CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — The goats turned and perked their ears, followed by the pigs in the nearby pen, and then a crowd of people as Bettine Clemen played her flute Thursday at the Cape May County Park & Zoo.
Clemen, a world-renowned flutist, normally plays for humans, but before her show Saturday with the Jersey Shore Pops at Middle Township Performing Arts Center, she stopped at the zoo to play for the animals.
Clemen said she finds the animals seem to respond and enjoy it, and the zookeepers apparently did not mind, because she drew large crowds wherever she went.
“We need to book her every week,” said Alex Ernst, a veterinarian at the zoo.
The impromptu appearance was the idea of Linda Gentille, composer for the orchestra. She is friends with Clemen, knew of her love for animals and suggested she visit the zoo before their rehearsals.
Clemen said she has been to hundreds of zoos around the world and was impressed with the spacious enclosures at the Cape May County zoo.
In her travels Thursday afternoon, she played a few melodies for the cranes, the lemurs, a camel, some alpacas, the aforementioned goats and pigs, and a couple of African monkeys.
“Some people think this is crazy,” Clemen said. “But I love music, and I love animals. This is my passion.”
And the animals seemed interested in her music. The cranes sang along with her. The camel leaned over to almost lick the end of her flute. The pigs jumped and grunted and the monkeys bobbed their heads.
The people outside the cages listened intently as well. Mackenzie Doughty, 8, of Port Elizabeth in Maurice River Township, smiled and watched with her uncle, Ron Garrison, who was visiting from Florida.
She nodded her head when asked if she thought the show was cool. She thought for a second when asked if she ever saw something like that, and then said, “Not really.”
Clemen has a DVD with video of her playing for different animals in zoos and in the wild around the world. It’s called, “Flutasia: A Love Song for a Planet,” and she incorporates the videos into her shows.
“I realized animals are very soulful,” she said. “They are very good communicators and very good listeners, which some adults don’t have that much.”
The native of southern Germany has been playing the flute since she was 6 years old. This was her first performance in Cape May County, but she said she has played at Richard Stockton College before.
She played at the zoo until it closed, when Gentille basically dragged her out because they had to start preparing for their real show.
“People should really support this zoo,” Clemen said on her way out. “The atmosphere and free habitat they have is wonderful. I would support it if I were here.”
Before she left, Ernst, the zookeeper, leaned on a fence and smiled as she serenaded the farm animals.
“This was definitely my most interesting day at work,” he said.
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