St. Paul Thai Lutheran Church on Dixon Street is hosting a live singing contest in September, which they are calling Thai Voice. The event is modeled after the long-running TV show on NBC called The Voice

The 21 registered contestants will compete in the qualifying round on Sept. 11 at 1 p.m. Those who survive will sing in the final round on Sept. 24 at 5 p.m. There was a registration fee for contestants, but there is no charge for people in the audience.

“The readers of the Review,” said the congregation’s president, Chauwarin Tuntisak, “who like music and culture will enjoy this event, especially the final night on Sept. 24 when we will serve Thai food after the contest.”

All of the contestants will be of Thai descent, but everyone is invited to enjoy the musical extravaganza. Genres sung by the solo contestants will be 50% Thai Pop, 25% Thai Traditional Folk Music and 25% International Pop.

The event was the brain child of Tuntisak, who was inspired when he heard two of the church’s musicians, Pun (aka Sasin Tuangjaruwinai) and Pat (aka Sathapat Sangsuwan) “sing beautifully” and another member, Peter Tessale share a message about “not worrying,”

Tuntisak said to himself, “Thai people need to hear this.”

“There are two main goals of the event,” Pun explained. “The first is to open our door to Thai people. We think the first step of evangelism is to get to know people who are not Christian. We want Thai people to be comfortable in the church community first.

“The second goal is to build community and have fun. We designed our contest to be friendly and welcoming. We hope everyone who comes to the event will get to know other Thais who live in Chicago. Community is important, especially those who study/work abroad. Language and culture are not easy to learn in a few days; they take time to understand, respect, and appreciate.”

There are four Thai restaurants in Forest Park, but not many expats from the Land of Smiles actually live here. According to the Pew Research Center, however, 5,000 people of Thai descent live in the Chicago Metropolitan Area, and it is from that cohort that the 21 contestants have come.

Christians are a minority in Thailand, comprising less than 1% of the population. They are also a minority among the 204,150 Thais living in the U.S. Being a minority within a minority, however, does not prevent church members from having good relationships with the four Buddhist temples in the Chicago metro area, and they remain in contact with other Thais through the Thai Association of Illinois and the Thai Consulate in Chicago.

Pun, who is 25 years old and came to the states seven years ago to attend college, now has the job title of buyer/Asian unit business manager at the Golden Triangle, a high-end antique business in Chicago. He and the younger members of his church make connections with Thai students through word of mouth.

He pointed out that the four contest judges reveal how connected his congregation is to the Thai diaspora in Chicago.

Sathapat Sangsuwan is a young member of St. Paul Thai.

Chamni Sripraram is a professor at NIU who teaches Thai, Southeast Asian and World music.

Bee Jiruk is currently performing at the Thai Cultural and Fine Arts Institute, located in Burr Ridge.

The Honorable Isarapong Bannapradist won the karaoke contest of the Asian Community in 2002 and is invited to sing at many Thai community events.

Assisted by three other part-time ministers, Noppawat Kumpeeroskul is the full-time pastor of the Thai congregation. He encouraged residents of Forest Park to enjoy another part of the cultural diversity of the village.

“For Christians all talents are gifts from God the Creator. Thais are talented in art and music. Come see the talent they have.”

The address of St. Paul Thai Lutheran Church is 7416 Dixon St. Exact times for the contest have yet to be announced, but the series will be held on Sunday evenings. For more information, go to the Facebook page of St. Paul Thai Lutheran Church or call Chauwarin Tuntisak and the Golden Triangle at 312-758-1223.