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September Song

Songs of Memory: Traditional Music of the Golden Triangle

Suriya Gallery’s ‘Art and Ideas’ talk– A journey through Myanmar

Japanese arts, traditions, and culture celebrated at Airport Plaza

 

September Song

Jai-Pee
Sixty years ago, on September 8th 1949, the great composer Richard Strauss, aged 85, died following a short illness. This marvellous musician, conductor, composer and even librettist once called himself ‘a first rate second-class composer’. We have no idea how many or even which composers Strauss would have considered first class, but we do know that he adored Mozart, had tremendous respect for Beethoven and for Wagner’s music, and that he admired, even with a hint of criticism, the works of his friend Gustav Mahler. Strauss was to outlive Mahler by almost forty years, yet his final compositions during and after the European Second World War, stand as monuments to the great Romantic era, when that period in musical life had all but vanished during the earlier part of the twentieth century.
Strauss composed over 30 full scale orchestral works and symphonic brass works, including fanfares, the Olympic Hymn for the 1936 Games, tone poems such as the Alpine Symphony, Till Eulenspiegel, Don Juan and Death and Transfiguration; he composed over 200 songs, 2 full ballet scores and 3 other incidental ballet scores, 4 concerti, chamber music and 15 operas. Many of these latter are now classics in the operatic repertoire worldwide, with names such as Salome, Elektra, Arabella, Der Rosenkavalier and Capriccio becoming household names amongst opera lovers. The great glory that is still Strauss’s very own is in his writing for the female voice, especially the high soprano. Nowhere is this magic to be found more forcibly expressed than in the final aria of his last opera, Capriccio or in the Vier Letzte Lieder, the Four Last Songs.
These songs were written within a few months of each other at the Palace Hotel in Montreux where Strauss was staying to recuperate after the ordeals of the war and some increasing health problems, The first song, Im Abendrot, a setting of the poem by Joseph von Eichendorff, was completed on May 6th 1948; Fruhling (Spring) came next on July 18th, Beim Schlafengehen on August 4th and finally September on September 20th. These latter three are poems by Hermann Hesse. In the finale of Capriccio and in these songs, Strauss, aged 84, creates a vocal line of extraordinary beauty and tenderness. The voice almost becomes an instrument of the orchestra as it floats, soars with surging power, curves and weaves its way through the delectable lines of poetry set to a rich backcloth of glowing orchestral harmonisation that somehow encapsulates everything Strauss had written before. In these songs we see and feel the beauty of nature eloquently expressed in rich tones and glorious harmonies; we hear the extraordinary beauty of the female voice with all its force, colour, depth and expression in a way that embodies the very essence of the human heart. As Michael Kennedy so aptly wrote in his book on Strauss, ‘He wanted to give pleasure, to create joy, for he understood the human heart. That was his greatest strength and it made him a master musician not for an age but for all the time mankind allows itself’.
How fitting, too, that the last song in this cycle reads as follows: ‘The garden is in mourning; the rain sinks coolly on the flowers. Summertime shudders quietly to its close. Leaf upon golden leaf is dropping down from the tall acacia tree. Summer smiles amazed and exhausted on the dying dream that was this garden. Long by the roses still it tarries, yearns for rest, slowly closing its weary eyes’. Strauss did just that a year later.

 

Songs of Memory: Traditional Music of the Golden Triangle

Elena Edwards
The open presentation at the August meeting of the Chiang Mai chapter of Soroptimists International, held August 19 at the Amari Rincome Hotel was a great success, with 47 guests listening in fascination to Victoria Vorreiter’s sensitive and beautifully expressed description of her 4-year journey documenting the traditional music of the unique and diverse hill tribe communities living in the mountains of the Golden Triangle.

Her talk, ‘Songs of Memory: Traditional Music of the Golden Triangle’, centred on 6 prominent groups, the Karen, Hmong, Mien, Lahu, Akha, and Lisu, all of whom have maintained to a high degree their independence and unique cultural history in language, customs, arts, religion and dress. The diversity of the six groups’ musical traditions was highlighted by recordings of instrumental pieces on traditional instruments, and with a filmed record of indigenous mountain people, many of whom became, over the years, Victoria’s much-loved friends.
To these diverse groups, music does not represent entertainment, or the expression of personal talent for gain. It is inextricably bound up with beliefs, rites and rituals, and the handing down of tribal history in the bardic tradition. According to Victoria, the keepers of the ancient traditions - master musicians, shamans, headmen, matriarchs and patriarchs – use their vast trove of songs, sacred chants, legends and instrumental music to connect their people to something greater than themselves. Music, supported by ritual and formality, anchors members of a community to their life-source, reunites them with their ancestors and aligns them with their deities. Ceremonies and songs remind them of their origins and preserve collective memory. Music promotes a sense of communal harmony by instilling identity and belonging. Songs are the chronicles and oracles of tribal ways of life.
Beginning her presentation, Victoria explained that ‘This presentation will give you a window into the world of traditional hill tribe peoples, who live close to the earth, in synchronicity with the seasons, and with lifestyles little changed over the centuries. The photographs, audio and video media clips, will introduce you to the tribal cultures that my Resonance Project has visited. Please enjoy the sounds and sights of these amazing people who have graced my path’. And ‘enjoy’ is exactly what the audience did.
An hour-long documentary, ‘The Music of the Golden Triangle and the Cycles of Life’, together with a beautifully illustrated book, ‘Songs of Memory’, has been produced by Victoria as part of her Resonance project. A travelling exhibition is being put together, including the documentary film, film modules, recordings, photographs and examples of tribal instruments and costume. The launch of the book will be on November 1, and the exhibition will run through February and March next year at the CMU Art Centre, definitely a ‘don’t miss’ event.
For more info, please visit Victoria’s website at www. musicandthecyclesoflife.com


