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Care Home Gives Ex-Professional Pianist the Confidence to Play Again

A former professional pianist celebrated her 95th birthday at a Dorset care home by performing live again more than ten years after she last played a note.

Myrtle Smith, an outstanding classically trained chamber musician, gave up the instrument in her early 80s saying she felt ‘too old’.

Now living at Bourne View in Poole, she was invited to spend her birthday playing on the home’s grand piano with Colten Care’s Music and Arts Partner Fiona Pritchard.

The pair rehearsed and performed several pieces, with Fiona accompanying Myrtle on treble recorder and French horn.

It surprised and delighted fellow residents and staff who gathered to listen.

Fiona, who studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and has performed in orchestras with English National Ballet, Scottish Opera and others, said: “Knowing of Myrtle’s love of playing, I wanted to see if there was an opportunity to rekindle her interest.

“I knew she hadn’t played for over ten years, with her saying at the time that she felt she may be too old.

“We approached the idea of playing together very gently and she agreed to give it a go and see how it went.

“We first tried the piece Tambourin by Charles Gerhardt with me on recorder. She was delighted to play it and we agreed it sounded great.

“Then, since she had already mentioned a lifelong love of Beethoven, I accompanied her on French horn to a piece I had written inspired by the composer’s style. Again, she was thrilled with how it turned out.

“Staff and residents were astonished, so pleased that Myrtle had been enticed to play.

“Myrtle explained afterwards that she felt a bit rusty after her break of more than a decade but is now keen to play again as she feels it is so good for her.

“It really was so enjoyable for us both and we already have another rehearsal date in the diary.”

Fiona added: “At Colten we are very keen to make sure our residents continue to have access to music and the arts especially when they have been professionals themselves.”

Myrtle said: “It was a wonderful experience and I thank Fiona for bringing in her instruments and inviting me to play. I am so looking forward to our next date.”