Real People. Stihl People.

Rural Missouri Magazine

Bettine
All the world's a stage for Seymour musician and animals her audience

by Bob McEowen

Dressed in vibrant purple from the Western hat atop her flowing blonde hair to the purple tights tucked into her white cowboy boots, Bettine Clemen steps outside of her ridge-top home south of Seymour and walks through beautifully manicured gardens.

Bettine Clemen plays piccolo for her dog, Orbit, in the living room or her home near Seymour. A professional musician, Bettine has played for animals across the globe and incorporates video of her impromptu performances into her concerts for human audiences.

With a Great Pyrenees named Orbit in tow, she slips effortlessly between strands of fence wire and enters a horse pasture to greet her animals. After offering a quick apple snack, Bettine raises an American Indian flute to her lips and begins to play a melody for two horses and a donkey.

The animals draw near, bumping and nuzzling Bettine. It’s not clear whether they’re more interested in the music or another snack but the German-born musician is convinced they are responding to the sound.

“They like it. They really do,” Bettine says with a thick accent that leaves no doubt to her Bavarian roots.
Besides these equines and a pot-bellied pig named Harry Trotter, which adopted Bettine and her husband, Peter Longley, this Se-Ma-No Electric Cooperative member has also played flute for animals across the globe.

A classically trained musician, Bettine has played for elephants in Sri Lanka, penguins in Argentina and even a Komodo dragon in Indonesia. Once she performed for a 220-year old tortoise on the island of St. Helena, where she imagines the reptile might have known the exiled Napoleon. “He would have known all the inside stories but he didn’t tell me,” she says.

Bettine includes videos of her animal concerts — as well as impromptu performances for children — in her act, creating a multi-media experience that she says brings her human audiences closer to nature and animals.

“What I try to get across is that we have this incredibly beautiful planet and we’re all interconnected. Somehow the animals and the children express that,” she says.

Although Bettine has been formally incorporating performances for animals into her concerts for about seven years, the practice dates much earlier. The child of a Shakespearean scholar father and an archeologist mother who she describes as distant, Bettine sought companionship from animals.

“My first, closest friends were ponies,” she says. “When I was 6 years old and started playing recorder, I played my first concerts for my ponies.”

Recorder gave way to flute and Bettine earned a master’s degree from the Academy of Music in Munich. She performed as a soloist with the Munich Bach Orchestra and the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra before turning away from the concert halls of Europe.

Bettine has more than a dozen CDs of classical, folk, world and "new age" music to her credit. She also performs on many CDs by other artists.

Bettine decided to fulfill a life-long dream to travel and joined an orchestra in Brazil. Bettine toured the countryside, taking in the sights and sounds. These experiences began to shape her beliefs about the connection between man and nature and expanded her music beyond traditional classical sounds.

With dozens of CDs to her credit, Bettine’s music runs the gamut from classical to folk to world music. No longer bound by the rigid confines of the orchestra, Bettine began performing as a solo artist on luxury cruise ships. While appearing on the Queen Elizabeth 2 she met Peter, the ship’s cruise director. She married the English-born author and lecturer in 1993.

In December 1999, the Longleys moved to the Ozarks. Bettine visited the Seymour area at the invitation of a friend and, upon her return, announced to her husband she had purchased five acres of pasture and they would soon be moving.

Today the couple makes their home in Webster County on 31 acres covered with gardens and orchards. Peter, who once managed an Irish estate, cares for the land and home, serves on the local arts council and writes novels. Bettine travels six months a year, performing in concert halls and on ships bound for Argentina, South Africa, Singapore and other exotic destinations.

While passengers spend port calls shopping or sightseeing, Bettine seeks local wildlife and plays her flute for the animals.

“I go out in nature and I meet the animals of the particular country, like kangaroos in Australia,” she says. “Recently, for the first time in my life, I played for bears, brown bears in Alaska. That was awesome. My heart was pounding.”

Bettine says her animal audiences seem to enjoy the experience, which she describes as a co-creation.

“I try to play very gently at first so I don’t shock them or disturb them. Many times they come right up and listen,” she says. “Some animals, like dolphins, like the higher sounds so I play the piccolo for them. The elephants like the Tibetan flute for some reason.”

As for the Komodo dragon, Bettine says he preferred Irish jigs.

“He didn’t eat me and I took that for a compliment,” she says.

Bettine plays for her horses.

Accompanied by the ship’s photographer or occasionally a film crew, Bettine records her unscheduled performances and shows the footage while performing concerts. She has also released two videos, “Bettine, Pied Piper of the Planet” and “Bettine and the Magic of Petra,” which both feature her animal concerts.

Besides solo orchestra performances and her cruise ship concerts, in which she plays up to nine different flutes, Bettine teaches a personal development course and has written a book, “Open Your Ears to Love,” which recounts some of her life experiences.

Although Bettine’s music and her multi-media presentations have been embraced by animal rights groups and a few of her CDs are categorized as “New Age,” she says her message of connection with nature should appeal to all audiences.

“I feel we have to be very much present in the world and live life in the mainstream,” she says. “But it doesn’t hurt to bring a little bit more spirituality into our daily life.”

For more information, log onto Bettine’s Web site, www.joyofmusic.com., or call (417) 935-1251.

Rural Missouri magazine - November 2014
Best of Rural Missouri Readers' Choice Contest
 
Rural Missouri Merchandise Out of the Way Eats Subscribe to Rural Missouri Rural Missouri Prints Store

Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives

Rural Missouri
2722 E. McCarty Street
P.O. Box 1645 • Jefferson City, Mo. 65102
573-659-3423

Rural Missouri's Facebook Page Rural Missouri's YouTube Channel Subscribe to Rural Missouri's RSS Feed Rural Missouri | Pinterest