IMMF graduates present documentaries at graduation event
“The Mekong River: a Lifeline in Peril”
Sarah McLean, IMMF Executive Director, with
Peter Malhotra, US Consul General Michael Morrow and his wife,
Shannon, at the Amari Rincome Reception.
Last Friday, the Chiang Mai Mail was privileged to be invited
to attend a Graduation Ceremony for the promising young South East Asian
journalists from Thailand, Burma, Laos and Cambodia who had just completed
the latest Indochina Media Memorial Foundation course entitled “The Mekong
River: a Lifeline in Peril”. Held on the roof terrace of the Amari Rincome,
the event’s guests of honour included Michael Morrow, the US Consul General
in Chiang Mai, with his wife Shannon, and Police General Chavalit Yodmani,
chairman of the foundation for 5 years, whose distinguished career included
support and involvement in a number of His Majesty the King’s projects, and
also in the provision of alternative crops in areas of opium eradication.
Kalayanee, ImagesAsia Director, Police General Chavalit Yodmani, IMMF
Chairman and Sarah McLean, IMMF Executive Director (l/r), all enjoying the
rooftop reception at the Amari Rincome Hotel.
The evening began with a warm welcome to all by Sarah McLean, the
foundation’s executive director, who thanked both the evening’s organiser,
Karin, and the US Consul for their invaluable help. An address by Pol. Gen.
Chavalit followed, during which he congratulated the young graduates on
their achievements and thanked their trainers, Jay Mowat and Kalayanee
Sitthipong. He pointed out that the new generation of journalists are in a
strong position not only to be able to raise awareness of environmental
issues across the region, but to work together to secure the future of the 5
countries bordering the Mekong River. “Study these countries, learn about
them and report their needs. Find the information - then give the truth -
both the good and the bad points”, he advised.
of the Graduates networking on the roof of the Amari Hotel.
After the presentation of the certificates, and a short speech of thanks by
Sarah McLean, a welcome buffet dinner was served on the roof terrace, giving
time for everyone to relax, get to know each other, and network. After
dinner came the high point of the evening, the presentation of the short
documentaries produced by the students during the four-week course on the
theme of “The Mekong River: a Lifeline in Peril”. The documentaries focused
on the change in the river’s ecology since the building of giant
hydro-electric dams at the headwaters in China of the mighty river, and the
blasting of huge areas of its rapids, causing massive and unprecedented
fluctuation in its flow. Interviews with fishermen from the villages on the
river banks, whose livelihoods traditionally depended on the river’s
proximity, revealed that their catches had decreased to such an extent that
very few working boats remained. As a result, many villagers had been forced
to relocate to towns in the region in order to find work. The plight of the
famous, now endangered giant catfish was highlighted as an indication of the
increasing danger to the fragile environment of the river and its
surroundings. The disruption of the natural flow of the river, caused by the
controlling in China of water output through the dams, results in a “high
tide” and “low tide” every day, and is thought to impede spawning patterns.
One fifth of the annual flow of water in the Mekong comes from China; in the
dry season this accounts for 50-70% of the river’s water content. Earlier
this year, it was reported that water levels were so low that tourist boats
were not able to operate; another example of the effect on local inhabitants
and livelihoods of the interruption in the great river’s natural flow. In
spite of continuing protests both national and international, begun even
before the dams were built, it would seem that the situation is now
irreversible, and that the precious environment of the river and its
surrounding areas will be changed for ever, with unknowable consequences.
