OUR COMMUNITY
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Chiang Mai Friends’ group’s latest lively meeting

An ambitious and challenging recital by tenor Antoine Garth

Expat Ladies’ Luxury Lunch at Le Coq d’Or

Chiang Mai Friends’ group’s latest lively meeting

“Khon Chiang Mai” - people of Chiang Mai

Meeting friends old and new, expat and Thai, at Chiang Mai Friends’ group.

CMM Reporters
Chiang Mai Friends’ group is going from strength to strength - with 63 people attending their recent monthly meeting held on June 25 at the Suan Pak restaurant near Airport Plaza. Also in attendance were representatives from NBL TV, the channel 11 mainly cultural service providers whose “Lifestyle” programme is aired on Fridays at 5 p.m. Khun Boong, the group’s president, whose inspiration and wish for integration between the expat and Thai communities resulted in the setting up of the Chiang Mai Friends’ group, welcomed “these positive and good-hearted people from all walks of life, both Thai and foreign,” to the meeting, and encouraged everyone present to think of themselves as “Khon Chiang Mai” - people of Chiang Mai.
She reported that plans for next year’s Songkran Festival are already being made by the municipal authority, led by the Mayor of Chiang Mai, Dr. Duentemduang na Chiengmai, and are focusing even more on the traditional and cultural aspects of the festival. As well as extended “safe areas” with hopefully more volunteer expats in attendance, it is expected that there will be a special area for older people, both Thai and foreign, where they may sit in order that younger people may pay their respects in the traditional manner. Anyone who has previously experienced this ceremony will know that it is touching and beautiful. Songkran 2009 will emphasise and promote tradition and understanding between all “Khon Chiang Mai”. Expat residents are being asked to submit comments and suggestions for next years’ festivities, which will be passed on to the Mayor.
The aim of Chiang Mai Friends’ is to promote education and friendship and to work together to protect and enhance the local environment. As part of the English language education project now in place, 95 municipality staff are now receiving spoken English lessons from native-speaking volunteers, with the cooperation and agreement of the immigration authorities. The municipal schools arm of the project is also well under way - more teachers are now required for both programmes!
For March next year, an “English Camp” is being planned, which will include students from Ban Papai village and the municipality, integrating the “one visitor, 1 tree” project with the planting of “friendship tress” here in Chiang Mai. To expand recent efforts to plant trees in Chiang Mai to protect and improve the environment, the municipality is planning to work together with headmen and residents of villages in outlying areas who would appreciate more trees.
A feature of the meeting was an enjoyable and informative talk given by Hugh Leon, a resident in Thailand for 40 years, entitled, “Learning to be comfortable in Thailand.” Amongst his amusingly worded hints and advice were much appreciated references to “expectations which get in the way of reality” and the necessity to accept things as they are, both culturally and practically. Hugh also pointed out that language is the key to understanding culture, and that, for new arrivals, flexibility and acceptance are also keys - to a happy life. He recommended that we “don’t bring it with us, just find it here!”
Khun Boong also requested suggestions and comments on the Education programme and on the environment, and announced that the next Chiang Mai Friends’ meeting will be held on July 23, (venue to be announced), when the speaker will be a Thai who spent 14 years living in the USA, and continues to travel worldwide; his subject will be “A Thai looks at Farangs.” It was also suggested that meetings should, in future, be held twice a month - Khun Boong would like to hear your views on this as well. For more information about Chiang Mai Friends’ group, please visit www. retireinchiangmai.com, or email on [email protected] Come to the next meeting, meet new friends, both expat and Thai, and enjoy this lovely city!

 

An ambitious and challenging recital by tenor Antoine Garth

Sensitive interpretation of songs by Schumann, Fauré and Debussy

Jean-Pierre Kirkland
A daring and ambitious programme of classical songs attracted a good-sized audience to the Shangri-La Hotel on Saturday, June 28. Daring and ambitious are used here because a number of the songs are relatively unknown even in Western concert halls, and the songs themselves are challenging from a different aspect - does the music faithfully reflect the intentions of the poets? The poets themselves are household names in France and Germany - Hermann Hesse, Paul Verlaine and the indomitable Baudelaire. The further challenge is then to see how well the performers can interpret the music to fully emulate the wishes of both poets and composer - a hard task at the best of times and an even harder one when much of the music is relatively unknown.

