"We pray for God’s kingdom to bestow upon this place to be a place of blessings to whoever enters this Sala"
- Nat Yontararak
My life is full of dreams. One of my dreams was to have an ideal concert hall which has beautiful acoustics along with a beautiful piano. A hall which both performers and the listeners equally fulfilled since it would unite them together through music.
The most important person who had been a great supporter and inspiration for me to realize this dream is H.H Princess Sudasiri Sobha. She was the daughter of H.R.H Prince Chudadhuj Dharadilok who was the 9th son of King Rama V and Queen Sri Bajarindra.
In 1973, when I was a sophomore at the faculty of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University, I was introduced to her through my friend, M.R. Nida Sukhsvasti ,who was the princess’ niece. The very first day that we met, she told me to call her “Than Mae” (mother). I was so touched by her grace and kindness since then. My mission was to give her electone (electric organ) lessons. We met almost every week for 4 years until I graduated. Through these 4 years, I’ve managed to teach her to play many songs. Though she later became more engaged on many royal duties, we still managed with the lessons. Than Mae loves music and also enjoys doing recordings as well. Later, it turned out that most of the time, I would be the one who played the music for her to record. The cassette tapes of my playing were given to her friends as gifts. During the first year that I knew her, I had just started to write some songs. She would listen to them attentively, giving useful comments for me to think about. We always had a nice conversations about so many things. Those were some of my happiest and most special days.
Though I started to play piano since I was 9 and gave my debut recital when I was 20 ( junior year in Chulalongkorn), I went to London to study music even more seriously after graduation. This was because I wanted to become a professional musician. Since my bachelor degree was not in music, I had to start all over again. I spent another 6 years in England, 1st year for the preparation – 3 years study bachelor degree at Goldsmiths’ College, London University – last 2 years doing Master degree of performance at Reading University where I received scholarship. During these 6 years, I became closer to Than Mae, she would come to London at least twice a year and stayed at her house in Kingston. Each trip would be almost a month. This house also had an electone, so I would always go there to entertain her. She treated me nicely and let me dine with her friends also. I learnt many things indeed.
When I received a scholarship to continue my post-graduate studies, she said she would give a Steinway piano for me as a present. I was over the moon! It was more than a dream for a music student!! One day she took me to the shop, and let me choose any piano I liked. I chose model C (small concert grand); it has to be specially ordered and tropicalized so we could take back to Thailand, took 9 months to do it. The shop delivered another grand piano to be used during the time and Than Mae was so kind to allow this piano to be in her drawing room in Kingston house. She gave me the house key, I can go there and practice anytime. She also rented a new flat for me not far from her house so I could commute there easily. This very first Steinway model C has become a legendary piano for my music school. From this piano, I have composed and taught many students. I use it 6 to 10 hours a day! Up till now, it has helped me to obtain another 19 pianos! (9 grands and 10 uprights).
Not long after Than Mae bought me the piano, my mother was ill and passed away a few months later. Than Mae was very concerned with my situation therefore she took care of me even more. Than Mae became more and more to me like a real mother. When she knew that Sugar and I were in love, she was very happy. When I asked her permission to let Sugar come with her to visit me in London, she was very pleased to do so. While we were there, she even gave us the money to enjoy ourselves. We had the most wonderful time there before we even got married. When we needed advice, Than Mae always gave us words of wisdom.
After I graduated from England and came back home, the piano arrived at my parents’ house by plane. Than Mae came and we had a little celebration together, and it was such a joyous time. Later on, when Sugar and I wanted to get married, Than Mae gave me the engagement ring, went up to Chiang Mai to ask Chao Mae ( Sugar’s mother) for her hand. Three months later, she hosted our wedding reception. When the time came for us to have our piano school, she gave us enough money to build our own house with the school attached to it and along with the concert room where I designed a special place to put the Steinway C she gave me.
