The pigs who lived on an Alberta farm where opera was sung

With practice time in short supply, an Alberta hog farmer (and baritone) served up a little culture with the peas and barley.

The pigs on this Edmonton farm enjoyed some singing with their supper

The pigs at Ron Nelsen's farm were treated to a special kind of cultural supplement with their feed. 2:27

Back in 1990, Ron Nelsen was a farmer with a barn full of more than 900 pigs and not a great deal of time to devote to his music.

A trained opera singer, he decided, as a CBC News reporter described it, to feed them "a steady diet of peas, barley, and culture."

'I think they like the Mozart'

After greeting his squealing captive audience with a little music from Bizet's Carmen, Nelsen told viewers "I think they like the Mozart actually, yeah, they're quite sophisticated you know."

One of the little pigs farmer Ron Nelsen sung to, when being interviewed by CBC News. (Sunday Arts Entertainment/CBC Archives)

He picked up the idea a few years ago of "combining business with pleasure," bringing his music to the barn and taking the opportunity while he was there to practice his singing.

The practice did not go unnoticed by his wife, also a musician and vocal coach, who would ask "'Is that the music you had in the barn?'"  he said. 

"You could still smell it you know," he laughed.

His captive audience even provided opportunities for serenades, as he proved by picking up one piglet and crooning a song from the musical Carousel.

'Just part of my life'

Ron Nelsen's hogs responded to music lessons at feeding time. (Midday/CBC Archives)

His wife, Diane, did not feel that mixing the farm and the music was unusual.

"It's just part of my life," she said.

The Nelsens studied opera together at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto, but his roots and living were back on the Alberta farm. 

Nelson explained in another CBC report that "it's a wonderful contrast from this, a day with the pigs and a day on the concert stage ... it's great fun."