Santi School of Music –
A Hidden Gem
Tucked away behind the Kad Suan Kaew Shopping Mall on Soi 5 off
Thanon Sirimangklajarn is one of Chiang Mai’s hidden gems – the Santi School
of Music. Founded seven years ago by Santi Saengthong and his business
manager and administrator, Nusara Lipipatchanangkul, the school is a vibrant
and excellent centre of musical knowledge and learning. The privately-run
school offers expert professional tuition in the majority of instruments to
be found in a modern symphony orchestra – the full range of strings,
woodwind and brass; but on offer also are opportunities to learn traditional
Thai instruments such as the ‘Khim,’ a distant relation of the Eastern
European cimbalom or North American hammered dulcimer. The school boasts a
small choir and also offers vocal lessons in singing from traditional
through classical to popular music. The school really shouts its musical
message as one first enters the spacious reception room – it is packed with
musical paraphernalia such as pianos, a range of violins in glass cabinets,
musical scores, portraits of great composers on the walls and many displays
of students’ performances around the room. With 10 teachers, some full and
others part time, there are eight practice rooms and upstairs a large
performance room big enough to seat around forty people. The school is never
still – even in the late evening, students can be heard struggling with
technical sections of a Chopin etude or trying to capture the inimitable
spirit of a Schubert song, while a distant violin or flute can be heard as
their devotee students learn in this admirable environment and wonderful
Saengthong, founder and head of the Santi School of Music, seated at one of
Santi himself, at 39 years old, is one of the piano teachers with a heavy
schedule of lessons in addition to his two full days teaching at Prem
Tinsulanonda International School in Mai Rim, where he is the instrumental
facilitator. But Santi’s origins are not in music. He originally studied
linguistics at Naresuan University in Phitsanulok before settling in Chiang
Mai, where he continued his studies at Payap University for a while.
Fortunately for music lovers and music students in the North, he decided to
focus on music rather than his original studies and, with his background in
keyboard, he set off for Manchester, England, where he spent a full month
studying organ at the long-established Victoria University. After that, it
was back to Chiang Mai and the eventual founding of the school. With 130
students currently on roll, the school has widened its arena significantly
in recent times. It now presents an annual recital at the AUA auditorium for
its students, monthly student and teacher recitals, hosts classes in jazz
appreciation and regularly raises money for local charities through its
recitals and concerts. Young children are also included with classes in
music appreciation for children aged 2 and above. The pianos, of which there
are currently 13 in the school, are offered out for hire into the community
and members of the public are welcome to borrow a decent range of scores,
books, CDs and DVDs from the adequately stocked lending library.
Santi, whose favourite composer is Franz Liszt, enjoys travel and
photography. His excellent command of the English language has enabled him
to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western music so that his students can
benefit from his great enthusiasm, wide-ranging knowledge and enormous
experience. His dreams are to own and open a concert hall in Chiang Mai. For
his school, he wants his own students to have the finest facilities in which
to study, to have the best education possible in learning instruments or
singing so that standards of teaching and learning are constantly being
raised. More information can be found on the website:
The Eight Reindeer Monologues
The Gate Theatre brings wicked, adult humour to the stage
Provocative, intriguing and captivating! The Gate Theatre yet again
entices the Chiang Mai audience with its sexy production ‘The Eight Reindeer
Monologues.’ Written by Jeff Goode and directed by Gate Theatre’s very own
Stephan Turner, the play enthralled an exclusive audience in the classy
ambience of ArtSpace on 7.
a weird old reindeer with a movie background, played by Ralph Cotterill,
reminiscing about his trials and tribulations in the film industry.
The series of eight monologues bring a different, almost radical treatment
to the entire Christmas holiday theme. The dark comedy unfolds itself when
one of Santa’s reindeers accuses him of sexual assault. While the entire
episode is coming to light, the reindeers share their own stories. What
opens up is a Pandora’s Box of accusations, complete with tales of
perversion. Even the reputation of a saint is at stake, when the murky
business is revealed at the North Pole. The whole Christmas ‘thing’ is being
turned totally upside down.
