Music

A Lifelong Love of Music

Wakefield's Paul Pelletier on performing for governors and playing with Pavarotti

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“En amour avec musique.” It means “in love with music,” and Paul Pelletier certainly is. Paul has played the violin for the past seven decades, and based on our conversation, he’s just as in love with the soothing sounds of this string instrument now as he was when he started playing at the age of 11. Glimpse into Paul’s “musical, emotional journey” as a strolling violinist.

Why the violin?
Just a love of the instrument – I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the violin and it has remained with me through the years. My father had [also] played the violin. He played folk music in Canada, and would make his violins out of cigar boxes. When I first got started, he hadn’t played in 35 years, but he could still tune my violin.

Do you have a favorite piece to play?
What appeals to the public is my favorite. Classical, French, German, Irish, show tunes. I customize my performances to the crowd. I can go back in repertoire almost 100 years – [it’s like] going back in time. It’s a lot of fun; I like to make a party out of it.

I know you’re a musician, but can you sing, too?
I performed at a fundraiser for Governor Thompson years ago with a group I had that played German music. The last tune we played was “Edelweiss” from The Sound of Music. For some reason, I grabbed the mic and sang. [At the end of the night] we were outside and the governor was getting into his limousine, but he came back and looked at me and said, “you have a beautiful voice.” Now, wouldn’t he say something about the violin that I’d played all night? But that one lousy song he compliments. Can you believe the irony?

What are some of your most memorable performances?
I performed in the 1985 Pavarotti concert – that’s my highlight. [But I also] played in a restaurant called Gundlach’s in Plainville, MA years ago. I walked in on a Friday night and I stayed there for 14 years. I’ve played for proposals, and for couples on Valentine’s Day, adding that little touch of romance in the background.

Forgive me for asking, but why haven’t I ever heard of a strolling violinist?
This style, strolling musicians, is a lost art. Years ago, when there were no radios, how did people communicate with music? They saw it live. You don’t see it anymore; it’s an oddity. But once I get playing, I think people are awe-struck – they have an appreciation for it.

Paul leaves us with these warm words:
“May these melodies bring you warmth, serenity and healing.” Paul Pelletier, strolling violinist. 788-0090. –Samantha Westmoreland