The Princess Galyani
Vadhana Institute of Music
The highly respected and much loved elder sister of our beloved
King celebrated her 84th birthday
shortly before her death some eighteen months ago. In order to mark the
occasion of that birthday, the Ministry of Culture in conjunction with
Silpakorn University started work on an immense project which is now
showing some signs of coming to fruition – the foundation of a Thai
Conservatoire, the Princess Galyani Vadhana Institute of Music.
computer-generated architect’s impression of the stage in the main concert
hall of the Princess Galyani Vadhana Institute of Music at present under
construction in Bangkok
The main buildings in which this great new Conservatoire are to be housed
are currently under construction near to the Pra Rama 8 bridge across the
Chao Praya in Bangkok. The site, formerly an old brewery is shared with the
Royal Project offices, Chai Pattana, where over 2,000 people are employed to
cope with the vast amount of charitable work undertaken by the Royal Family.
The Conservatoire. or Institute as it is currently known, is to be at least
five storeys high and will include a prestigious new concert hall, teaching
rooms, rehearsal rooms, and attractive display areas. A small concert hall
for a chamber orchestra will be completed next year through the restoration
of an old building and new offices are already in use.
The Board of Directors, under the umbrella of Silpakorn University, is
working hard with funding from the Government as well as many private
sponsors including the Siam Commercial Bank, (who recently helped sponsor
the performance of Mahler’s 4th symphony),
the Goethe Institute, (who are sponsoring chamber music), the Four Seasons
group of hotels, Fuji Xerox and many others. Even though formal music
teaching will not begin until the building work is completed in 4-5 year’s
time, many of the potential staff are already issuing DVDs as teaching aids,
and small chamber ensembles and larger groups are now beginning to perform
around the country as well as in Bangkok under the Institute’s name.
The end result will be an attractive and international centre for the
promotion and enjoyment of music, for the teaching of music and for
concerts, recitals and other events. Tasana Nagavajara, the distinguished
violinist, professor at Silpakorn, and former concert master of the Bangkok
Symphony Orchestra, is the assistant secretary and is the only practicing
musician on the Board. He is very optimistic about the future, and sees this
project as establishing Thailand firmly on the international music scene. He
told me recently that all instruments will be taught as well as voice,
conducting, composition, music history and other areas. There will be
outreach facilities to take the music of smaller groups to all parts of
Thailand and hopefully educate and inspire young musicians around the
country. In fact, the small chamber orchestra from the Conservatoire will be
in Chiang Mai University on August 7th and
they will perform a new work by their conductor M.L. Usni Pramoj, entitled
Threnody, followed by Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,
Bellini’s wonderful Trumpet Concerto in E flat and the Tchaikovsky
Serenade for Strings (further details available later).
This major new initiative in the history of musical development in Thailand
deserves our wholehearted support, especially as it is in remembrance of a
very great person and very worthy musician in her own right, Princess
Galyani Vadhana. Let us wish the project every success, hoping that when the
economic climate is healthier, funds might extend to the building of a
concert hall here in Chiang Mai under the Conservatoire’s name.
The Thai Spirit House…an ancient tradition
Spirit worship, and the belief that spirits inhabit every corner of
our world, is one of the human race’s most ancient traditions. Here in
Thailand, animism arrived with the migrating Tai people from southern China
and northern Vietnam, long before Theravada Buddhism was brought from India
and Sri Lanka and became the prevailing religion. As with the early
Christian religion, which adopted many aspects of Mithraism, Buddhism
incorporated beliefs from the ancient spirit religion, a number of which
have survived to the present day in tandem with modern state Buddhism.
spirit house at Wat Chedi Luang, which contains Chiang Mai’s protective
spirit within the ‘Pillar of the City’.