Whilst the entire group of actors including professionals and armatures
managed to grip the audience’s attention, there were a few who exploited the
author’s wicked sense of humour entirely to their benefit. Ralph Cotterill,
as Hollywood, made the audience take the role quite seriously! The weird old
character, chattering on ‘ins and outs’ of the movie world and what a
reindeer goes through as part of that scene, made listeners laugh and wonder
simultaneously. Dave Arnold as Comet coaxed roars of laughter from the
audience with his witty style and natural delivery of comic lines, making
Comet totally believable and exposing his dark side to the audience with
ease and comfort.
At the same time, Dee Fancett made her presence felt by portraying Blitzen
in a subtle yet convincing way. The underlying politics in the lines of her
character kept the audience’s heads up during the performance. Vixen, played
by Laura Godtfredsen, was surely one of the most talked about and
controversial characters, with Laura’s finely delivered seductive mannerisms
and body language, hints towards womanhood, sexuality, morality and
so-called political correctness all relevant to the character. Similarly,
Brian Brown as Dasher brought a lot of energy to the stage and Brian Hubbard
as Donner managed to keep the interest going throughout the reindeer
narratives. Dancer, played by Santia, made much of the other feminine
presence amongst the reindeers.
Amongst all the performances, however, the actor, who truly brought the
stage to life with his wonderful performance, was Bradley Dean Whyte,
playing the ‘pink’ Cupid – the gay reindeer. Bradley’s way of being totally
comfortable Cupid’s skin made the character totally convincing and
enjoyable. The bold hints and gestures toward sex and his reindeer views on
sexuality made his entire performance totally intriguing and left many of
the audience open-mouthed!
The Gate Theatre deserves much praise for making the daring selection of
such an intriguing play. Stephan Turner, its director and co-founder of the
Gate Theatre Group, has yet again managed to bring a talented bunch of
people together to entertain Chiang Mai audiences with a play which is truly
upbeat and challenging. The performances of ‘The Eight’ will continue on
December 21, 24, 26, 27 and 28 at ArtSpace on 7.
The joy and romance
of a Lanna wedding
It may be a little-known fact that a Buddhist monk is able to
perform wedding ceremonies for couples who are not of the Buddhist way of
life, and do not know a great deal about the traditions behind the ceremony.
This account of the ritual, its various significances, its romantic nature
and its beauty, may well persuade foreign couples that they should marry in
this way—and at least give the rest of us some idea of what to expect if we
are lucky enough to be invited to a Lanna wedding, considered to be the most
romantic of all Thai marriage ceremonies.
The colourful Thai Buddhist wedding—known in Lanna as ‘gin kheak’, literally
‘eat’ and ‘guests’, begins with the couple giving an offering to the monks
before dawn. The offerings are made up of food, flowers, and 3 incense
sticks - one for the Buddha, one for Buddha’s words, and one for Buddha’s
monks. Once their offerings have been received, the couple then proceeds to
the Wat where they receive a blessing from the head monk.
The atmosphere in the temple is quiet and awe-inspiring. The couple kneels
in front of the head monk as he chants prayers and blesses them with holy
water. Then he ties each of the couple’s wrists with a string - a preview
for the most significant part of the wedding, which will take place later
on. The blessing at the Wat takes about half an hour and is a unique
spiritual experience that is difficult to put into words.
The couple then return to their home for the most important part of the
ceremony, the ‘pook mue’, the wedding ritual itself, officiated by a village
elder. Unlike in Western weddings, it is the groom and not the bride who
‘walks down the aisle’ to the village house! Before he can reach the bride,
he has to go through three symbolic gates and prove his worth to the
‘gatekeepers’. Once they allow him to pass, the ceremony can begin. After
the rituals are ended, the most important part of the day can begin – the
party! Traditionally, a huge amount of delicious food and drink is served to
everyone in the village and its surroundings, with Lanna music and dance,
and, later on, that absolute necessity of all Thai celebrations, very loud
modern music and karaoke. It doesn’t matter whether the guy holding the mike
can sing in tune or not –everyone loves to try! The emphasis, as always in
every Thai party, is eat, drink, laugh, make a lot of noise and have, above
Film Festival Best Bets
Porcelain Doll – Said to be an extraordinarily journey from the
mind of writer-director Péter Gárdos. Revolving around a small Hungarian
village and its inhabitants, three unique folk fables are presented in a
fairy tale fashion. I’ve seen a preview, and it looks scary enough to me!
