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Arts - Entertainment

Hucky Eichelmann plays Payap

Classical guitarist Hucky Eichelmann played and toured Northern Thailand, including holding workshops for interested students. Here he is, performing at Payap. (Photo courtesy of Hucky Eichelmann).

By Shana Kongmun
Synonymous in Thailand with the classical guitar, long time favorite Hucky Eichelmann played at Payap earlier this month and took time out of his busy schedule to talk to the Chiang Mai Mail about his start in the music business and the long and fascinating journey it took him on from his beginnings in the Black Forest area of Germany.

Growing up in a musical family he started on brass instruments, like so many others in his family and indeed the province where he grew up is famous for that.

“I started playing the trumpet at 7. I always wanted to play the guitar but my whole family played brass instruments and they needed a trumpet player so that’s what I got to play,” he said with a chuckle.

“However,” he said, “at the age of 12 I got lucky and got hit in the tooth and broke it. That was the end of my trumpet career. I immediately went out and bought an electric guitar.” He added that he wasn’t sure if his father was more dismayed by the guitar or by the big bill. He noted that it was difficult to find good teachers but he finally found one who could teach him and he trained for about 8 months to audition for the College of Performing Arts. He added that there were 44 candidates and he was the one chosen.

He said the school not only taught their students how to play music but to also teach it, adding that the academic side of education cannot be ignored since not everyone has the talent or determination to make it in music professionally. His first job was at the University of the Philippines. When he finished he returned to Germany but realized that he had left his heart in Asia and when the St. Cecilia Academy of Music, the first music academy in Thailand, sent him an invitation letter he was on the first plane possible.

“I’ve never looked back and never regretted it” he says of the return to live in Asia in 1979. He said classical guitar was not really popular, “It felt like people didn’t understand what I was playing. So I started to listen to the music of HM the King on the radio and realized I wanted to an album of his music set to guitar.”

“I asked the King for his permission to record his music for an albm and got approval within 3 days. It had to be done quickly as he wanted to give an album as a gift to the King of Belgium on his visit. That first album sold a million copies.”

Due to the increased popularity of guitar after that he was involved in teaching classical guitar at Chulalongkorn. He also started playing overseas more and notes that people were amazed that the King of Thailand composed music. “He is the only reigning monarch that plays and composes music.”

Hucky went on to further heights with his next album titled Kum Ka Kum Kai with Assani Jutikham, a famous Thai musician who introduced him to the audience at a concert at Thammasat University. “The warm up band got bottles thrown at them, the crowds were pretty rough in those days. I was so nervous but I walked out and started playing Isaan music on the guitar and they cheered.

This was followed by another pop album that proved popular, so popular that Hucky said he lost his privacy. Everywhere he went people would want to touch his hand, “it became a bit overwhelming, I would end up staying home instead.”

So, he started travelling as a goodwill ambassador for the German Foreign Ministry promoting German culture abroad. He was involved in the 1st Thailand Festival of Arts with guest performers Ravi Shankar, the Gypsy Kings and a Chinese pianist. The 2nd Festival was held in 1998 and then the Asian Economic collapse put an end to the sponsorships and the yearly Festival. Instead he became involved in organizing a series of visiting artists including the Stuttgart Ballet for the Queen’s 72nd Birthday.

One of the highlights of his career was the first time he played for HM the King. The other was at a concert in London in honor of HM the King’s birthday, where he said, he ended up having gallstone surgery only four days before. But he went on to play and gave the Thai Ambassador great peace of mind. “He was worried I would cancel. Any other concert and I would have, but I couldn’t cancel this one.”

He looks forward to working again with Ravi Shankar, a collaboration that has been put off time and again, either by his schedule or by Ravi Shankar’s. He is also looking forward to getting a new handcrafted “Schnabel” guitar from Germany. He said 25 years ago he played in Germany and Gerhardt Schnabel said he would build a guitar for the King of Thailand. Out of blue he gets a call, “the guitar is ready.” Flabbergasted, Hucky couldn’t think what guitar. Apparently he had picked the finest woods aged them and when they were ready handcrafted a guitar to be presented to HM the King.

Hucky is currently on a tour of Thailand to promote is latest album of music and is busy planning the next!

A First Solo Recital at the Santi Music School

Noppadol “Boo” Chatchakul gave his first solo performance at Santi School of Music, further shows are planned for Sangdee Gallery on September 29, 2012.

By Jai Pee
Noppadol Chatchakul, known affectionately as Boo to all his friends and admirers gave his first solo recital to an appreciative audience in the intimate and delightful salon of Santi’s Music School on September 1st. Boo is 27 years old and has developed a mellow and velvety baritone voice which is pleasing on the ear. He has been a teacher at the music school for 5 years and this was his first entirely solo venture, previously having sung a number or two in between other performers. And it was a most successful start for this delightful young man, full of radiant smiles and good humor.

From the opening notes of Henry Purcell’s aria ‘Music For a While’ it was obvious that Boo had been practicing hard. His voice did not waver and he coped equally well with both the higher ranges and the lower ones which this aria demands.

In the second number by Purcell, Boo showed that he could cope with faster melodic lines well, breathing appropriately so as not to lose the legato passages which he phrased well. He moved on to sing the ever-popular aria ‘Voi Che Sapete’ from Act II of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro.

This is a most challenging piece written originally for soprano and this version a good transposition – Boo not only coped with the various subtleties of intonation, but he gave the audience a little bit of theatrical drama as well through his facial expressions and gestures. Boo went on to delight us with songs in English, French and Italian and what was so remarkable, as a member of the audience pointed out afterwards, was his command of all these languages – his diction in all of them was near perfect and again this is the fruition of hours of devoted practice. Boo completed his set of songs with the all-time favourite of Rodgers and Hammerstein ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ and the famous ‘New York, New York’, which had a marvelous twist to it – the words ‘Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai’ being substituted for the original words, much to the delight of the audience.

Boo completed the evening with an encore of one of his songs which he performed from the piano Elton John style – a love song sung in Thai which in itself was yet another treat. Apart from this last encore, Boo was accompanied throughout by Ajaan Santi whose playing in this fashion is always a delight. It is so good to see and hear new talent as it emerges on the music scene and we owe a great deal not just to Boo who performed so well, but to the initiative displayed by Ajaan Santi for promoting one of his staff in this manner.

If you missed the recital last Saturday, then you can catch Boo again at the Sangdee Gallery in Sirimangklanjan Soi 5 on September 29th at 7.30pm or at the Dara Music School on Namphong Road on October 14th at 6.00pm. Both evens have free admission.

New paintings for a closing

Local artist Sinfaii Chaiyasith stands in front of her latest work on display at Sangdee Gallery on Sirimangkalajarn Soi 5. Not resting on the work of her exhibition titled “Too Scary to Hang” Fai, as she is known, continued to paint and showed her latest few works on the closing night of her exhibition. Here she is with one of her newer pieces.

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Hucky Eichelmann plays Payap

A First Solo Recital at the Santi Music School

New paintings for a closing