Vol. VIII No. 38 - Tuesday
September 22 - September 28, 2009



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Art, Music & Culture • Entertainment • Lifestyles
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Tan Kuay Salak festival exhibition at Chiang Mai City Museum

A French Horn Recital with a Difference

Still Crazy After All These Years

Roadmap to a sustainable city

 

Tan Kuay Salak festival exhibition at Chiang Mai City Museum

Supoj Thiamyoj
Elena Edwards

An exhibition of artefacts used during the traditional Buddhist festival of Tan Kuay Salak is being held until the end of September at the Chiang Mai City Museum’s Phumpanya Room, Tuesday through Sunday from 8.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tan Kuay Salak, (in the Northern dialect), is celebrated during Buddhist Lent across the North and North-east of Thailand during the last week of September ending on the 1st of October. Each Wat has its own style and tradition, dating back some 700 years to the beginning of the Buddhist era. The timing of the festival, which involves the presentation of gifts to monks, was originally based the tradition that no travel was undertaken during the rainy season, either by monks or villagers. The end of September is a time of harvesting ripe fruits, and villagers are free from their work in the paddy fields. The offering of gifts to the monks brings good luck to the village, and money to the Wat.
During the festival, each family or group weaves a beautiful basket, (Kuay), and fills it with food, flowers, gifts, robes and money. The baskets are traditionally woven in two sizes; the small basket is given to offer merit to dead family members, and the larger basket brings the good things of life to the donor. Once at the Wat, the baskets are numbered and the monks draw decorated wooden sticks for the Kuay which matches their number. The word ‘Salak’ means ‘draw ticket’. Traditionally, the ceremonies begin at dawn, with villagers assembling in the temple awaiting the monks. Chanting and prayers follow, and rice is offered to the monks. The festivities continue all day.
The exhibition, aimed at preserving the tradition, includes demonstrations of weaving a bamboo Kuay and making paper flowers. The origin of and customs involved in the festival are explained both in Thai and in English.

 

A French Horn Recital with a Difference

Jai-Pee
On Saturday September 12 in the Saisuree Hall at Payap University, a ninety-nine per cent Thai audience was presented with a French horn recital with quite an unusual slant. The brightly polished French horn was on this occasion played well by the fourth-year student Pimwipa Joysoongnoen. So, what was the difference?
Well, can you remember going to hear the French horn played by a female performer? Can any of us name another female horn player, or even remember having seen a woman play the horn in any of the major orchestras around the world? I very much doubt it! So here we had a rare opportunity to see and hear how a young woman coped with this marvellous instrument which has been the dominant regime of the male for a couple of centuries or more, and still is. Pimwipa performed very well overall, although in her opening piece, the Beethoven Horn Sonata Opus 17, her playing showed her nerves getting the better of her at times. Yet in the next piece, a Nocturne by the nineteenth century Romantic composer and distinguished horn player Franz Strauss, father of the great composer Richard Strauss, her playing was much more assured, her phrasing was smooth and she captured the fine legato passages admirably. She was then joined on stage by four of her student musicians for a performance of the Mozart Quintet K. 452; this delightful piece originally scored for piano, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon and dating from 1784 had been arranged for piano, horn, euphonium and two clarinets and the result, both in the playing and in terms of effect was impressive as the five performers enjoyed themselves immensely and delighted the audience with the final Rondo of this rare piece.
Pimwipa played a Reverie by Glazunov and the first of Mozart’s four horn concerti in a far more confident manner, once again with good control over her breathing (no easy feat for any young performer) and obvious enjoyment. Throughout her solo pieces, she was accompanied by Ajaan David Wilson whose delightful and at times wonderfully delicate touch gave Pimwipa all the support she needed for a fine first recital. The final piece was a traditional Thai composition from the Ayuthaya era, entitled Tonworached. This old melody had been re-arranged by one of the performers, the Thai flute player, and it provided an interesting mixture of traditional and more modern instruments – an eight-strong ensemble consisting of the French horn, Thai flute, erhu, guzheng, euphonium and two double-headed drums. Short and energetic, this unusual and most attractive piece brought a good recital to a tuneful and lively close. With very good programme notes, the shortest of spoken introductions and professional door-keeping preventing interruptions, this was a most enjoyable and relaxing recital with a real difference.


Still Crazy After All These Years

Jacquelyn Suter
As I watched the Gate Theatre’s opening night production of one of Neil Simon’s most well-known and breeziest comedies, The Odd Couple, my thoughts drifted to another iconic work, Paul Simon’s song ‘Still Crazy After All These Years.’  Maybe I linked the artists’ same last name.  Maybe I just realized how good and fresh (some) bygones can be after all the years…and still very, very crazy.

