Paul Barton is a trained concert pianist whose audience is a bit different than you would expect. Instead of playing Bach and Chopin for well-dressed aristocrats, Barton has concerts in wildlife sanctuaries where he uses his music to comfort old and sick elephants in Thailand.
Barton, who was born in Britain, came to Thailand in 1996 to teach English. During that time, he met his future wife Khwan, who is a wildlife artist and animal love. Alongside Kwan, Barton came to appreciate the wildlife and joined her in efforts to preserve it.
Back in 2012, Barton found out about Elephants World sanctuary, which took care of old and sick elephants, many of which were blind. Thinking about the ways he could contribute, Barton decided to try with the musical approach.
“I wondered if these old, rescued elephants might like to listen to some calm, slow classical piano music, so I asked if I could bring my piano along and play to the elephants,” Barton revealed in a recent interview. “They allowed me to do that.”
Barton was encouraged by his first gig, realizing that elephants enjoyed his music. Each elephant had a different reaction, by they all seemed moved by the notes he was playing. Soon, he started playing on a regular basis.
“One of the most memorable [reactions] was playing ‘Moonlight Sonata’ to a big bull elephant called Romsai at night. Romsai is an elephant that mahouts 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. He seemed to be listening and, from his reaction, liked the music. He let me live,” Barton shared.
According to Barton, although elephants can be dangerous, he didn’t have many negative experiences during his concerts. He keeps a special relationship with each one of them and thinks his music keeps these giants calm and unthreatening.