KAY Milon says the time has come to take things a bit easier... to retire.
But that doesn’t mean the talented concert pianist and entertainer will be leaving the stage completely.
On the contrary, the young-at-heart 81-year-old will still be doing her bit for the community as well as charity.
Now living in Sowerby Bridge, music is still a passion and her fingers are as nimble as ever as they dance across the keys. The sound they make is wonderful.
“Perhaps you can recognise this,” she says, as she sits down to play.
“It’s a piece that came back to me the other day but I just can’t seem to remember the name.
“I think now’s the time to retire though,” she adds.
“After all I’ll be 82 in November. I’ll still continue to play, especially for local groups and organisations. I go to local nursing homes and play for the residents and when I play my arrangements of the old songs, the songs they haven’t heard for a while, then their faces light up. I get a lot of pleasure from that.”
Kay’s life is a fascinating story: “Friends have often told me I should write a book but I have resisted so far,” she laughs.
She was born Gladys Ishbell Ryder in Halifax (she adopted her daughter Kay’s name when she lived in Puerto Rico for a time) and discovered her musical talents almost by accident.
“Looking back, my career started when I was a baby, unable to walk or talk,” she recalls.
“I could crawl and my mother told me the story of how one day I crawled to the piano, pulled myself on the stool and crash, my nose hit the keyboard as I fell. I heard the sound I made and then without hurting my nose any more, I would regularly hit the keyboard.
“At the age of five I had a music teacher who gave me a week to learn each lesson but I found I didn’t need it. I had usually learned the piece even before I had left the teacher. Music just came to me without any effort.”
Kay adds that Sunday school was the next step to furthering her career. She attended King Cross Methodist Church, playing hymns for the children’s classes when she was discovered by the minister, The Rev George Bramwell Evens, better known as Romany for his well-loved BBC Children’s Hour programmes.
With his encouragement, Kay began playing in public. By the age of 12, when World War Two was raging, she left school (Sowerby Bridge Grammar) to go on stage - although she did keep up her studies thanks to a private tutor. She enjoyed a spell in Blackpool where she played wartime songs for audiences which included Polish airmen living at the seaside resort in hotels. Included in her repertoire was the Warsaw Concerto. After the war she took a job as pianist for the Yorkshire School of Ballet.
“Famous ballet stars came to rehearse, including Margot Fonteyn and I would play for them.”
Aged 18 she married Local boy Gordon Harrison and helped him run a funeral business from Valeson House on the corner of Queens Road. The house meant room for Kay’s pianos, including a second-hand Bleuthner nine-foot grand.
“Old but the best sound a good German piano could produce,” she says.
The couple had a daughter - Georgina Kay.
“We entertained and had lots of musical evenings and among our guests was Gordon Langhorne, better known by his stage name Don Lang, known for his many recordings on the trumpet.”
Kay’s musical career flourished and she made television appearances as well as playing in theatres all over the country, topping the bill at the Halifax Palace Theatre with renowned tenor John Hanson of The Desert Song (Red Shadow) fame, and once taking the place of singer Ruby Murray in Dublin, when the famous singer was ill.
Kay and Gordon were to divorce and Kay was to marry Denis Bourke from a well-known Irish family. It was then her world travels began - Denis’s company Proctor and Gamble sent him out to Puerto Rico and Mexico City.
“We shipped all our furniture out but I was told not to take the piano because the humidity might damage it, so one of the first jobs when I got out there was to set about looking for a new one.”
When her second marriage came to an end, Kay met and married Charles Corn, who built hotels and houses all over California.
“They were real movie star homes. Did I ever get one? Well the trouble was once he’d built one to my specifications, he sold the darn thing before I’d chance to move in.” As Charles’s health began to fail, they moved to Mexico
“It was beautiful. We lived in a place called Mulege, pronounced Moo-lah-hey, very remote and getting there was quite a feat.
The couple had been married for almost 20 years when Charles died in 1981, and two years later Kay was to marry again - French born Pierre Milon who had been a friend of Charles and been in charge of running one of his hotels. Kay describes this whole period of her life as “high society” because of all the people she came into contact with through the hotel business.
“I met Marilyn Monroe and Burt Reynolds once kissed my hand which made me weak at the knees. Even the Kennedys came to stay - although I missed them.”
In 1990, the couple came to live in Sowerby Bridge and were happily married until Pierre died in 2009 after a long illness.
“We had both been members of the Parkinson’s Disease Society which I continue to support,” explains Kay.
Another talent, aside from her music, is making jewellery which she sells to raise money for charity. It was something she has nurtured since her Mexico days.
“I would walk along the beach picking up seashells and then create unusual pieces which I displayed at fashion shows,”
Kay admits that life has passed by “so very fast” but she does not want to sit idle just yet.
“If I can still bring a little joy to people with my music then I will continue to play.”
l Any local society, group or charity that would like Kay to entertain is asked to email her at KayMilon@aol.com