The young string players of the Chiang Rai Youth Orchestra (CYO) and English composers Richard Harvey and Bill Connor, the men who created the much-loved Naresuan movie scores. They were ably supported by a brilliant, young, London-based string quartet, Sixteen Wires, plus a group of the youngest Chiang Rai violin-school students, who opened the concert with a cheerful selection of short pieces.
The excitingly varied programme ranged from music by Praetorius and Mozart, including a virtuoso performance by Richard Harvey in the Clarinet Quintet in A, to Piazzolla’s Libertango and Bill Connor’s own composition, Sat’d’y. This jaunty, rock-flavoured piece, written 25 years ago for a youth orchestra in the north of England, is a favourite with the young players of the CYO and they attacked it with big smiles and a great sense of rhythm.
The success of the CYO is the result of more than 10 years of dedicated work by its founder and conductor, music lover (and karate champion) Paramet Lerdkasem, with the vital support of its long-term sponsor, Doi Chaang Coffee. The joyous music-making of the Friendship Concert showed just how far this 60-strong orchestra has come, despite limited teaching resources and a shortage of good quality instruments. But the wider context of events in Thailand was not forgotten, as performers and audience stood for a minute’s silence to honour those who have suffered in the recent devastating floods.
During the week-long build-up to the concert, the two composers and the members of the string quartet ran an intensive programme of daily rehearsals and master classes for the young string players of the CYO. It was an opportunity that was seized with gusto, as the excellent performances at Saturday’s concert demonstrated.
“This is the finest youth orchestra in Northern Thailand _ probably anywhere outside Bangkok,” Richard Harvey enthused after the concert. “And it owes everything to the inspiration and energy of Khun Paramet. It was a privilege to come here and work with this wonderful group of cheerful, talented and enthusiastic youngsters.”
The Friendship Concert was sponsored by Dusit International and presented by the Chiang Rai Youth Orchestra, the Siam Chamber Orchestra Foundation and the MAE Foundation, a British-based charity, founded by Harvey, that focuses on helping young people in Thailand to learn and play music.