Pianist Performs For Macaque Monkeys At Abandoned Cinema

Dec 30, 2020 by apost team

Paul Barton, 59, is a pianist who has played music for animals, particularly elephants, for a long time. Recently, several videos of him playing the piano for macaques in Thailand, where he is currently based, have been circulating the Internet.

Paul Barton is a pianist currently based in Bangkok, Thailand, according to his Facebook page.

He was born in Yorkshire, England in 1961, as per his website.

On November 11th, 2020, Barton visited an abandoned cinema in Lopburi, Thailand, to play the piano for the macaques that lived there. In his video description, Barton shared that the cinema had only been in business for a short amount of time until the macaques that live next door at the “Monkey Temple” took control of the place. The owner was outnumbered by them and had no choice but to give up the building to them, letting the monkeys take shelter and sleep there.

The video starts out with a couple of macaques sitting on the keys of the piano, curious about the instrument. The place is littered with trash and debris from construction. After the camera is set up, Barton proceeds to his piano to perform Johann Sebastian Bach's adagio, BWV 564 - Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C Major. Many of the macaques were unbothered by Barton and his playing. Rather, they were more interested in their own playing: climbing the walls and doors of the abandoned building. Only a few surrounded the musician as he tickled the ivories, but one of them in particular paid special attention to him.


A noticeably older and bigger macaque approached Barton as he called her over. When she reached his seat, she put both of her hands on it and looked at Barton in the eyes a few times. Barton then continued his playing. Gradually, more macaques joined the elder one, who kept her hands on the chair the whole time throughout the video. In the video description, Barton shared what it was like to share that moment with her. “Here are a few piano moments in the cinema this morning. An old macaque came to say hello and offered her hand in friendship,” he said. “It was unexpected and I felt moved she ever-so-gently accepted me and a piano into her home.”

Barton was not the only one that was moved. Viewers of the video took to the comments section to say that they, too, were touched just by watching Barton and the monkeys. “I can't help but feel moved every time I see your gentle approach with animals Mr Paul. It is so inspiring,” one viewer wrote. “It brought tears to my eyes when the elder macaque came to sit next to you to listen... so beautiful, touching and sad for some reason,” said another.

In the second part of the video, it is explained that Barton and his daughter Emilie, who is five years old, have collaborated to make a blog series called “Music for Monkeys" which is part of Emilie’s homeschool activities. Emilie and her mom, Barton’s wife Khwan Barton, can be seen interacting with some of the monkeys and standing in a concealed area as they help to film Barton’s playing.

The most popular video currently in the Music for Monkeys playlist is one where Barton is seen playing for macaques in the Monkey Temple. This time Barton is seen playing outdoors and the macaques there are prominently more energetic. “We discovered the reaction of both macaque gangs to piano music was very different,” Barton wrote in the video description. “The temple macaque gang are more forward, mischievous and occasionally aggressive to humans than the macaque gang that lives at the abandoned cinema nearby. The cinema macaques like to keep their own company, are peace-loving and comparatively shy around humans.”

According to an organization in the United Kingdom, the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement, and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3RS), there are 22 species of the macaque. The animals are native to Southeast Asia, especially Malaysia, Sumatra, Java, Borneo, the Philippines, the Nicobar Islands, and Bangladesh. According to a study by the University of Chicago, rhesus macaques are "one of the most successful primate species on our planet after humans.”

Playing music for animals is not a new thing for Barton. He has been playing the piano for elephants for a long time. “I had previously worked with blind children for two years and seen the impact music had in their lives,” Barton said to Your Story for an interview in 2014. “So I wanted to try out that theory with these blind elephants.” He also added that he is influenced by his wife’s passion for animal conservation and activism. Barton is no stranger to these gorgeous creatures, having spent time on the sanctuary for years.

He originally got connected with Elephants World after meeting the sanctuary's owner while on holiday (he eventually married her). The Englishman has been playing to the elephants ever since and told Coconuts Bangkok that he "...love[s] elephants and liked the sound of the place being a retirement sanctuary for old, injured, handicapped logging and street elephants." In July 2018, he played a classical Debussy piece, Clair de Lune,  to an 80-year-old elephant named Amphan. The video is his most popular one on his channel with currently over 8.1 million views.

Barton is not just a talented pianist, he is also an accomplished portrait painter. According to his biography, he was 16 years old when he started studying at the Royal Academy of Arts London. While he was there, he won first prizes for both portrait painting and portrait drawing in yearly student competitions. He subsequently graduated with The Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation prize at the age of 20.

The people who have been portrait sitters of his include British politicians Roy Jenkins and Sir David Steel. Business leader Sir John Harvey Jones has had his portrait painted by Barton, as have many other celebrities, actors, and musicians. His works are exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and Royal Society of Portrait Painters.

What did you think of the macaques’ reaction to Barton’s playing? How do they compare to his elephant listeners? Tell us your thoughts about this story in the comments and be sure to get the opinions of your loved ones as well!

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