I was volunteering with the Father Ray Foundation in Thailand from October 2014 until May 2015. This organization operated a variety of projects serving some of the poor and marginalized in Thailand. Two of these projects that I worked at daily were the Vocational School for the Disabled, and the School for the Blind.
Written 04.08.15, Edited 06.14.15
I am the one person who has taken so many people to their first-ever orchestral experience. I would like to think that I make this music accessible to people who otherwise would never go, simply because I extend the invitation to them. I have never introduced SO MANY people, at one time to this kind of experience, until Sun. Mar. 7, 2015 in Pattaya, Thailand.
When I heard about the free orchestral concert of the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra, there was no question in my mind that I would be in attendance. Being constantly surrounded by and involved with the many people who make up the Father Ray Foundation, it occurred to me that there may well be many others who would be interested in this concert as well. In attendance this day were about seven or eight students from the blind school, one teacher, and led by the mighty Mr. Joe from America (long term patron of the School for the Blind). From the Vocational School for the Disabled there were maybe 20-30 students, and about a dozen volunteers in attendance.
It was the pre-show that really made the afternoon for me.
On arrival, as promised to me, there was a dedicated area set aside of the perfectly manicured, outdoor botanical garden and concert venue for the afternoon of the country club. They had even placed blind walking sticks on many of the chairs; nice touch!
There was an indoor air-conditioned facility right behind the stage where the musicians and performers happened to be warming up. After taking the group of blind students to the “hong nam” (toilet), Mr. Joe took it upon himself to approach a handful of these musicians and singers to request them to demonstrate and in some cases explain in Thai about their instruments to these incredibly curious blind people (90+% of the orchestra were Thai).
What a beautiful thing to witness and photograph! The curiosity, excitement, joy, and wonder that I saw all over these faces as their hands explored that which the eye cannot see. One of the boys in attendance (these were the older students, between the ages of about 15-20) happened to be a fairly proficient electric bass player. I have heard him perform many times, both at the blind school, as well as at various Father Ray Foundation functions over the past 6 months. I have photos of him experiencing his first-ever acoustic upright bass. It was amazing to see his hands move; they knew EXACTLY what to do, despite the fact that I am 99% certain that he has never touched an upright bass before.
This was undoubtedly the highlight of the afternoon for me. I am so glad that I helped to guide these students to the “hong nam” so that I could witness this event and enjoy some much-needed air conditioning as well!
The performance was of course incredible, something that was of no real surprise to me. My hat goes off to the performer for being able to play beautiful music beneath the relentless heat of the Thailand sun! The tuning issues alone!
The set list consisted of a number of vocal and popular selections for easy crowd pleasers. My favourite was an older vocalist named Cheryl Hayes. She really stole the show; that woman is a PERFORMER! There was also a young, good looking Thai vocalist who had a Bruno Mars thing going on; big fan!
I was seated next to a handful of girls from the Vocational School during the performance. They were asking me many questions throughout. My favourite question came after Cheryl Hayes sang her first song of the afternoon. These girls were not my group of Computer Business English students, but they know that I am a musician because I helped to conduct the Christmas choirs of the Vocational School students as well as the Children’s Home back in December. One of the girls asked me: ‘teacher, can you sing like that’? Never in my wildest dreams kid! It was cute and endearing all the same.
There was a really great turnout for the event, as I understand, the first of its kind. I hope that it is not the last, and I hope that there is someone at the foundation to help facilitate another outing if this is the case.
What a beautiful and enchanting afternoon in the Bornphrapa Gardens of the Siam Country Club in Pattaya, Thailand!
As an added bonus, the back of my head appeared in the Pattaya Mail newspaper article that covered the event weeks later!