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Updated: May 27, 2010 20:09 IST

On a mission with passion

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NOBLE SERVICE Making a difference Photo: S.S. Kavitha
The Hindu
NOBLE SERVICE Making a difference Photo: S.S. Kavitha

Violinist Paul Peabody of ‘Titanic’ fame talks about his latest creative voyage.

Leaning against the wall with a violin on his shoulder, Paul Peabody played the soothing theme music from the film ‘Titanic’, which won a Grammy. Mesmerizing it was no doubt, as the celebrated violinist shared his life’s story – almost musically, as his carefully chosen words were interspersed with gentle music flowing out of his instrument.

Born in New York, Paul Peabody was introduced to violin by his musician father at the age of nine. In 1969, he joined Julliard School, New York, and after a decade’s training, gave his first commercial performance.

For the past three decades, Paul has been giving soulful renditions, having played for the likes of well-renowned Madonna and Michael Jackson. He has also composed music for 60 Hollywood movies including ‘Titanic,’ ‘Fargo’ (solo player) and hundreds of pop albums. He also played Irish fiddle to the orchestra in the blockbuster Titanic besides violin in animation movies like ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Aladdin’.

"I was busy always playing violin either in orchestra, recording, ballets and movies. As I am wedded to music, I only think about music," says this 54-year-old bachelor. He remained within New York for two decades given his back-to-back date schedules and also he did not want to miss an opportunity to play the violin. With a fascination for western classics, Paul is much in love with Jazz music too and loves playing the viola. He is interested in teaching too but never finds time.

Remembering his fun-filled days of playing for the 48-member crew of string players for the film Titanic, Paul says that he never imagined the song would fetch him so much recognition. He is doubly happy as his score got him an acknowledgement from the ‘Academy of Recording Arts and Science’.

With ongoing economic downturn, music and art too have been pushed to the back burner, he feels. Even the world famous ballet orchestra is sinking and the work load has drastically come down,” he shares.

Instead of brooding , Paul thought of doing something more useful and soul satisfying and wrote to Dr. Subodh Kumar Singh, Varanasi-based plastic surgeon who is also the Project Director of Smile Train, seeking his acceptance to serve or rather help children who had undergone cleft-lip operation during the post-operative period. A nod from Dr. Singh and Paul was on the next flight to Varanasi.

"I was really moved playing violin for the children. I believe my music helped them overcome pain," he says, adding that he is ready to tinkle his strings for Hindi songs so that it is “easy for people to relate”.

“I was excited seeing the former President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam wave at me after my performance at Meenakshi Mission Hospital.” Full of praise for Varanasi for its rich history, culture and heritage, Paul plans to return after touring across the country next month. But he promises to be back soon to “implement the dream project for these kids”.

“When I asked how many of them had seen the film ‘Titanic’, only four hands of 80 went up. When I asked how many of them had seen a violin, there was no response. I realised most cleft-lip children are from rural areas and that made me desperate to do something different for them,” he says.

Paul plans to hire a bus that would visit various cleft-lip centres in Rajasthan, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and other states. The bus will have musicians and painters, who will spend time with the kids teaching them music and crayon work in order to minimize their pain caused by the operation and societal stigma.

"In this creative voyage, I am adventurous and wish to make a make a difference in the life of these children," he signs off playing his pet theme song again.


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