Santi Saengtong, Jonas Dept and Antoine Garth (l/r).

The tenor Antoine Garth, the tenor, went a long way to achieving this goal - his voice, although a little brittle at times, was strident and forceful where it needed to be, especially in some of the very evocative Rhineland descriptions in the Schumann ‘Dichterliebe,’ balanced by the lyricism and tenderness needed for some of the chromatic dreaminess of many of the passages in the Debussy. The piano accompaniment throughout the Schumann was tender and delicate, yet impressively powerful in the forte passages and rarely drowning out the voice except occasionally in the quieter sections where the voice was in its lowest register. Overall, this was a sensitive and engaging interpretation by singer and accompanist.
The second part of the concert was the most interesting - Antoine sang settings by both Fauré and Debussy of two poems by Paul Verlaine; the musical contrasts were a joy to the ear and Antoine’s voice was at its fullest and richest in the delightfully melodic settings by Faure where his diction was clear as crystal and his phrasing impeccable. A similar realization came in the Debussy settings of the same poems, with their nostalgic and dreamy, almost eerie nature, Antoine and Santi Saenthong sensitive to each nuance with the accompanist giving Antoine the necessary support and firm playing so that the voice shone through clearly.
The concert drew to a conclusion with five settings by Debussy of Baudelaire poems. Here, the poetry is far superior to the music and Antoine, admirably accompanied by Jonas Dept, gave as meaningful an interpretation as he could to the wonderful words. His major problem here was nothing to do with technique - it was how to vary the otherwise rather dreary ‘sameness’ that pervades Debussy’s writing. He was successful to a large extent, especially in the final verse of the first song and in the middle section of the fourth song - and once again, the sensitive and at times poignant support from Jonas as accompanist made an invaluable contribution to achieving this.
Overall this was an interesting and challenging evening which it is hoped will be repeated. The helpful programme notes explained that Antoine was a specialist in early and new music and it would be interesting, and maybe more stimulating, to hear a range of songs from those periods rather than from the middle to late Romantic periods. But it was nevertheless a good evening’s entertainment and we should be very grateful to Santi and his music school, along with the accomplished Jonas, for arranging and supporting a tenor of the calibre of Antoine, who should be encouraged to appear again soon.


Expat Ladies’ Luxury Lunch at Le Coq d’Or

Caesar Salad instructions included…

The Expat Ladies’ Lunch Group, meeting recently at Le Coq d’Or.

Last month’s regular Expat Ladies’ Lunch date on June 25 was more than a little luxurious, as it was held at one of Southeast Asia’s most highly regarded French restaurants, Le Coq d’Or. Only twelve of the regulars managed to attend this time, as many were out of town or otherwise engaged - as the word gets round about the delicious and varied menu and ever-attentive service provided, those unfortunates may have cause to regret their absence! Lunch was served at 12.30, with, quite simply, the best Caesar salad ever as a starter - as a special treat each table was shown how to make the very special version of this ever-popular salad. Involving what seemed like dozens of ingredients such as oils, capers, anchovies, cheeses, garlic, (lots!), etc, and a lot of beating in a large wooden bowl with a large wooden spoon, it seemed unlikely that most of us would ever get the time to replicate, but the result was delicious. For the main course we were given a choice of duck in orange sauce or salmon, both of which were served in generous portions, and both of which were highly appreciated. Finishing the meal with a mega-calorie dessert and excellent coffee or tea, we all agreed that the experience had been well worth the slightly higher price than is usual at these monthly get-togethers. Oddly enough, the noise level of the general conversation was slightly more muted than usual - possibly because we were all too busy eating! And very grateful to Sally Ward for organising the experience!
Although Sally will still be organising the venues for future meetings, the email coordinator will be Fran Decoster, as Sally is now very busy with the run-up events for next January’s Hillside 4 Charity Rooftop Party. If you’d like to join the Expat Ladies at one of their monthly lunches, or wish to be kept informed of future venues and dates, please email Fran on ([email protected] yahoo.com).