The Indochina Media Memorial Foundation was founded in 1991 by British
photojournalist Tim Page, who was badly wounded whilst covering the Vietnam
War, and is dedicated to all those killed whilst covering the wars in
Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia since 1945. It is registered in the UK as a
charitable trust, and in Thailand as a foundation, and is dedicated to
improving the standards of professional journalism in the South East Asian
region. The foundation provides journalism training courses for working
journalists from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, and concentrates on
reviewing basic skills and promoting good journalistic practice. The courses
are given in the English language; however, workshops are also provided,
with translators available for those whose lack of English prevent them from
attending the training courses. Financial support and other assistance comes
from private organisations, government agencies and private individuals
worldwide. The foundation, a non-profit organisation, operates a “hands-on”
policy, with minimal overheads; board members, trustees and supporters give
freely of their time, knowledge and experience, with paid professionals
being employed in training, accounting and administration. Based in Chiang
Mai, its philosophy is based on this simple statement, “Whilst we remember
those who died, our focus is helping the living - our colleagues in
societies emerging from decades of war, poverty and isolation”.
The foundation would like to invite anyone who is committed to the
development of journalism particularly in the Indochina region, to
contribute to their journalism training courses. For further information,
please visit their website at www.immf.org, or go directly to
Phitsanu Thepthong, Editor of the Chiang Mai
Mail, with the ‘Dream Team Ladies’.
Guest of Honour Police General Chavalit Yodmani
(centre) with the graduates of the Indochina Media Memorial Foundation’s
latest training course.
An evening of dessert, wine and decadence!
ArtSpace on 7 does it again!
A rare treat for the Chiang Mai Mail team last Wednesday came in the
form of an invitation to the artistic community centre ArtSpace on 7’s
latest offering entitled “5th Avenue meets the Cotton Club”, featuring
the ever-popular songs of those two American “greats”, Cole Porter and
Duke Ellington. The star of the show was the classically trained Antoine
Garth, already popular in Chiang Mai; his smooth, seductive, dark brown
voice and “narrative” interpretations delighted the audience.
Garth enchants the ‘full house’ audience with his amazing voice.
The first set comprised classic Cole Porter numbers such as “From This
Moment On”, “Every Time We Say Goodbye”, and the all-time favourite,
“Night and Day”, sung by Antoine almost as a soliloquy; its slow tempo
and introspective interpretation giving added meaning to the much-loved
lyrics. Between the numbers, Antoine took the opportunity to instruct
his audience in the contrast between the upmarket New York Broadway
scene during the 1920’s and 30’s, and the other side of the tracks in
Harlem, the world-famous Cotton Club, host to so many great jazz singers
and bands. He also mentioned that after the lights of Broadway had
dimmed for the night, the Hi-So audiences hightailed it down to the
Cotton Club to party with the locals ‘till dawn!
Antoine’s second set was a tribute to one of the greatest jazz musicians
of all time, the gravelly-voiced genius, Duke Ellington. Starting with
“Satin Doll”, he transported his audience to the smoky atmosphere of a
basement club in Harlem at 4 am, with a few lonely guys slumped at
tables mourning their lost loves. Until, of course, the upbeat numbers
such as “It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing”, which
definitely did have that swing, broke the mood!
An amazing evening of nostalgia and great American standards in an
intimate setting ended with Bradley Dean Whyte adding his praise and
thanks both to Antoine and to his intrepid accompanist Lindsay Stevenson
for a musical experience that will stay in our memories.
A group of music lovers gathered at ArtSpace
last week, including Janjira,
Natasha, Natalie, Englebert, Melanie and the owner, Chadwick.
Chiang Mai celebration of the 110th Philippines Independence Day
Love, laughter, friendship and music
Some of the enthusiastic members
of the Filipino community who attended the meeting.
Filipinos in Chiang Mai celebrated last Saturday their country’s
110th anniversary of its independence from Spain. The annual
event was held this year at the Lanna Palace Hotel, and included
the bi-annual election of the President and officials of the
Association of Filipinos in Thailand’s Northern Region Chapter,
begun in Chiang Mai in 1996 with 70 members. The Filipino
community in Chiang Mai itself now numbers around 200, comprised
mainly of teachers, missionaries, musicians and singers.
