Music under a Tropical Sun

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Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra in Pattaya

The blazing heat of the afternoon sun didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the hundreds of people who came to Phornprapha Botanic Gardens March 8 for a free concert by the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra. Seventy musicians of the TPO gave up their free time to visit Pattaya for a concert of light classics and popular songs; a gift from Mahidol University College of Music to the citizens of Pattaya. Nobody actually counted the number of citizens who showed up, but estimates vary between 800 and 1,000 visitors, which must be something of a record audience for a classical music concert in Pattaya. After Nongprue Mayor Mai Chaiyanit had welcomed everyone, Len Unterberger of Pattaya Classical Music outlined the background to the event and emphasized the large number of people and organisations that had made the concert possible.

There was something of a party atmosphere and many people sat at tables beneath the trees while others braved the afternoon sun and besported themselves around the grassy area in front of the orchestra.  Food and drink were provided by Casa Pascal, served by pleasant and attentive staff. Casa Pascal also generously sponsored the lunch and evening meals for the orchestra.

Conductor Lt. Col. Prateep Suphanrojn (centre) poses with the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra at the Phornprapha Botanic Gardens in Pattaya. Conductor Lt. Col. Prateep Suphanrojn (centre) poses with the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra at the Phornprapha Botanic Gardens in Pattaya.

The TPO gave its first performance almost ten years ago and since then it has consistently impressed audiences. The orchestra was conducted by the young and exuberant Lt. Col. Prateep Suphanrojn. He led the orchestra decisively through Glinka’s sizzling overture Ruslan and Ludmilla, which opened the programme and Johann Strauss’s evergreen waltz On the Beautiful Blue Danube in which several in the audience could be heard discretely humming some of the tunes.

The many vocal items proved especially popular. American baritone Nicholas Provenzale gave a dazzlingly brilliant rendition of Largo al factotum from Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville”. With its fast tempo and tongue-twisting words it’s considered one of the most difficult arias in opera. Nicholas Provenzale is on the teaching staff at Mahidol and also gave a moving performance of Somewhere from Bernstein’s “West Side Story”.

Dr. Pornthep Phornprapha President of Siam Motors Co (left) presents flowers to conductor Lt. Col. Prateep Suphanrojn.Dr. Pornthep Phornprapha President of Siam Motors Co (left) presents flowers to conductor Lt. Col. Prateep Suphanrojn.

The programme featured performances by Cherryl Hayes who’s also on the Mahidol teaching staff. She’s an accomplished jazz singer with an extraordinary vocal range of three and a half octaves. In a style reminiscent of jazz greats like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald she gave a stylish performance of two well-loved songs composed by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Love at Sundown and the famous Hungry Man Blues.  Particularly charming was the singing of Natchaya Ratchawong in His Majesty’s delightful song, Dream Island.

Masaya Furuta, Vice-President of Yamaha presents flowers to concert-master Sittichai Pengcharoen.Masaya Furuta, Vice-President of Yamaha presents flowers to concert-master Sittichai Pengcharoen.

The programme included an exceptional performance of Memory sung by Auranus Yuenyonghettaporn and the lovely song You Raise me Up was given a rousing performance by students Tanapol Srirat, Piyaboot Chimanee, and Pongpisut Chinwong. Later, Pongpisut gave a beautiful solo rendition of the old karaoke favourite My Way. But perhaps the most emotional performance was by Tanapol Srirat and Kaltira Songprakhom who sang The Prayer, made famous in a recording by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli. The two Thai student singers gave a deeply moving performance with perfect timing and intonation. There wasn’t a dry eye in the botanical gardens.

Main concert organizers (from left) Jan von Chris, Judith Edmonds, Helle Ransten, Ratanachai Sittidachanai, Greg Barton and Len Unterberger celebrate a hugely successful musical evening.Main concert organizers (from left) Jan von Chris, Judith Edmonds, Helle Ransten, Ratanachai Sittidachanai, Greg Barton and Len Unterberger celebrate a hugely successful musical evening.

These beautiful gardens proved a superb venue for the concert and were donated for the event by the Phornprapha Family, while Siam Music Yamaha provided an extraordinary sound system that made the music seem even larger than life. It was one of the most memorable occasions in the blossoming cultural life of Pattaya and hopefully perhaps, a sign of things to come.

A rose for a budding young soloist.A rose for a budding young soloist.

Some of the 12 student soloists: (L-R) Pongpisut Chinwong, Tanapol Srirat, Kornchanok Meesa, Pijarin Wiriyasakdakul, Kaltira Songprackhom and Wongsathorn Narunmit receive well-deserved applause.Some of the 12 student soloists: (L-R) Pongpisut Chinwong, Tanapol Srirat, Kornchanok Meesa, Pijarin Wiriyasakdakul, Kaltira Songprackhom and Wongsathorn Narunmit receive well-deserved applause.

Cherryl Hayes, Nicholas Provenzale and three of the twelve student singers.Cherryl Hayes, Nicholas Provenzale and three of the twelve student singers.

The Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra in full flow.The Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra in full flow.

Nicholas Provenzale sings “Largo al Factotum” with Lt. Col. Prateep Suphanrojn conducting.Nicholas Provenzale sings “Largo al Factotum” with Lt. Col. Prateep Suphanrojn conducting.

Conductor Lt. Col. Prateep Suphanrojn ensured the 70-piece orchestra played in complete harmony.Conductor Lt. Col. Prateep Suphanrojn ensured the 70-piece orchestra played in complete harmony.

Members of the horn section take their turn in the spotlight.Members of the horn section take their turn in the spotlight.

Cherryl Hayes gave a great rendition of H.M. King Bhumibol’s “Love at Sundown”.Cherryl Hayes gave a great rendition of H.M. King Bhumibol’s “Love at Sundown”.

A flautist from the woodwind section performs a solo.A flautist from the woodwind section performs a solo.

Kornchanok Meesa sings Bizet’s “Habanera” from the opera Carmen. Kornchanok Meesa sings Bizet’s “Habanera” from the opera Carmen.

Sasinee Aswajesdakul sings the famous Neapolitan song “O Sole Mio”.Sasinee Aswajesdakul sings the famous Neapolitan song “O Sole Mio”.

Casa Pascal’s catering staff were kept busy feeding the hundreds of music lovers in attendance.Casa Pascal’s catering staff were kept busy feeding the hundreds of music lovers in attendance.

The Phornprapha Botanic Gardens provided a spectacular venue for the free  open air concert.The Phornprapha Botanic Gardens provided a spectacular venue for the free  open air concert.

The large crowd of concert goers enjoyed the warm evening sunshine and fantastic live music.The large crowd of concert goers enjoyed the warm evening sunshine and fantastic live music.