lamphun’s Songkran and
Loy Krathong are low key affairs, and the principal religious sites of the
area are quietly commemorated by Song Nam Phra That Hariphunchai in May. But
every August, hoards of visitors flock to see the parades and contests of
the Lamphun Longan Festival.
Phra That Hariphunchai has a solid gold umbrella, Shan-styled structures,
drum, gong, and a sala that houses four of Buddha’s footprints.
The most famous longan growing area in Thailand is
situated 8 kilometres outside the city at Ban Nong Chang Khun; and since
King Rama V introduced this fruit to the region, it has become one of
Lamphun’s most important trading assets during the 7th and 8th months of
Behind Lamphun’s docile appearance the wheels of industry are kept
turning. Pha Mai Yok Dok is a silk elaborately woven at Tambon Wiangyong,
Muang district. Originally used for the northern royal court, it became
popular during the reign of King Rama VI and is still in great demand for
buyers preferring traditional designs.
The market at Pa Sang offers a wide range of locally hand-made cotton
products, and softwood carvings are available at Mae Tha district - about 25
kilometres from town on the Lampang Road.
The most significant commercial development for the region has been the
Lamphun Industrial Estate. Completed in 1983, over 50 companies currently
provide thousands of people with employment on 1,788 rai of land.
One could assume that this injection of industry would alter the social and
cultural landscape of Lamphun, but so far there are no signs of this. No
demolition or building sites are in evidence and temple chedis are still
among the tallest structures in town.
the old Lamphun wall has been renovated.
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