The election of association officers, Filipino style, occurred
before lunch and came as somewhat of a shock to the Mail’s
photographer and columnist. A conference room full of happy,
laughing people, chatting with their friends, smiling and
welcoming newcomers, and taking the occasional break to listen
to, join in with and applaud a mini-concert by four members of
the community with instruments and great voices doesn’t bear
much resemblance to the normal Western style of such a meeting!
After the new President of the Association and its other
officials had been elected, the outgoing President, Roxanne
Oddie, gave her farewell speech in Tagalog - to this point the
proceedings, MC’d also by Roxanne, had been in both English and
Tagalog - during which she related her experiences and her
emotions during her presidency to a hugely appreciative
audience, who received her words with laughter, love and much
applause. Everyone was thanked for exercising their right to
choose in the elections, and the newly elected officials were
welcomed with the words, “the ball is in your court - keep your
eye on it”, and, indeed, it was - a large white football
decorated with the Association’s symbol and the Filipino flag!
Gentle chords on a guitar played by one of the musicians
accompanied the speech throughout.
The swearing-in of the new officials came next, then everyone
present pledged their love and loyalty to their country, their
community and their association, followed by a short prayer, a
great lunch, and more festivities. Throughout the celebration,
the warmth, the welcome, the friendliness, the laughter and the
sheer fun shared between everyone present cast a glow over the
entire memorable day.
The Reverend swears in the new
committee members for their 2 year term.
A break for music - the audience
enjoying a sing-a-long at the very lively meeting.
The outgoing committee, after having
served for two years.
Renaissance music - Renaissance food - a fascinating evening
Sacred songs take audience back in time
Antoine Garth, (tenor), Anastasia
Isanina, (alto), Ong Art Kanchaisak,
(counter tenor/soprano), and Jonas Dept, (base), singing sacred motels
by Ludovico Grossi da Viadana.
Both audience and performers had a
out the Spirit House restaurant and bar.
Paul, Alexander and Ed being served
some great food by ‘part-time waiter’ Antoine.
The amazingly versatile classically trained tenor
Antoine Garth provided yet another delightful evening for his
many fans last week - the second in 8 days! On June 11 at
ArtSpace on 7, he took us on a journey back in time to New York
in the 1920’s and 30’s with his jazz and swing presentation of
“5th Avenue meets the Cotton Club”; on June 18, at the unique
antique-decorated restaurant and bar, the Spirit House, he and a
few friends took us on an even longer journey into the past - to
the flourishing centre of early church music in the late 16th
and early 17th centuries - Northern Italy.
taking a break, with two happy listeners.
Encompassing the cities of Venice, Milan and Florence, and
centred on that Renaissance masterpiece of cathedral
construction, San Marco in Venice, the new style of church music
owed its birth to the Council of Trent, (held in 1570 as a
reaction to the Lutheran Christian revolution), in that a new
emphasis was placed on the understanding of the words of the
sacred texts used in the Masses, motets, sacred concertos and
psalm settings in order to involve the congregation in worship
in a more personal way. During this time, particularly in
Catholic countries, it was not considered “seemly” for women to
perform in public or on stage; as soprano and alto voices were a
necessity, the gap was filled highly successfully by the
castrati -adolescent boys whose vocal chords had enlarged due to
hormones and who submitted voluntarily to castration in order to
pursue a singing career. As adults they had full power and vocal
control, together with the purity of voice and range of a boy
soprano or alto - the sounds they were able to produce were
described as exquisite and “as the angels in heaven would sing”.
Castrati were, quite understandably, difficult to work with,
but, if successful, they became wealthy, powerful and very
famous. Almost all music of the period, both secular and sacred,
solo and choral, will have been written with castrati in mind,
as all church choirs contained these extraordinary vocalists. In
these modern times, the purity and beauty of early sacred music
finds its expression in recitals by many different types of
voices; the counter-tenor voice is closest we are able to come
to the original sounds.
solo, with Jonas at the keyboard.
