Music of sound
by: Anna Crebo

It was an important musical event - the first of a projected series of six all-Beethoven concerts by the Borromeo String Quartet. Audio engineer Pierre Paquin records many festival programs and concerts in Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The small but venerable old Church of the Messiah in Woods Hole was filled to overflowing with music lovers who had come early to hear the pre-concert lecture by noted author and composer Jan Swafford of Cambridge.

But there was a problem. Although it was well past the busy tourist season, both Swafford and the Borromeos were stuck in a traffic jam because of fall construction at the Bourne Bridge. It could be more than an hour before they arrived. Cape and Islands Music Festival director Pamela Patrick pondered what to do.

"I could talk about Beethoven," she heard a confident voice say. Looking up, she saw audio engineer Pierre Paquin, whose Dennis-based Sound Dynamics Associates records the festival's programs as well as many other concerts in Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Remembering that he had also been a classical music radio host for many years, she nodded her approval. Within minutes, Paquin was in front of the audience delivering an informative extemporaneous discourse on Beethoven and his string quartets.

"He went on for 30 minutes or more," says Patrick, who used the time to set out what were to be post-concert refreshments in the church's reception hall, where the audience was entertained until the performers' arrival.

But anyone who knew or had ever worked with Paquin would not be surprised by this loquacious feat. By all accounts, including his own, he has never been one to shy away from interaction with an audience - especially where music is involved.

"I've always felt I had a mission to make classical music more listenable for the general public," says the 58-year-old New Bedford native, who was introduced by his parents to the classics at a very early age. "When I was planning my 'Adventures in Music' programs (regular 3-hour Sunday night broadcasts from 1967 to 1978 on Taunton's WSNE-FM Radio), I always tried to choose music that a wide audience could enjoy. I was also very engaging and friendly. So many classical music programs in the 70s and 80s were pretty snooty."

Familiar voice
Later, from 1989 to 1995, Paquin became a familiar voice on the Cape's own WFCC-FM, hosting weekend, and occasionally weeknight, programs. In addition to the young station's limited recordings, he would regularly play gems from his own extensive personal collection.

In his words
"I've always felt I had a mission to make classical music more listenable for the general public," says Pierre Paquin, whose parents introduced him to the classics at a very early age.

His Sunday morning broadcasts in particular attracted a large listening audience. Arbitron (a professional rating service) ratings were sometimes as high as 11, out of a possible 18, he says proudly. And in 1992, Paquin won a first place Massachusetts Broadcasting Association award for a station "promotion" advertising WFCC's music programming. The previous year he had garnered a second place special programming award for his "Bastille Day," a musical program he narrated in both French and English.

Paquin has had plenty of experience in front of live audiences as well. Beginning the September following his June 1967 graduation from Stonehill College in North Easton, he began teaching full time at Fairhaven High School. He taught French language classes and occasionally Spanish, Portuguese, Latin and English classes. The following year he married his longtime sweetheart and eventually the rapidly growing Paquin family (there would be five children in all) moved into a large home in Acushnet. Paquin continued to teach at Fairhaven until 1994, when his career - and indeed every aspect of his life - was interrupted by a near-fatal heart attack following an unsuccessful angioplasty procedure.

"I gave up teaching altogether on the advice of my doctors," he says. "I was off-the-air for four or five weeks, and the recording (business) went on automatic pilot."

Within a few months, the family's Acushnet house was sold, and - with three of the children living away at college - the Paquins moved permanently to the Cape. After renting for a time, they found a comfortable six-room house in Dennis on a hill overlooking Scargo Lake. "You can see the ocean from the back porch when the leaves are not on the trees," he quips.

Home-based business
It is here, in a small front bedroom that has been converted to an office-studio, that Paquin edits his live concert recordings and transfers them to CDs.

"All the editing is done on a computer," he says. "The digital recordings are pushed directly into a computer with speakers. ... It's amazing what the digital world has brought to the production engineer. This is a classic home-brewed production studio."

Helping him with the physically demanding on-site rigging of microphones and other recording equipment are second-eldest daughter Corinne and Bethany, the youngest, who will be a senior at Dennis-Yarmouth High School. His wife Leslie handles the business transactions.

Paquin, who has been seriously engaged in recording live concerts since his student days at Taunton's Coyle High School, says he is "entirely self-taught and self-trained. ... I first figured out how to rig a recording setup by looking at the placement of microphones in (Boston's) Symphony Hall."

Today, Sound Dynamics Associates handles 42 accounts. These include, besides the Cape Symphony Orchestra and Chatham Chorale, orchestras and choral organizations in Plymouth, New Bedford, Bridgewater, Fall River and Concord. Additionally, Paquin records concerts for five Rhode Island organizations, including the Providence-based Rhode Island Philharmonic, which became his first major account in 1975.

"Recently, we have had to turn away work," he says, adding that it's mainly a seasonal occupation. "In May, for instance, there were 12 (live concert) recording sessions, and I was putting in well over 50 hours a week. But mostly it's part time - with the family," he says. "It's wonderful to be your own boss and do it at your own pace. But what makes it really great is that I'm doing it with my family."

Anna Crebo is a free-lance writer who lives in Osterville.

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