An exciting and busy week just ended for a group of young classical musicians from all over Southeast Asia after taking part in the first ever Southeast Asian Youth Chamber Orchestra (SEAYCO) founded by the Mahidol University and the Goethe Institute of Thailand.
SEAYCO gave 28 musicians under 26 years old the opportunity to play with an experienced conductor and soloist in a professional environment after a week of training and practice at the College of Music at Mahidol University.
Last weekend _ Oct 13_ the beautiful sounds of Mozart and Edward Elgar filled the auditorium at the university, and yesterday the orchestra tempted the ears of a lucky audience in the Strand Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar.
Prof Nicolas Pasquet was the conductor. Originally from Uruguay, he now teaches at the Hochschule fur Musik Franz Liszt in Weimer, Germany, and conducts orchestras around the world.
"For a first time I think this was really good," he said, but it improved only after some initial struggles.
"The challenge with the first rehearsal was that everyone was on stage and very nervous and not sure what to do The first time I started the entrance there was a big pause. It was what we call a crash rehearsal and it was a crash," he said with a chuckle.
During a crash rehearsal Prof Pasquet requires that the musicians play through the song, no matter what it sounds like. Even when the start was not too pleasurable for the ear he said, by the end you could see the potential of the musicians.
"After three hours of rehearsals you could really see where it was going, that it could be really good by the end of the week," he said. "There was a long way in front of us in order to grow together but the development is extraordinary."
Members of SEAYCO in preparation for a performance.
It was not just in the auditorium that Prof Pasquet saw the development either.
"The first days when we came in for lunch we just had little groups, the Vietnamese group, the Filipino group, the Thai group. Now they are all mixed up and have come together. They accepted each other and came together," he said.
That was one of the goals of SEAYCO _ to bring musicians from different environments and cultures together to work as one cohesive unit that is an orchestra. Prof Pasquet said that it is important to have a programme like SEAYCO so the next generation of musicians and people learn to work together.
"The orchestra is a mirror of how society works. You are just one part of a whole in the orchestra and you are responsible for the part that you are going to play. Perhaps if you play wrong or make mistakes you upset the whole of society or the orchestra," he explained.
"There are people who are leaders, who have certain qualities of guiding people so they sit in the guiding positions in the orchestra. There are other people who are also very good but aren't leaders for the society, but their role is still important to the society and the orchestra. You have to learn to get along and work with each other even if you don't like each other." For clarinet soloist Martin Spangenberg, who also teaches at the Hoschule fur Music Franz Liszt in Germany, the combination of cultures helped to bring a new life to the music.
"A piece is not just a piece, it has a new life and a new way of sounding when you are playing it. That is what I liked," he said. He saw that new life in the musicians too.
"I think that they may not have been able to play in many orchestras or in such a close project before.
"We had a week before the concert so everyday we had to have a success and work hard and that's very satisfying," he said.
"You see the improvement from the morning to the evening and it gives you motivation and its very satisfying."
The musicians came from Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand to the workshop. After completing successful auditions they each received a full scholarship and had expenses covered.
It also provided locals with an opportunity to hear classics like Mozart's Symphony No.29 and Antonin Dvorak's Nocturne for Strings in B Major by a live orchestra for free. SEAYCO not only teaches the musicians and promotes classical music it also could be a jumping off point for careers.
"We are always in the search of talents and I think this gathering of young people is a chance for these special, gifted, and talented people to show us and give us a chance to see them and discover them," said Prof Pasquet.
For both Prof Pasquet and Spangenberg the experience of working with the young musicians has been inspiring on many different levels.
Although they said that there were a few bumps in the road they are looking forward to the next time they can work with the programme.
"I am very happy that they are planning to continue this project, we are already making plans on how we will continue with this for next year," said Prof Pasquet.
"I hope that we have planted a little seed here. We came to show how we work, how we expect music to sound, and show them that we have been successful. If the people here see that, the seed of music will grow and develop."
Prof Nicolas Pasquet.
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Writer: Kelly Malone