If someone asks me how God, who created heaven and earth, takes care of his people ? I would say that God sends his guardian angels to do it. For me, Than Mae was God’s guardian angel. I started my life 27 years ago like a fairy tale. However, everything in my life that was provided by God’s angel, Than Mae, has its purpose.
They are not for my own pleasure. Though I am happy to have them, I also have duty and responsibility for them as well.
I nurture my own children ( whom Than Mae named all of them) to be good people as well as good musicians as much as I can. Same goes for my students and everyone around me.
When we celebrated Nat Studio 25th Anniversary, we had a vision to build this concert hall. In fact, we had dreamt it since 1993 when we bought another piece of land next to our house. It took us 17 years to pay back the bank loan. Then in 2001, we were able to have a Steinway concert grand with the help from Khun Yongsak Lochotinan who gave a very special deal. In 2010, we started to design the hall. It was my first full design since graduated as an architect in 1977 ( I was very pleased with it). Still, I had Khun Pittaya Tipprapa helped with the details which I was not familiar with. The layout, rooms and style were my works which kept me awake for many nights! I am so grateful to Khun Pittaya and Khun Thaninwat Yotyangyao, my contractor who carefully selected the cement work decoration, and also went up to Chiang Mai to supervise the teak and rose wood transport from Chiang Mai.
The name Sala Sudasiri Sobha was granted by the permission of M.R. Sunida Kitiyakara who is the only daughter of Than Mae. She kindly contributed the first portion of construction cost. When you first enter the building, you will be in the entrance hall ,”Boon-Anand”, which is a combination of my parents’ name, my mother Boonyuen and my father Anand. It was through their love that I was able to advance to each success step by step. Through this entrance hall you will go up the stairs to the second floor.
To the left of the entrance hall is “Duangduen Room” named after Chao Mae, bearing her emblem on the wall with her surname “Na Chiangmai”, Chao Mae is one of the last Princesses of Lanna Kingdom. She was so kind to give us all the teak wood and rose wood from her old houses. We treasure the teak wood floor of the Sala , the Stairs, the doors and windows which form all important parts of this Sala.
The very front room on the right is a VIP room named “Ladawan”. Khun Ladawan Mojdara is like another mother to us. Her mother was a very close friend of my mother. She knew me since I was born and was the one who encouraged Sugar & I to get married. She helped organizing some of my important recitals before we got married. When we started our business, she always gave us many valuable advices. She was considered to be a leading successful business woman in Thailand. She would always emphasize us to serve God and attend church service on every Sunday.
The first flight of the stairs stops in front of “Pantipa room”. Kru (teacher) Pantipa was my dearest piano teacher who taught me from Grade 8 until I obtained the FTCL (the highest diploma of Trinity College of Music London which took place in Bangkok). She knew my playing better than anyone else and I loved her very much. This room is dedicated to her. It is a room with two grand pianos suitable for rehearsing piano concerto or small ensemble, it can be a good room for vocal training as well. Kru Pantipa always told me that “To be an artist, you need to have both virtuosity & integrity as well.”
The main room is “Sala Sudasiri Sobha Hall ”. In front of the hall is a little foyer, you will see Than Mae’s Portrait painted by Ajarn Chakrabhand Posayakrit, our National Artist. Then you are in the Sala Sudasiri Sobha Hall which is 16 metres long, 8 metres wide and 8 metres high. The main floor has 140 seats and the balcony has 40 seats. At the front of the balcony is the emblem of Than Mae. The stage is on the east side with a high window. So on a full moon night, the audience could see the moon as the backdrop! I wish Than Mae could be with us today to witness the beautiful music in her own hall. She might enjoy doing some recordings also!
The love of a mother is always unconditional; always giving and forgiving, though sometimes we do not deserve it. I am so grateful for God’s angels who were like mothers to me. These 5 rooms are dedicated as a token of our deepest gratitude to them. Now Sugar & I have an opportunity to be father and mother to many lives that come to us. We pray for God’s kingdom bestows upon this place to be a place of blessings to whoever enters this Sala.
(The owner and designer of Sala Sudasiri Sobha)