Learning to let the music play on

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Learning to let the music play on

The first thing to do when you turn 70 is to plan on being 80 —Edith Hamilton in The Greek Way.

I cannot stop thinking of the beautiful Rita Moreno, age 82, stunning and classy recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) last Saturday night.  Well, she apparently did say a bad word that was bleeped out, so we didn’t even hear it.  Other than that, the multiple award winner demonstrated without doubt that she can still sing, dance and engage in witty repartee with the best of them!

Moreno’s lifetime achievements include an Oscar, an Emmy a Tony and a Grammy.  Amazing.  However, her appearance was amazing, too.  As the Huffington Post gushed, “We’re sorry that the actress hasn’t graced more red carpets recently. Her chosen look for the SAG Awards was a . . .black and gold low-cut gown worn with a coordinating Herve Leger leather moto jacket on top, complete with gold studs. Can someone please remind us when we’re 82 that we can rock leather jackets, too?”

The actress’s beautiful voice, with no accompaniment, was thrilling; soft and full of emotion.  It reminded me of hearing Sylma Gottlieb ofBowie, age 91, sing (with piano) at the Bowie Senior Idol Competition in 2012.  What a miracle is music.  It feeds our souls.  But I digress.

I was wondering, truly, what I will be able to do that is stunning folks when I am 82?  Have you thought about that?  Experts say that long-term memory is the type of memory most safe from the appalling dementias and memory losses of our day.  Therefore, if we learned music or dancing in our young years, it is likely to stay with us. Somewhere on the internet, there is a story of a nursing home resident who was bored, refused to socialize and would hardly speak, if at all.  One day, someone heard her singing.  She now directs the choir of the facility, with unbelievable gusto, and beautiful, touching results. (Notice the absence of the word “perfect” in the last sentence.)  It turns out she was a choral director in her previous life and, in the facility, the music had been missing from her life.  Wow.

“I feel like I’m a tall, willowy blonde of 43 with long legs,” Dame Judy Dench told the British newspaper the Mirror, in October of last year.  The incredible 79 Year old British actress is nominated for an Academy Award this year for her work in the film Philomena. Dench has worked successfully on stage and in movies and television, and has won the British Academy Award five times.

The first female to win the role of “M” in James Bond 007 movies, Dench was honored for her entire body of work  when Queen Elizabeth bestowed on her the Order of theBritish Empireback in 1970, elevating her title to that of “Dame.”  No matter her age, Dench is fabulous in both contemporary and period pieces, and her strength and grace remain ageless.

Sadly, in 2012, she was diagnosed with macular degeneration and her sight is continuing to deteriorate.  In an interview that year, she told the Mirror that she can no longer read scripts.  She said that friends or family members read the scripts to her and that is how she learns her lines.  “It’s like telling me a story,” she said.  “The same story that I must convey to the audience.  It’s a wonderful way to learn my lines.”

The actress continued that line of positive thinking, “We don’t say the word retirement in our house.  It’s banned.  Energy keeps me going.”  Could that be it?  Is retirement perhaps the life style choice that, after a brief burst of excitement, reduces our energy and positive outlook on life?  These older actresses obviously love their work, and feel blessed to have it.

If you are interested in seeing the work of several older British actors and actresses, be sure to see the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  If you love fine acting, this film is a feast.  It is about a group of British retirees (Pensioners they call them) who have been cast aside, in one way or another by society in theUK.  In different places and various ways, they all come across an advertising pamphlet, and go toIndia to spend their retirement years at the Marigold Hotel.

Try to remember the lyrics that Rita Moreno sang to us:  And let the music play/as long as there’s a song to sing/and I will stay younger than spring—From This is All I ask by Gordon Jenkins, American pianist, composer and arranger (5/12/1910-5/1/84).

                Thank you for reading.  Stay well.  See you next week.

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