Yannick Nézet-Séguin's helping hand for shelter animals

Yannick Nézet-Séguin's helping hand for shelter animals

The world-renowned Montreal conductor has created a classical music album for the residents of an animal shelter.

May 11, 2019

Thirty-four hours of classical music to soothe abandoned cats and dogs. That's the gift that the Montreal conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin and his spouse, Pierre Tourville, recently made to the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

With the photogenic Deuce who, according to Nézet-Séguin, loves to be picked up and purrs with abundance. Like Sebastian, Deuce has diabetes and is looking for a family to take good care of him.

The couple, who have been together for 20 years, are madly in love with cats and sometimes share photos of their own—Rafa, Rodolfo and Melisande—on Instagram. “I've always had cats,” confided the maestro to a radio host in Philadelphia, where he's the music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra. “I have music playing at home all the time for my cats, even when I'm not there. For me, it's a given that cats love classical music. And when I talked with people at the SPCA, they agreed that classical music has a beneficial effect.”

Impeccable taste
Numerous studies have demonstrated the positive impact that music has on animals. In a University of Colorado study, researchers examined the effects of classical music on dog behaviour in a shelter. They found that classical music appeared to have a calming effect, reducing barking and improving sleep. The same study showed that heavy metal music seemed to induce “nervous shaking” in dogs … as may be the case with people too!

Nézet-Séguin admits that his musical selection was based on his own cats' preferences. Some of the pieces came from the Philadelphia Orchestra's repertory, such as Stravinsky's “The Rite of Spring” (“the perfect accompaniment for games and chasing”) and Bruckner's Symphonies 1 to 9 (“cosmic music touches the harmony of the earth and nature, and therefore … our pets!”). The playlist also features music played by other musicians and conductors, including Chopin's “Nocturnes” (“perfect for an afternoon nap”) and Wagner's “Parsifal”, in memory of the couple's first cat (“whose love for Wagner was second to none”).

Shared sensibilities
The SPCA made the first move by contacting Nézet-Séguin. “We'd heard about his love for his own cats and approached him in the hope that he'd be interested in helping some of our homeless animals,” says Gillian Kocher, the Society's director of public relations and marketing. Nézet-Seguin agreed to visit the shelter. “Yannick was wonderful with the animals … he met lots of our residents and was eager to pet them, pick them up and engage with them!”

Yannick Nézet-Séguin holding one of the shelter's smaller residents. He's surrounded by members of the Philadelphia Orchestra and staff members of the Pennsylvania SPCA.

Nézet-Séguin had a soft spot for Sebastian, a handsome 11-year-old orange tabby, and for Deuce, a splendid grey feline. Both cats have diabetes and are having difficulty finding new homes. “I have a diabetic cat myself and can assure you that the love and affection they share is worth it,” the conductor wrote on Instagram following his visit.

“People in Philadelphia have been very touched by Yannick and Pierre's desire to help animals,” concludes Gillian Kocher. “We couldn't be more thankful.”

You can download A Cat's Music Playlist from Spotify and Apple Music.

Read more about Nézet-Séguin's musical selections for felines.

Photos credit: Casey Holcombe

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