The show featured performances of classic opera songs by Handel, Puccini and Verdi as well as more modern songs from Broadway musicals like Miss Saigon, Les Miserables and Jekyll and Hyde.
While this was the group’s third performance in Phuket, CHIARO’s journey began back in 2006 when three wide-eyed young singers, Sirikhwan Buathong (who is now a singing teacher at BISP) Marianne Poh and Sarunpong Dechsangworn, attended a music camp.
There, under the tutelage of highly acclaimed coaches, the trio discovered the beauty of making music together and the idea that would drive them to create CHIARO began to form.
It was during this collaboration and their debut performance in Malaysia that the trio discovered not only their shared interest in making music, but also a vision of making classical music more “funky” and to promote it to a wider audience using various innovative approaches. One way they could do this was by taking a repertoire of songs from different genres and weave them together into brand new stories.
Ever since their debut in Malaysia the self-proclaimed music weavers have been invited for performances by various groups, both in Thailand and Malaysia and as was the case with last month’s “Take Off”, collaborating with other artists.
One of CHIARO’s founding members, soprano singer Sirikhwan Buathong, has been teaching singing and piano at British International School, Phuket for the last six years. Her student Viktor Viktorsson, a talented young singer who recently won the PAPA Youth Talent Contest in Phuket, was one of the guest performers in Take Off in a role written especially for him.
“We asked him to be one of our guest performers this time because we could see the talent and passion in him. This year the Take Off concert was performed in Bangkok and Hua Hin in March, but without Viktor because he was in Phuket. So we adjusted some of our story to add Viktor as a character in the Phuket performance. It was a great chance for someone from a younger generation to learn and perform with advanced singers,” said Sirikhwan.
Clearly passionate about her roles as both a performer and a teacher, Sirikhwan explained a little bit about how the group came to be and what she hopes lies in its future.
“CHIARO is me and my friends – Sarunpong, Marianne and Thanes – who all love music. Together the four of us are the founders of CHIARO. We all know each other because we joined a music camp together. We learned and performed together at the camp and it made us feel close to each other,” said Sirikhwan.
“When we were invited as guests singers for a performance in Malaysia in 2006, we discovered that not only did we share an interest in making music, but also a vision to make classical music more accessible to a wider audience.
So we created CHIARO. Chiaro is an Italian word that means ‘clear’, so we decided to create CHIARO because we all have the same clear vision that we love to sing and entertain audiences. The group now has five members. The four founders and one new member, Ong-ard Kanchaisak,” she added.
The future is looking bright, with CHIARO already booked for performances in Chang Mai and Hat Yai later this year. Sirikhwan says she hopes the group’s unique mix of musical styles and fun storytelling will continue to draw audiences around Thailand and beyond.
“We hope that people get to know us more and more. For people who don’t listen to musicals and classical music we would like help change their attitude by showing them that classical music is not very hard to understand. In that way we hope we can increase the number of classical music lovers,” she said.
It seems that their approach is working, as they have attracted a wide range of audiences from many different backgrounds and ages. Finding a good mixture of songs and music is the key to impressing audiences and the formula needs constant tweaking to keep it in tune with what audiences like.
“Our audiences have a variety of ages, music backgrounds and culture. The youngest audience members can be as young as 6 years old and up to 70 years or older. We always get different feedback from them. Some of them want more classical songs, some want more musicals and movie soundtrack songs. It’s a key challenge for our team to choose the best program to suit to our audience in different places,” said Sirikhwan.
“But we try to choose well-known songs and mix them with some nice classical songs that may not be as well known. This way, audiences can hear some of their favourite songs and fall in love with some new songs as well. Because we believe that beautiful music can reach every heart. They love to come back again for the next performance and always give us a smile and laugh to our jokes during the performance,” she added.
Sirikhwan said she hopes CHIARO can hold more performances in Phuket in the future and help introduce audiences here to the music they love and create more classical music fans in the process.
“Most of the audience said it’s very hard to find a performance like this in Phuket. We want the people in Phuket, especially local people, to have a chance to listen to classical music and discover that it’s not boring like they may think.
“It’s very hard for us to get an audience because many of them have never been to this kind of concert before. Past audiences have said they didn’t know how to dress or how to understand the show and the songs. But once they come they say that it’s so fun and they want to come back again. When we hear this kind of feedback, we know that we have achieved our goal,” said Sirikhwan.