Suriya Gallery’s ‘Art and Ideas’ talk– A journey through Myanmar

Elena Edwards
In spite of the heavens opening and discharging a much- needed tropical downpour, Suriya Gallery’s ‘Art and Ideas’ talk by veteran travel journalist Judyth Gregory–Smith went ahead as planned, hugely enjoyed by a somewhat damp audience!
Judyth based her talk on readings from her new book, ‘A Trishaw called Kinny’, which relates her experiences travelling alone across Myanmar to historical and obscure locations. This was her second visit to the country; the first was in 1987, with her husband Richard. She describes her determination to return in a bittersweet passage:-
Richard and I first visited Myanmar, then called Burma, in 1987. Our passions were travel, nature, birds, other cultures and each other. The list is not in order. We were on leave from the Australian High Commission in Papua New Guinea.
“Wouldn’t it be good to see what my opposite number is doing in the Embassy in Burma?’ he’d said, which in Richard-speak really meant ‘Wouldn’t it be good to traipse through jungles and swamps to study Burma’s rainforest birds and animals.’ The powers-that-were permitted a visa for only two weeks, but that was enough to fall in love with the country. We vowed to return. And I did. Alone. Richard died in 2001.
The themes of ‘A Trishaw called Kinny’, described as ‘an intimate, detailed travelogue packed with first- hand information’, vary from Myanmar’s royal cities to ways by which a lone woman can travel safely and inexpensively in the country. It’s a geographical, historical and personal journey which also charts the writer’s personal journey of recovery and self-discovery after her husband’s death, taking her by public transport to isolated villages and farming communities as well as to famous monasteries and temples. She stays in family-run guesthouses and is made welcome by local people rich in traditions and culture but poor in material possessions.
During her talk, Judyth described many of her adventures with humour and a genuine love for Myanmar and above all its people who, in spite of the poverty and restrictions imposed by the ruling Junta, seemed always to be happy in themselves.
Nance, owner of Suriya Gallery, and, with her Burmese partner, the compiler of the first practical Burmese-English dictionary, now in print, provided her usual gentle welcome to her guests, along with large quantities of iced herbal tea—with a difference! The tea, made from flowers which are also used for dyeing cloth, was a beautiful, bright blue - delicious and refreshing.
Suriya Gallery, which specialises in works by Burmese artists, will be closed until late October, allowing Nance a long-overdue 2-month holiday during which she will visit Europe. The next ‘Art and Ideas’ event will take place in November, with a poetry reading by three poets, during which the audience will be encouraged to compose their own poems on the spot!. Watch this space for further information closer to the date.
The gallery is located off Huey Kaew Road at No. 2, Hotel Bua Luang, Soi Bua Luang, in the same soi as the Holiday Garden Hotel. Look for the spray-painted Suriya Art Gallery sign before you get to the hotel’s gate, or park in the Nice Nails-Mr Chan and Miss Pauline’s Pizza parking lot at the mouth of the soi, and walk through the gate, keeping to the left.


Japanese arts, traditions, and culture celebrated at Airport Plaza

Supoj Thaimyos & Jittraporn Charasrum
A festival celebrating traditional Japan was held recently at Airport Plaza, attended by a great many students and presided over by Junko Yokota, Consul-General of Japan in Chiang Mai, and Reungdet Wongla, Chiang Mai Rajabhat University’s President.

A young student from by Rajabhat University pictured wearing a traditional Japanese kimono at the cultural event held at Airport Plaza.

The event was aimed at anyone who wished to learn more about the arts, culture, history, literature and traditions of Japan, with traditional lifestyles, art, and cultural aspects exhibited and presented within activities. Guests were able to dress in kimonos and yukatas before being photographed in front of a beautiful background, and were able to learn about traditional Japanese Ikebana, (flower arranging), the game of Go, calligraphy using brushes, the Cha-No-U, (tea ceremony), and other purely Japanese pastimes.
The event, including a stage performance, was organised by Rajabhat University’s Japanese major students, and ran from August 21-23.