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Arts - Entertainment & It

I Have a Dream

Payap University Choir and the 7th International World Choir Games

Payap University Choir with Ajaan Ayu Namthep centre

By Jai Pee
In a prestigious bid to place Chiang Mai firmly on the map in the eyes of the world, Ajaan Ayu Namthep will be taking her wonderful Payap University Choir to participate in the Seventh World Choir Games to be held in Cincinnati, USA, from July 4th to July 14th. The Games are held every two years and include 15,000 participants from 60 countries from all over the world. The Games feature choirs singing music ranging from classical to pop, with competitive events, friendship events and intercultural workshops.

As preludes to this excursion to the other side of the world, two concerts are being held to help raise money for the event and to publicize the trip. The first concert was held in the Sadudee Building of Payap University on Saturday June 16th in a recital entitled “We Are Altos”. Six altos plus Ajaan Ayu and accompanied by Remi Namthep on the electrone, gave us a light-hearted journey through a series of songs from various musicals. Included in the repertoire were firm favourites such as Wishin’ and Hopin’, My Guy and Catch a Falling Star.

The audience loved the occasion which ended with some interesting and unusual arrangements for hand-bells and electrone of The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy by Tchaikovsky and the Scott Joplin number The Entertainer. The festivities were brought to a close with a movement from Leopold Mozart’s Toy Symphony, fully animated with all the sounds of birds and animals. The hall was packed and hopefully the evening’s entertainment will have raised a good sum to help the travelers on their way. A second full choir concert is being held on June 23rd in the outer campus of the university in the Saisuree Hall – starting at 7.30pm – again, all donations will go towards the visit to the USA.

The June 16th recital began with the ABBA hit I Have a Dream – and like all good dreams, let’s hope this one for Ajaan Ayu and choir will come true and be a great success. Our best wishes go with you!

Haevnen (In A Better World)

A film review

By Nicôle Rossetti le Strange
On the surface of it, In A Better World is a tale about revenge (its Danish title, Haevnen, translates as ‘vengeance’); however, this is an oversimplification of what is actually a story of so much human emotion, and moreover, how we deal with those emotions.

Featuring a largely ensemble cast, we are drawn into the worlds of two families; the recently bereaved - and full of anguish - Christian (William Jøhnk Nielsen), and his father, Claus (Ulrich Thomsen), who, while grieving for his wife, must also deal with the increasing disaffection of his son.

At the other end of the scale is Elias (Markus Rygaard), a quiet, gentle boy, who is systematically bullied by some of his fellow pupils for no other reason than he is different (he is Swedish, and has braces on his teeth). In addition to the problems he faces at school, Elias’ parents – both doctors – are going through a separation. His father, Anton (Mikael Persbrandt), to whom he is very close, divides his time between Denmark and an African refugee camp, which, as we see later in the film, leaves Elias feeling incredibly lonely, more so because he is unable to relate to his mother, Marianne (Trine Dyrholm).

These two outsiders strike up an unlikely alliance at school, and when Christian takes the bullying issue into his own hands, the friendship between the two boys is sealed: Elias has someone he can talk to , someone he can trust - while we get the impression that Christian has gained a minion. It’s only much later in the film that we, and indeed, Christian, learn the true depth of feeling between the two boys.

During the film, we are shown several examples of violence, and how it is dealt with. From the wild youthful lashing out, to the adult cheek-turning, and we understand that there is no black & white solution. Despite most of us being raised to believe that violence begets violence, there are instances in the film where this simply is not true... but of course, even when solutions are arrived at, the characters still have to deal with the emotional ramifications of their actions. Director, Susan Bier, prompts us to ask several questions: if it is possible to choose between living a violent or non-violent life, does this mean we are not actually hard-wired toward violence? That being the case, is it therefore not possible to break the cycle of violence? And what happens when it proves to be impossible? It’s all very thought-provoking, and leaves the audience wondering what they would do in similar situations.