Perhaps the most important of these ancient customs is the Thai spirit
house, seen in front of hotels and business premises, municipal and
government buildings, restaurants and bars, Buddhist temples, local markets,
and, of course, in the gardens of homes. The purpose of these often
beautifully ornamented structures is to provide a resting place for the
spirits, who may otherwise cause problems if they are not treated with the
respect they deserve. Offering to the local spirits are made if a
householder wants to improve his home; if a person wishes to start a
business, or develop an existing one, or if any significant change is made
to any aspect of life. When a spirit house become old and needs replacing,
or a new one is erected, it must be taken to the local temple, where it will
be placed carefully in a special storage area after the correct ceremonials.
The exact style of the spirit house is based on, firstly, which spirits will
be invited to take up residence, and secondly, the amount of money available
for its construction. A specialist spirit house builder must be used, as all
the necessary rituals to attract the spirits must be properly performed. As
can be seen all around this city, spirit houses can be made in various
materials, wood, concrete or brick being the most common. The houses, when
finished, are filled with small representations of people, animals, symbols,
furniture, and other images; the balcony is used to place candles,
offerings, flowers and incense, which is often and placed daily. The spirit
or spirits in residence must be kept informed of all developments by means
of offerings and prayers. If they are asked for help or protection and a
project is successful as a result or a problem solved, further offerings of
thanks must be given.
Of all the countless spirits in Thai animism and folklore, the most revered
are the 9 Guardians of the Land, each with their own focus of protection.
The two most significant, the Guardian of the House, and the Guardian of the
Gardens, are the only guardians who have permanent spirit houses built for
their occupation, and are regularly consulted and worshipped. The Guardian
of the House, as well as protecting the home, also watches over business
matters, and the Guardian of the Gardens is responsible for all growing
things, with the exception of rice fields, which have a separate spirit of
their own. .
The remaining guardians protect gates, stairwells and the doorstep, (which
should, therefore, never be trodden on when entering any building); animals,
storehouses, forests and mountains, temples, rivers and lakes, and the
defence of the country.
A supreme example of a spirit house and its protective deity can be seen at
Wat Chedi Luang, where the ‘Pillar of the City’ is enshrined in a large
building on the left of the main gate. Women, however, are not allowed to
enter…they must view the interior from below the steps. The annual ceremony
to honour Chiang Mai’s City Pillar and its protective spirit is famous
throughout Thailand, and attended by many thousands of worshippers during
the week-long festival.
These beliefs are as old as mankind itself, and common to all races. Many
modern western people may be inclined to dismiss them as mere
superstition…but, a belief system which has survived for so many thousands
of years and is still thriving in the 21st century should perhaps not be so
lightly disregarded. After all, what proof do we have that spirits do NOT
exist, and who amongst us has never, even once, touched wood for luck?
New ‘JJ Indy Contest’ for talented
youngsters upcoming at JJ Markets
First prize -winners of one of the JJ
Markets youth talent contest heats, pictured with their scholarship
JJ Markets’ annual youth talent contest has always featured in
this newspaper, along with JJ Market’s belief, shared with DTAC and the
FM 96MHZ radio station in their joint ‘ Do good deeds every day’
project, that young people are the future of both Chiang Mai and the
kingdom itself. The aim of the talent contest since its inception in
2007 has been to encourage and stimulate the vast amount of young talent
in the city, in music, song and fashion design. JJ Markets and their
project partners also believe strongly that giving youngsters an outlet
for their talent will encourage them to spend their free time
constructively in activities and hobbies.
Since 2007, more than 40 teams and individuals from schools and
universities here in the north have competed, with the scheme being
welcomed by adults and educational institutions alike. Governmental
organisations have provided the rewards in the form of scholarships, and
the local media has been more than happy to report the events. Partial
profits have been donated to the Chaipattana Foundation and other
organisations supporting projects initiated by His Majesty the King.
As a result of the success of the initial idea, JJ Markets are
organising a further competition, ‘the JJ Indy Contest’, focusing on a
variety of different activities, to be held on the 4th Friday of every
month. The inaugural event will take place on July 24, beginning at 7
p.m. at JJ’s Zone A Hall with dinner and live performances from several
bands. We wish JJ’s all success in this new project!