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A hi-tech happy birthday!

Phatarawadee Phataranawik
The Nation (Thailand)

His Majesty the King is being showered in candlelit est wishes – online and in a wonderful light-and-sound show at the Grand Palace

Lighting candles to celebrate His Majesty the King’s birthday is a centuries-old tradition, and tomorrow the land will again glow by candlelight, but this is 2009, and high technology wants to join in the blessing.

CAT Telecom has set up the website www.CandleForTheKing.com, bearing His Majesty’s portrait and, as an audio treat, his composition “Saeng Tien” (“Candlelight Blues”).

More than 66,000 well-wishers had already left virtual birthday greetings as of press time, each one being assigned a numbered candle and most leaving messages. The total is expected to reach a million before Wednesday, when the site will be closed. “Long Live the King,” Lee Seungjin posted for his family alongside Candle 9456. “We will do good things for the King,” promised Siriporn Kritsueb at No 6011. Computer-graphic candles are also part of the spectacular light-and-sound extravaganza “The Greatest of the Kings: The Greeting of the Land”, which features imagery projected on the fa็ade of the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall beginning tomorrow night.

Sponsored by the Interior Ministry, the Bt150-million show accompanied by an orchestra continues until December 13 with the Grand Palace’s statue of King Rama V as its focal point. The presentation blends hi-tech multimedia created by the French and German teams Digital Slaves and Geist with computer graphics of traditional Thai motifs made by local designers. Creative Technology of Singapore, which participated in the Beijing Olympics, is responsible for the 4D film highlighting the 20-minute show, which portrays His Majesty as the Father of the Land and covers his philosophy on sustainable living. The film tells the King’s story with the help of three generations of Thais who have lived during his reign. At the centre of the tale is a Chiang Rai grandfather, a farmer who lives by the principle of sustainability because the King gave him his land. The elderly man has granddaughters quite different in age. Prae is a college student who regards His Majesty as her role model. Ploy is still young enough to wonder why the King’s portrait is on wall of every home.

“The film was inspired by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s poem about the palace,” says Vinij Lertrattanachai, the CEO of Fresh Air Festival, which is managing the project.

“The princess wrote that the palace is like a rural research station, with oxen, a fish farm and a rice field.”

Ploy gets to visit Chitralada Palace on a field trip and is surprised that it’s not like the castles of the fairytales.

“Several previously unseen shots from the King’s own archive appear for the first time in the film,” Vinij notes, adding that computer graphics are used to lend a fantasy feel to some scenes.

The French squad, in charge of artistic direction, researched Siamese architecture and the public’s attitude toward the King, and ultimately suggested as a central image for the project the spectacle of the throne hall lit by candlelight.

It seemed perfect, Vinij says – candlelight representing people’s preferred way of blessing their beloved monarch.

While the French artists developed their animation at home, Thai graphic designers used computer software to fashion the classic Siamese patterns known as lai kranok.

A 129-member orchestra conducted by award-winner Bundit Ungrangsi will perform many of His Majesty’s musical compositions during the celebratory festival.

As well as musicians from the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra and Mahidol and Bangkok universities, the symphony includes six foreigners.

Each day will have a theme song performed live by top artists. Thongchai “Bird” McIntyre will sing “Khong Kwan Jak Kon Din” (“A Gift from the Land”) tomorrow, and brothers Assanee and Wasan Chotikul will wrap things up on December 13 with “Song Phra Jaroen” (“Long Live the King”).


READ : Grand celebrations to mark HM the King’s Birthday


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