The bears at Wild Place Project have been treated to a live performance of classical music inspired by a recording of one of the bear’s heartbeats.
World-renowned musicians, Sacconi Quartet, played a beautiful rendition of ‘Lament for a Bulgarian Dancing Bear’, the 2nd movement of Heartfelt, which uses the slow rhythm of Albie the bear’s heartbeat, on one note, throughout the piece.
The poignant piece has been composed by Roxanna Panufnik, and is the third single on her new album, which is released later this month (May 21) on Signum Records.
To celebrate the album launch, and to thank staff at Wild Place Project for their help in bringing the piece to life, Roxanna visited Albie the bear and the Quartet played the Lament under the canopy of trees at the zoo’s award-winning Bear Wood exhibit, after it had closed to the public.
Roxanna explained how the piece came about: “The Lament movement of Heartfelt is inspired by the plight of Bulgarian dancing bears, before it was outlawed in 2007. I had recently finished reading a moving book about the rescue of dancing bears which inspired me to write it.
“I had been searching for a zoo which could help me hear the sound of a bear’s heartbeat. Fortunately a musician friend put me in touch with Wild Place Project and their head vet, Michelle Barrows, was able to capture an audio recording of Albie’s heartbeat while he was under general anaesthetic for a routine veterinary procedure.
“I was so excited to receive the recording – listening to it for the first time was incredible.
“Albie’s heartbeat note runs steadily throughout the whole piece of music on an F sharp, and really underpins it. It simply would not have been possible to bring this piece to fruition in the same way without it. This project has been so exciting and has made me realise that nothing is impossible.”
Bristol Zoological Society’s Head of Veterinary Services, Michelle Barrows, added: “We were really pleased to be able to send Roxanna our recording of Albie's heart and very grateful for her kind donation towards the cost of an electronic stethoscope which makes it much easier to hear the heartbeat of large animals like bears.”
Will Walker, Animal Manager at Wild Place Project, added: “It was a pleasure to host Roxanna and the Sacconi Quartet for this event. The bears are used to having visitors, but they had never have heard anything like this before.
“This poignant composition is about the plight of Bulgarian dancing bears – an activity which is thankfully now outlawed. But it serves to remind us how spectacular these animals are and how they should be respected and admired in their natural environment, as they are here alongside wolves, lynx and wolverine in the woodland at Wild Place Project.”
Sacconi Quartet are Ben Hancox, Hannah Dawson, Robin Ashwell and Cara Berridge.
The composition is the third single on the new album, Heartfelt, to be released later this month by Signum Records.
The performance was streamed live on our Facebook page, you can watch it here.
The world premiere of Heartfelt was hosted online in July 2020 to critical acclaim, and can be viewed online at after 36 minutes.
Bear Wood, which is sponsored by Natracare, tells the story of the UK’s ancient woodland and the charismatic species that once inhabited it. As well as being home to four European brown bears, it is also home to four European grey wolves, four lynxes and two wolverines.
Bear Wood aims to inspire visitors to value and protect native woodland habitats and species. Today only two per cent of Britain’s ancient woodland has survived being cut down, and offers a vital habitat for species such as greater-spotted woodpeckers, tawny owls and hedgehogs.
Click here to find out more about the Sacconi Quartet.