Almost everyone on the planet has been touched by the profound beauty of Beethoven. According to a new report that’s out, this includes elephants as well. There’s a heartwarming story coming to us from Thailand, where a couple is doing wonderful work at an elephant sanctuary. Pianist Paul Barton’s wife runs an elephant sanctuary for these older animals, and one day Paul was at the piano playing Beethoven when an elephant became intrigued. It was all quite amazing—and yet at the same time rather frightening. As you watch the accompanying videos, realize that these are wild animals; huge and in many ways very dangerous.
Barton is a self-taught pianist and classically trained artist. He came to Thailand for three months to teach piano at a private school twenty-two years ago and met a wildlife artist and animal lover named Khwan, who would become his wife. Her work has been finding a safe place for all of these neglected, abused and old elephants.
An old bull name Plara caught his attention as he played flute and piano outdoors for the elephants. “Plara was having his breakfast of bana grass, but when he heard the music for the first time, he suddenly stopped eating with the grass protruding from his mouth and stayed motionless all through the music. There weren’t many visitors back then so I could spend a lot of time each day alone with Plara and the other elephants. Plara really liked slow classical music, and each time I played piano or flute, he curled his trunk and held the tip trembling in his mouth until the music was over.” Barton says he was heartbroken when Plara died. The elephant’s previous owner had removed and sold his tusks, and an infection had set in. Despite the best efforts of the sanctuary veterinarians, Plara didn’t survive the infection.
So how does the pianist win over an elephants trust? Barton says that bananas are a great way to begin. They have a terrific sense of smell and will get to know who you are. “One of the most memorable [reactions] was playing ‘Moonlight Sonata’ to a big bull elephant called Romsai at night. Romsai is an elephant that they keep away from people due to his strength and dangerous temperament. To be so close to him at the piano under the moon and stars and play music to him was quite special,” Barton says. “He seemed to be listening and, from his reaction, liked the music. He let me live.”
Follow the link and enjoy Paul Barton’s private concerts with these magnificent creatures. Just maybe the world will respond by saving and helping to care for some these massive music lovers.