Paired with the 20-minute short film El Balancín de Iván / Ivan’s See-Saw
– A woman goes back to the house where she spent her childhood during the
1976 Argentine dictatorship. Once there, she remembers the last moments she
lived there with her brother and her parents, as they hide from the police
and the military.
Fri Dec. 12 at 6 pm, and Sat Dec. 20 at 2:30 pm.
Dalecarlians – There’s more than a small element of truth in
Maria Blom’s debut film, a depiction of small town life with its eccentric
characters and close-knit community contrasted with big city lifestyles.
Dalarna, a county north of Stockholm whose residents are called
Dalecarlians, is famous for its landscape, and the inhabitants are stubborn
and self-centered. Mia, the youngest of three sisters, moved away from
Dalarna 15 years ago and has turned into a fast-living Stockholm single.
However, her father is turning 70, so Mia reluctantly drives back to her
hometown for the celebration. Mia’s eldest sister is married with children,
and the years have made her cynical. The other sister is recently divorced.
When the birthday party starts, anger and jealousy, fueled by booze, rise to
the surface. By the following morning, lives have been changed forever. The
portrayals of the three sisters are generally considered quite excellent.
Fri Dec. 12 at 8 pm, and Sun Dec. 21
at 6:15 pm.
Skin – In the 1970s, in Lisbon. Olga, the beautiful, clever
daughter of a wealthy entrepreneur, realizes that despite the apparent
advantages of her station – the mansion, the hired help, the parties, and
the glamour – she will never be fully accepted by her peers or by society,
because of her background. Not only is she the daughter of her father’s
mistress, but she’s also a mulatto, her birth-mother being a conquest from
her father’s time in the Portuguese colony of Angola. Said to be visually
stunning and impeccably styled.
Sat Dec. 13
at 12:30 pm, and Wed Dec. 17
at 7:30 pm.
It Will Be Well – Has been described as a heartwarming tale about
love, death, faith, alcoholism, and pride – and a fine advertisement for
Polish cinema. Young Pawel loves to run, and his school coach is determined
to take him to a German tournament. But Pawel has something more important
to deal with. His mother is very ill and in constant pain, and with her
husband having drunk himself to death and her eldest son being a simpleton,
there is no one else to take care of her. Pawel, who overheard his mother
praying for the death of her husband in return for walking to some Catholic
shrine on her knees, decides to perform the task for her, convinced it will
cause his mother’s recovery.
Sat Dec. 13
at 2:30 pm.
The Leaning Tower – The story of an affable man who is unaware
that he has multiple personalities and is thus somewhat behaviorally
disturbed, to say the least. His greatest fear is that he will not be able
to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa before it collapses. His adventures lead
him into tricky situations, and eventually, he does see it.
Sat Dec. 13
at 4:45 pm.
The Edge of Heaven – Reviews: Universal acclaim. This is probably
the most highly regarded film in the festival, having won a number of top
prizes, and was the German entry for Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2007. A film
of wide scope and a contemplative, deliberate mood, with a cumulative power,
both intellectual and emotional. In this extraordinary film by the German
writer-director Fatih Akin children are lost, lost parents are never found,
and generational and geographical distances grow wider, propelled by
beautiful camerawork and scenery that moves back and forth between pastoral
idyll and urban chaos.
Sat Dec. 13
at 7 pm, and
Fri Dec. 19 at 8:15 pm.
Come, Sweet Death – When a nurse is murdered, ambulance drivers
turn detectives in this Austrian black comedy. The meaty script is based on
a cult crime novel, combining comedy and crime. A moody, down-at-heels loser
who is kicked off the detective force for sleeping with the chief’s wife now
drives an ambulance for a private company that’s at war with a rival first
aid service. The drivers suddenly come face to face with a gruesome murder
that they solve in a grand ambulance chase around town.
Sun Dec. 14 at 6:15 pm.