100-year-old pianist performs soundtrack of the century to lift spirits
If you ask Muriel about her big birthday, she'll answer with appreciation.
“I’m very grateful,” the 100-year-old laughs. “For the fact I’m still alive!”
If you ask about what she accomplished during her life, she’ll answer with humility.
“I don’t think I did anything very unique.”
But if you ask Muriel about music, she’ll answer with a big smile and deep sigh, before declaring, “I love music!”
Then she’ll agree to sit at the grand piano at the Berwick Retirement Community and start playing the soundtrack of a century.
Muriel’s life began being the only child of two musical parents.
“I was a little thing in the middle of all this music,” she laughs. “I couldn’t help but pick it up, you know?”
Muriel became a professional performer and entertained troops during the war, before getting married, having kids, and striving to make every moment meaningful.
“There was never a dull moment,” Muriel’s son Bruce recalls with a smile.
He says is childhood felt like living in a musical.
“We would be out fishing and my mother would break out in song and then my dad would be singing,” Bruce says, before laughing. “Sometimes it was embarrassing!”
And every time his mom tried to teach him how to play an instrument, “all I could hear was the kids outside playing road hockey.”
Although he never inherited Muriel’s musical talent, Bruce was always inspired by her “lets-put-on-a-show” attitude.
“My mother would try anything,” Bruce smiles with appreciation. “If she found we were playing hockey on the road, she would try it.”
That can-do spirit is why — despite becoming blind and being unable to read music — Muriel taught herself how to keep playing songs on the piano from memory.
“It’s great! It’s fun!,” she says of her set-list of big-band hits, crooner classics, and Broadway favourites. “I like to jig around!”
Bruce says the greatest lesson he learned from his mom is that “the show must go on.”
“Don’t be afraid. If you fail, you fail,” he says. “But try it.”
If you ask Muriel what she’s learned over the past 100 years, she’ll answer that lifting spirits is what life is all about.
“It’s good if it’s happy!” Muriel smiles, after her audience applauds, and before playing her upbeat encore.