HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

IMMF graduates present documentaries at graduation event

An evening of dessert, wine and decadence!

Chiang Mai celebration of the 110th Philippines Independence Day

Renaissance music - Renaissance food - a fascinating evening


IMMF graduates present documentaries at graduation event

“The Mekong River: a Lifeline in Peril”

Sarah McLean, IMMF Executive Director, with Elena Edwards,
 Peter Malhotra, US Consul General Michael Morrow and his wife,
Shannon, at the Amari Rincome Reception.

Tess Itura
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.

Sam 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.

Some 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 www.give2asia.org.

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.

Antoine 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 great evening
 out the Spirit House restaurant and bar.

Paul, Alexander and Ed being served some great food by ‘part-time waiter’ Antoine.

Tess Itura
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.

Antoine, 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.

Antoine, 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.