Tal the orangutan, Chahinkapa Zoo’s resident music lover, once again co-headlined a summer concert.
He shared the bill the with the New York Kammermusiker, a world-traveling double-reed chamber music ensemble. For 13 consecutive summers — the last four featuring a Chahinkapa Zoo performance — the Kammermusiker has entertained Red River Valley residents.
“We knew that whether he played or not, we would be sure to hear some very beautiful music played by professionals and see some unique animal behavior,” Zoo Director Kathy Diekman said.
Tal and Lead Zookeeper Addy Paul teamed up to provide the Kammermusiker with a recorder section. The group, formed by North Dakota native Ilonna Pederson, features instruments including the bassoon and oboe.
Over the years, Tal has ranged from an active participant to a contented listener.
“Today, I think he’s played at least eight times,” Diekman said. “It’s a testament to the training and the enrichment it brings to all of us, not just Tal.”
Proud of Tal’s performance and enthusiasm, Diekman said she did have some tears when he and Paul began playing.
The bond between Chahinkapa Zoo and the New York Kammermusiker began with a gift. Learning of Tal’s fondness for classical music, the group sent its CDs. It wasn’t long before the annual concerts began.
Pieces played during this year’s event included “Send in the Clowns,” Handel’s “Water Music,” “There is a Tavern in the Town” and a composition honoring Theodore Roosevelt.
The Kammermusiker had an additional Wahpeton performance scheduled for Tuesday, a 7 p.m. concert at St. Catherine’s Living Center.
“We always save our last day, our best day, for Wahpeton,” Pederson said previously.
The tour has also included concerts in Fargo, Ellendale, Jamestown and Maddock, North Dakota, plus Moorhead, Minnesota. Kammermusiker musicians are known for their experimental and improvisatory performances.
Diekman has a similar “anything can happen” attitude with Tal’s enrichment and training. A successful musical performance can lead to so much more.
“If we can achieve this, think what we can do with his nails or having him brush his teeth. It’s all just testimony to the training program that is so important for their health,” she said.
Summer hours for Chahinkapa Zoo are from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily through Monday, Sept. 2. Fall hours, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, will last from Tuesday, Sept. 3-Monday, Sept. 30. For more information, call 701-642-8709.