Visually, the film is stunning; the cinematography, while a tad clichéd in places is nevertheless beautiful; although using birds in flight as a metaphor for the freedom that neither the Europeans, nor the Africans have is a bit tired, in my opinion. However, the almost desolate scenes at the summerhouse are in sympathy with Anton’s feeling of loneliness, and the washed-out colours really add to the power of the setting.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think the editing was as good as it could have, or should have been. At the beginning of the film, it felt almost ham-fisted, and later on, in one place, there was a very obvious splicing issue. As a consequence of the editing, the first 10-15 minutes of the film were confusing; there was no way of knowing whether the opening scene in Africa was set in the present day, nor whether Christian reading from Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Nightingale’ at his mother’s funeral was a flashback to when Anton was a child.

Despite the first half of the film being very slow, the last hour was utterly gripping, and I for one, was entirely emotionally invested in the characters. Having said that the film was slow, I do believe it was necessary in order to properly establish each of the characters; had it not done so, I believe it would have been something of a disservice to all concerned, not least to the actors, who all did a fantastic job.

Overall, In A Better World runs the gamut of loss, revenge, loyalty, compassion, love, redemption, friendship, wisdom, and taking responsibility... but above all, and despite its Danish title, it is a tale of forgiveness.

Solidarity Concert at Kad Suan Keaw

By Jai Pee
On Saturday 23rd June a near capacity audience settled down in the Kad Suan Keow theatre for a remarkable concert somewhat strangely named ‘Solidarity’. The only other time I have heard mention of Solidarity in public was during the period of unrest in the 1980’s in Poland when Lech Walesa led a protest union of workers named Solidarity – no relationship, there I trust! The purpose of this concert, apart from its sheer entertainment value, was to raise money for a new Economics Department building at Chiang Mai University, a very worthy cause indeed.

The concert was presented by the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra, formed in 2005, a large orchestra that filled the stage – over 70 players lined up to present a largely Thai selection of music, but with a marvelous centerpiece, the first and much adored violin concerto of German composer Max Bruch. This work is now a standard piece in the violin repertoire and on this occasion the very young violinist – Pitchayapa Luengtawikit aged just 15 – played this most challenging of works very astutely.

The G-minor concerto is full of rich harmonies and luscious tones which have established it as one of the great concertos of all time – it contains a beautiful central section of immense depth and color that many violinists fail to capture – Pitchayapa did her best and was technically quite perfect. The orchestra, however, very ably conducted by Prateep Suphanrojn, did not match her playing.

The brass, and especially the trumpets, was far too loud giving the concerto a somewhat military flavor rather than the pastel shades required to bring out the beauty of the harmonies and melodies. As the great composer and conductor Richard Strauss once remarked “If you can hear the brass when you are conducting, they are playing too loud!” But overall this was a remarkable performance and the skill and determination of the violinist will be remembered by those present for a long time to come.

The concert opened with an arrangement by the conductor of various northern Thai songs – a beautiful and joyful medley of old favorites which the audience thoroughly enjoyed – and the same was true of the two final pieces in the concert - of similar arrangement and caliber – lively, tuneful and appealing and played with great gusto by the orchestra. The second half opened with a modern piece entitled “The Dawn of Darkness’ by 29 year old composer Narong Prangcharoen which featured extensive saxophone cadenzas by the orchestra’s saxophonist Wisuwat Pruksavanich. His handling of the instrument was skilful and engaging which is more than can be said for the piece as a whole – it lacked melody, was interminably long, jerky in form and totally lacking any kind of structure.

I hope I never have to sit through it again but I would like to hear more of the saxophonist, who was, like the young violinist, proficient in the extreme and in total command of the instrument.

Overall this was an excellent evening’s entertainment. But a word or two of caution about safety: the exits at the theatre are poorly marked, the access stairs narrow, there are no fire exits displayed and not a fire extinguisher in sight. Throughout the performance two large screens either side of the stage were flickering with adverts of the sponsors – it was so difficult to focus on centre stage with such unnecessary distractions. Nevertheless it was good to see the hall full and watch people emerging with broad smiles on their faces- so let us hope that this fine orchestra will return again soon.

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

I Have a Dream

Haevnen (In A Better World)

Solidarity Concert at Kad Suan Keaw