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The French pianist who’s been playing for more than 100 years

Colette Maze has been playing piano for more than a century, and is still drawing thousands of fans on social media.

French pianist Colette Maze, born in June 1914, poses at a piano during a photo session in Paris
French pianist Colette Maze, born in June 1914, poses at a piano during a photo session in Paris on March 24, 2023. Colette's been playing for over a century and is about to release her seventh album. Photo: St├ęphane DE SAKUTIN / AFP

Born in June 1914, before the outbreak of World War I and when one of her favourite composers, Claude Debussy, was still alive, the French pianist practices four hours a day and is about to release her seventh album, “108 Years of Piano”.

From her apartment overlooking the Seine river in Paris, Maze moves cautiously between the three pianos in her living room, but retains a youthful enthusiasm.

“Me? I’m young,” she says with a smile.

“Age is not something I’m interested in. There are people who are forever young, amazed by everything, and then there are people who don’t care about anything and never loved anything, even their man — can you imagine?” she adds.

‘Piano is my life’

Maze was a piano teacher for much of her life, and it was only after turning 100 that she started building a significant fanbase — through her Facebook page.

Many are inspired by her continuing good health and refusal to give up the traditional French pleasures of wine, cheese and chocolate.

“She gives people strength — that’s why she has such crazy success,” said her son, journalist Fabrice Maze, adding with pride that she is one of the few people over 100 releasing albums.

She still remembers the sound of “Big Bertha”, the huge cannon used by the German army during World War I, but most of her memories revolve around her instrument.

“When I was little, I suffered from asthma and my mother would play violin with my piano teacher — it would calm me,” she says.

“Piano is my life, my friend. I need to feel it and hear it,” she adds, before offering a rendition of Debussy’s “Reflections in the Water”.

Maze began playing at five, and despite reluctance from her parents, she won a place at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris with teachers including the renowned Alfred Cortot.

Cortot was known for a method of relaxing all the muscles of the body — which Maze credits with sparing her from arthritis.

The other secret to her youth? “I did a lot of dancing,” she says. “I need to feel my muscles, my abdominals, my thighs, my arms. All that must be alive.”

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CULTURE

Palme d’Or winner slams French government in Cannes speech

As she accepted the Palme d'Or in Cannes on Saturday, French director Justine Triet slammed the government of President Emmanuel Macron over its "shocking" suppression of pension protests.

Palme d'Or winner slams French government in Cannes speech

As she accepted the Palme d’Or in Cannes on Saturday, French director Justine Triet slammed the government of President Emmanuel Macron over its “shocking” suppression of pension protests.

“The country suffered from historic protests over the reform of the pension system. These protests were denied… repressed in a shocking way,” she said in her speech, as she won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival for courtroom drama “Anatomy of a Fall”.

Macron has sparked the biggest demonstrations in a generation over reforms to the pension system, which were rammed through parliament without a vote using a special constitutional measure.

The reforms include raising the retirement age to 64 from 62.

Addressing the audience of Hollywood and international film stars, directors, and other industry professionals, Triet also criticised the government’s cultural policies.

“The commercialisation of culture that this neoliberal government supports is in the process of breaking France’s cultural exception, without which I wouldn’t be here today,” she said.

Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak hit back that she was “gobsmacked” by Triet’s “unfair” comments at one of France’s most prominent events.

“This film would not have seen the light of day without our French model of financing cinema, which allows a diversity that is unique in the world. Let’s not forget it,” she wrote on Twitter.

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