A Concert of His Majesty's Royal Compositions, which is being held this week in four European capitals, is a music event with a mission for famed violinist Tasana Nagavajara.
This time the former concert master of the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra, who is teaching at Silpakorn University's Faculty of Music, takes the helm of Bangkok Pro Musica, Thailand's just-revived first orchestra. He also acts as the orchestra's manager. The orchestra's European tour includes four capital cities, beginning in London last Sunday, the Hague, Brussels, before wrapping in Berlin on Saturday.
"I have researched the orchestra's history, searching for old photos, and also its works, which are available in LPs," said Tasana before the performance this evening at the Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles in Brussels.
According to Tasana, Bangkok Pro Musica was formed in 1958 as a string quartet before being expanded into an orchestra, and is the foundation for today's BSO. It then faded without public performance in 1975, seven years before the BSO was officially established in 1982.
"Several members of Pro Musica joined the BSO in its early days," he said.
The violinist recalled he was among the young audience of Pro Musica, adding proudly: "My uncle was also a musician with Pro Musica from the beginning.
"Since there are Pro Musica, which means music lovers, in several countries, we need to add Bangkok to the name, to show our identity."
The revived Pro Musica comprises musicians from a wide age range, and some are BSO musicians. "They are professional musicians. There are two British and one Japanese. The youngest are music students with great talents," he said.
Conducting the orchestra for the European tour is ML Usni Pramoj, privy councillor, who re-arranged all the 16 royal compositions for the programme, which was originally planned as a musical tribute for His Majesty on the occasion of his seventh cycle birthday anniversary. ML Usni was a founding member of Pro Musica.
Tasana said the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands were chosen for the concert because each country has respective royal family. Germany is specially included in the programme because it is celebrating the 150th anniversary of diplomatic ties with Thailand this year.
"We want it to be a genuine royal music event," he said of the concert, which is co-organised by the culture and foreign affairs ministries.
Tasana also noted the re-arranged versions of these royal compositions placed particular emphasis on string instruments, with solos by wind instruments. The wind instrument, oboe and clarinet, will add colour to the music, he said.
"That creates a style and mood that is different from the original jazz or Big Band versions," said the 43-year-old violinist.
Each of Blue Day, Sweet Words and Lullaby was suitable for string performance, he noted.
"Actually, they are the set of songs we recorded back in 1996 to commemorate the Monarch's 50 years on the throne," he said.
He said although Thais are well acquainted with His Majesty's compositions, they hardly have a chance to attend live royal composition concert in the country.
"We played this set of royal compositions in Japan and some Asean countries but not in Thailand," he said. Before embarking on the European tour, Bangkok Pro Musica gave a special performance at Siam Society last week.
Tasana said the European tour concert will end with New Year's Blessings.
"It's kind of an old tradition to wrap up a royal composition concert with this song," said Tasana.
He noted that even though New Year's Blessings is an all-time popular song, played non-stop in the festive season, few people know that it was composed by His Majesty.
"It's our gimmick. By listening to this song, it's like all the audience receives blessings from the Monarch," he said.
About the author
- Writer: Ploenpote Atthakor
Position: Deputy Editorial Pages Editor