To complement the musical offerings, Steve and his team had
prepared some matching culinary offerings, described in the menu
as a “Renaissance repast”, and featuring such delights as “Soupe
of the Wilde Mushroom - picked at dawn in the forest by shy
maidens”. Probably not in a Chiang Mai forest, then… and “Smoked
Roast of Tenderloin of Porke - a devoted approximation of ye
elusive wilde boar”. The “Rules of the House” for the evening
included, “No foule language or speaking in the manner of a
Viking”, and, “No tilting or jousting within the establishment”.
In the event, everyone was too busy meeting, greeting and eating
to tilt or joust!
After the meal(e) came the concert itself, which began with
Antoine singing “O Maria, Mater dei Genetrix”, a hymn to the
Virgin Mary composed by Ignazio Donati, (1570-1638), accompanied
on keyboard by Jonas Dept. Donati wrote sacred music in the new
“concertato” style pioneered by the composers of the Venetian
School, and held a prestigious post at the cathedral in Milan
for the last part of his life. Antoine’s powerful, focused and
evenly produced sound and fine diction did full justice to the
lovely hymn. For his second selection, he chose two pieces by
Alessandro Grandi (1575-1630), more florid in style and with
contrasting dynamics, and again beautifully sung using a
slightly edgier tone to suit the ornamentation. Grandi had been
a singer himself, and also held the post of Director of Music at
Ferrara Cathedral. Late in life he worked under Monteverdi
himself for several years.
The closest, (and magical), experience of comparison between the
sounds of the original castrati voices and a present-day singer
was provided by Antoine’s pupil, the counter-tenor Ong Art
Khanchaisak, with his three secular songs by the English
composer John Dowland, (1563-1626), “Daphne was not so Chaste”,
“Lady, if you spite me” and “Whoever thinks or hopes of love”,
beautifully rendered with a full, pure, rich and powerful yet
ethereal sound. An unaccompanied motet by Ludovico Grossi da
Viadana, (1560-1627), sung by both audience and performers
Antoine, Ong, and Anastasia Isanina, (alto), and Jonas Dept,
(bass), was very well received by the audience, with the pitch
being held accurately and a clear, clean tone throughout, a feat
not quite as easy as it sounds!
The finale of the concert, again sung by Antoine, was
Monteverdi’s “Laudate Dominum”, a sacred piece which very
clearly demonstrated the development of musical style during the
period. The musical genius Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), wrote
his first published music, motets and sacred madrigals, as a
child; by the time he was 37 he was famous in his own right and
was firmly established at San Marco in Venice. His work,
regarded by some as revolutionary, bridged the gap between the
music of the Renaissance and the following Baroque period. His
compositions included one of the earliest operas, “L’Orfeo”,
still regularly performed today, as well as his two last
masterpieces, also operas, “Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria” and
“L’Incoronazione di Poppea”.
The hallmark of early music is the florid ornamentation of
trills, arpeggios, and other embellishments which, in the
original performances, would have been left to the singers
themselves to provide and which were often fiendishly difficult
and extremely showy. These ornamentations, of which there were
many during the concert, were extremely well handled by both
Antoine and Ong, with great flexibility and no loss of tone,
focus or edge, especially in the Monteverdi, a highly ornamented
piece. A truly magical evening, enjoyed enormously by all who
listened, fascinated, to sacred music written thousands of miles
away from Chiang Mai, during a period hundreds of years ago,
when the world was a very different place.
For those of us who now can’t get enough of Antoine’s varied
musical talents, he will be in concert again on June 28 at the
Shangri-La Hotel for a classical music concert as part of the
International Song Festival. Entitled, “The Poet’s Echo”, and
featuring Antoine, together with Santi and Jonas Dept, who will
be performing Schumann’s “Dichterliebe” and French songs by
Debussy and Faure. The concert begins at 6:30 in the hotel’s
recital hall, and will be followed by an optional dinner at the
Kad Kafe at 8 pm. Tickets, available through Santi Music School,
053 224 344, cost 300 baht for the concert alone, 650 baht for
concert and dinner.