Supreme slob Oscar, played by Brian Hubbard and compulsive neat freak Felix, played by Richard Childs – an irresistible force meets an immovable object!

The Odd Couple
would fit that.  A deceptively simple comedy about two men who’ve just been given the toss by their wives, they decide to live together and make the best of their – take your pick – freedom or loneliness.   Once they begin their ménage-a-deux, however, they find that one is a supreme slob (Oscar) and the other is a compulsive neat freak (Felix).  To make this comedy smooth as silk, both these characters need to balance each other and engage equally our sympathy and derision. 
First produced on Broadway in 1965 starring Walter Matthau and Art Carney, soon followed by the film with Matthau again and Jack Lemmon, this play has something about it that just keeps going after 40+ years.  That ‘something’ would be dialogue that snaps and characters that float atop the changing years even as subsequent generations slip-slid the genders of the original ‘odd couple.’ 
If one has seen the 1968 film, you’ll remember (maybe…) the outstanding performances by both Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon.  But, I think, it is Lemmon’s character, Felix, that is the most difficult to create.  Felix’s seemingly genuine emotional devastation, provoked by his new bachelorhood, should work equally with another of his traits – manipulation of others by his obsessive neatness and timeliness.  Felix needs to be an irresistible force to Oscar’s immovable object. 
In this performance, Brian Hubbard does an excellent job of portraying the slovenly, yet refreshingly straight-on, Oscar.  But I think Richard Childs has the more difficult job in portraying the passive-aggressive Felix.  Admittedly, it’s not easy to follow Jack Lemmon in that role:  his crisp, fastidious neuroticism honed to a very fine point.  Given Lemmon’s specter haunting this role, I thought Childs brought us a very credible and delightful Felix. 
The air-headed, twittering Pigeon Sisters enter the comedy halfway and provide a romantic relief from testosterone fumes hanging heavy in the air.  Marisa Lianggamphai and Rachel Claire Morris fit the bill perfectly.  The four poker-playing friends provide sharp point/counterpoint to each other and do an excellent job portraying the boys-night context of the play.
It’s a challenge indeed for any director to credibly recreate The Odd Couple and for current actors to step into the characters of those actors before them who virtually defined those roles ‘for all time.’  But, now in its fourth season, the Gate Theatre’s artistic director, Stephan Turner, consistently manages to tough-balance script, actors, and venue.  And The Odd Couple is no exception.  
One New York reviewer said, ‘The Odd Couple has it made.  Women are bound to adore the sight of a man carrying on like a little homemaker.  Men are sure to snicker at a male in domestic bondage to a man….Homosexuals will enjoy it for obvious reasons.  Doesn’t that take care of everyone?”  It does for me.  As in New York, so in Chiang Mai, no? 
“The Odd Couple” continues for only two more performances on September 25 and 26 at the Studio Theater, 7th floor, Kad Suan Kaew, curtain 7:00 p.m.
 


Roadmap to a sustainable city

Elena Edwards
Everyone around the world needs to be ready to take action to combat climate change. However, many people are unaware of the crisis, its causes and its possible solutions. Already around the world, changes in climate patterns are affecting people. Whether it is more intense storms like Cyclone Nargis, long droughts or reduction of agricultural produce sue to changes in weather patterns, Thai people face drastic changes to their livelihoods.
As a result, the Northern Climate Change Network is continuing its ongoing efforts to take action to overcome the effects of climate change by holding an educational forum on September 26 at Buddhasathan on Thapae Road, opposite the governor’s residence. .
The forum will consist of information to the general public about the causes and probable impact of climate change, discussions aimed at formatting local and national policies on reducing carbon dioxide emissions, ensuring that the policies contribute to global efforts to reduce emissions. Local decision makers will be encouraged to understand how current policies affect the environment, with improved policies being suggested. Candidates for the upcoming mayoral election will be asked to state their stance on climate change, and to describe the policies and legislation they plan to support if elected, bearing in mind carbon emissions and their effect on sustainable livelihoods in Chiang Mai.
The aim of the event is to provide Chiang Mai with a roadmap to a more sustainable city, with policy-makers, the public and active civil groups having a better understanding of climate change in order to take action to prevent catastrophic effects at local and global levels.
Suggestions from the event will be conveyed to Thai negotiators to campaign for real change locally in line with the international movement. The event will be held from 6.30 to 9 p.m., all are invited to attend.
For more info, please email [email protected] or northern [email protected]



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