Academic waxes lyrical over Royal Anthem

Academic waxes lyrical over Royal Anthem

The Mahidol University orchestra under music professor Sugree Charoensook has been praised for its performance of the Royal Anthem (<i>Sansoen Phra Barami</i>). (Photo courtesy Mahidol University)
The Mahidol University orchestra under music professor Sugree Charoensook has been praised for its performance of the Royal Anthem (Sansoen Phra Barami). (Photo courtesy Mahidol University)

Renowned classical music professor Sugree Charoensook is asking the government for 100 million baht to standardise the way the Royal Anthem is played, so it matches how Mahidol University's orchestra performs it.

In an article published in Matichon newspaper last week, Prof Sugree, founder and dean of Mahidol University's College of Music, said the idea came after complaints by Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda were relayed to him, that most orchestras do not perform the Royal Anthem as graciously as Mahidol's musicians do.

The Royal Anthem's importance to the country is tremendous, Prof Sugree said.

It is a symbol of the nation, and epitomises its unity, stability, and the people's love of the King. Therefore, musicians must ensure they do it credit.

"The power of a song stems from its beauty," he said, adding that an unappealing performance would tarnish the anthem and the country's image.

The Royal Anthem, or Sansoen Phra Barami song, is performed during state occasions and before the start of films in cinemas, and arts performances in Thailand.

Prof Sugree suggested 100 million baht be allotted to the university's orchestra to create a standardised arrangement of the song and train 400 musicians who will later teach children in 1,000 schools nationwide.

The whole process will help turn Thai society into a warmer, unified society, he said. People across the country will experience the song's beauty and that will give them joy.

Prof Sugree has since clarified in a phone interview with the Bangkok Post that the 100 million baht figure he gave was exaggerated.

"In fact, any amount will do," he said, although he urged politicians and state officials to consider the importance of allotting funds to protect and nurture arts, culture and traditions that represent the nation.

If one wishes to do this properly, sufficient investment is needed, he added, noting it would be a welcome form of encouragement to artists and musicians.

Asked if one man can set beauty standards for a whole country, Prof Sugree explained himself, saying it was an idea relayed to him.

"Gen Prem reportedly said he liked my arrangement of the song. If he liked another's, then he would ask that person to do it," the dean said, adding that historically, musical standards were often set by those in positions of power.

"I don't think it's appropriate for someone to declare they can set a national standard," Vanich Potavanich, a conductor with the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra, said.

Art and beauty are subjective matters and everyone's taste differs by varying degrees, Mr Vanich said.

There is no "monopoly on beauty", the conductor added, especially not in a democratic system.

He added he had heard many arrangements of the Royal Anthem. Some he found beautiful, others less so, but he personally believes Prof Sugree's claims are a bit over the top.

If there is to be a standardised arrangement of the Royal Anthem, it must follow a thorough discussion between state agencies and various artists, he argued. "The process must be participatory."


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