More than an estimated 200,000 Thais flocked to Sanam Luang in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok Saturday (October 22) to add their voices to a new recording of the Royal Anthem in tribute to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died on October 13 at the age of 88 after ruling the kingdom for more than 70 years (See: End Of Days: Thailand King Bhumibol Adulyadej Dead).
Organised in just four days and supported by the 200-person strong Siam Philharmonic Orchestra, more than 150 professional choral singers, and a production team of 1,300, the new recording of the Royal Anthem has been rushed into post-production editing and will be released in movie theatres and for broadcast on television across Thailand later this week.
Produced by well-known Thai film producer and director M C Chatrichalerm Yugala, the ‘Royal Anthem mark II’ comes as a tsunami-like wave of grief sweeps across the nation as the country mourns the loss of the only king more than 90 per cent of the population has ever known.
Black-clad mourners spanning the entire generation spectrum began arriving at what was formerly known as ‘the royal cremation ground’ from the break of day, despite the programme not scheduling the first recording until between 1 and 5pm. By mid-morning all approaches to Sanam Luang were awash with people bedecked in black, white, or civil service uniforms – many of whom wept as they carried photographs of the former monarch.
Around the 12ha (30 acre) park giant projection screens had been erected so that those away from the stage could see the vision being captured by 50 cameras and two camera drones in real-time. Two crane-mounted cameras also maneuvered over the the crowd.
Despite torrential wet-season downpours interspersed by periods of baking sunshine throughout the day the resolve and determination of those who had gathered for this momentous event failed to wane.
Nary a murmur of complaint was also heard – the common sentiment expressed by those who had come to add their voice to their beloved King’s Royal Anthem being that getting soaked to the skin, chilled to the bone, and baked was a very small inconvenience to pay for someone who had done so much for the nation.
To facilitate the mass movement of people 25 roads around the Grand Palace were closed. More than 150 special train services were added by State Railway of Thailand (SRT) and more than 100 bus rides added by the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA). Free shuttle buses were provided to transport those arriving from the provinces where many of the benefits of King Adulyadej’s reign has been felt the most.
Additionally some 200 tents staffed by hundreds of medical and emergency service volunteers were also established around the perimeter to provide assistance to those overcome by the heat, rain, emotion, or the physical effort due to their advanced age.
Throughout the afternoon the Royal Anthem was sung multiple times to ensure a wide amount of material is available for editing. At 10pm with no easing in the numbers present, candles were lit and a final round of the Royal Anthem was sung, but this time without the orchestral backing so that the full emotion and sentiment of those who had gathered could be captured and incorporated in the final production.
While somewhat muted because of the sombre occasion, and not perfectly in key, there is little doubt though that every word of the ‘Thailand Royal Anthem mark II’ was sung with a love so deep that it’s questionable if anyone who has not gone through a deep personal tragedy of their own could ever comprehend the feeling of loss that has descended on Thailand. While King Bhumibol Adulyadej may be gone, it’s clear he will never be forgotten.
Feature video uploaded to YouTube by TNN ช่อง16
- New version of Royal Anthem film will be screened next week (Thai PBS)
- Huge crowd of mourning Thais sings royal anthem in honor of late king (Reuters)
- Sea of Voices Raise in Tribute for Late King (Khaosod English)