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‘My fingers need to feel the keys’: Meet France’s 106-year-old pianist

Colette Maze’s delicate fingers leaped back and forth on the black-and-white keys of her piano, her body lightly swaying to the melody of Claude Debussy’s famed “Clair de Lune” in her living room.

French cultural venues have now been closed since months due to the COVID-19 pandemic but that didn’t deter Maze, a 106-year-old pianist, to record her sixth album, slated to be released in April.

On the 14th floor of a 15-storey building near the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, Maze, born in 1914, looks to the clouds for inspiration, saying music is more important for her than any type of food.

“I’d ask you, why do you drink a “cafe au lait” in the morning or why do you have steak from time to time? And even steak doesn’t matter to me, but that’s not the case with music. You understand? That’s my food, my food for the spirit and for the heart,” she told Reuters.

Maze, who has been playing the piano since the age of 4, was raised in a bourgeois family, as her father managed a fertilizer plant, while her strict mother stayed at home.

Homeschooled by her parents for several years, Maze was accepted at the Normal School of Music in Paris when her family moved to the French capital. There, she learnt routines based on yoga and finger gymnastics, which she credits for her still-agile fingers on the keyboard.

She then became a supporting piano player at several music schools in the city, a profession she sustained for most of her adult life.

Maze started recording albums in 1998, with a first release in 2001. After her 2020 album with works of French composers Erik Satie and Debussy, she’s preparing a three-disc album on Debussy.

Her son Fabrice Maze, who sees his mother as an “inspiration for others”, says Debussy symbolises her work the most.

“Her good mood, her joy, her love of life brings people a smile in worrying times like the one that we’re now living through,” Fabrice Maze said.

Colette Maze, who says her inspiration first came from a “lack of tenderness” within her childhood home, says she would need to continue to feed her imagination the day she won’t be able to play anymore.

“But I need something touchable. You need to taste candy, and my fingers need to feel they keys,” she said.

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