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Pianist playing classical symphonies for old injured and disabled elephants

This pianist has given the elderly, injured, and disabled elephants a moment they will never forget, taking his instrument out into the wild and providing them with performances by classical symphonies.

Kind-hearted Brit Paul Barton, 57, has been hosting his unique shows since 2011, and he believes playing the likes of Bach and Beethoven to animals will help rehabilitate those who have stressful lives.

In his selection of videos, elephants can be seen at Elephant World, a sanctuary near Kanchanaburi, Thailand, mesmerised by Paul’s performance, standing next to the piano as the pianist vases play quietly.

Paul came across Elephant World while making a video about the River Kwai bridge and liked the sound of what is considered a resting place for majestic creatures; Paul visited the reserve, asked the curator if he could bring his own piano along, too?

The first elephant Paul played with was Plara, a blind elephant who skipped breakfast with Bana grass and stood motionless, mesmerised by the sound when he first heard music.

Paul, originally from East Yorkshire, said: ‘Almost all elephants respond to music in a visible way.

“There was a sudden movement when the music started.

“The elephants are free to walk around the piano; they are not chained or tied in any way.

“If they didn’t like the music, they could wander off.

“Some elephants get so close to the piano in their own way, they can even cover the trunk of the piano.

“Some hold their trunk in their mouth while listening, some start swaying to the beat of the music.

“Some baby elephants may be surprised by that sound and will suddenly run around the piano to be curious about it.”

Paul often plays slow, classical numbers with the elephants, he said, removing parts he believes won’t interest them.

Each elephant has different tastes, and in total, there are 28 that Paul plays.

His video location is across the street from his home – a quiet and mysterious unspoiled spot just below a mountain.

Occasionally, wild monkeys also come to watch the pianist perform, sitting in groups on a nearby rock.

Paul’s journey to play for such wonderful creatures began in the UK, where he taught himself piano as a youngster.

After hearing an improvisation by Schubert, a young Paul decided he wanted to play the piece too.

Since he didn’t have a piano at home, Paul learned about other people’s instruments.

He then studied fine arts at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and 22 years ago moved to Thailand to teach piano.

That teaching trip was supposed to be a short, three-month trip, but Paul would meet his wife, Khwan, a wildlife artist with whom he has a daughter, Emilie, 3.

The family also now live at Elephant World, helping with the housework and playing with the animals that live there.

In the future, Paul plans to continue bringing his piano to enrich their lives.

He said: “The piano is in the mountains so it’s free – the elephant can do what it wants.

“These elephants are standing near you and have a certain connection that you can’t explain in words.”

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