You’ll often find Merv Allan at the community piano, delighting adoring fans and curious onlookers with his passion for music and people.
The community piano was reinstated in the Bundaberg CBD this week and Merv was front and centre to officially unlock it alongside Mayor Jack Dempsey.
COVID restrictions had necessitated the closure of the piano last year but Mayor Dempsey said it was wonderful to hear the music ring throughout the CBD once again.
“It’s wonderful to see Merv ‘the piano man’ and his fans here … supporting those lovely tunes that bring a little bit of joy to everyone’s heart,” the Mayor said.
“Now the music is back.”
But no one was more thrilled than Merv who loves the community piano, not just for the chance to tinkle the ivories, but for the people he meets along the way.
“I’m more than happy now that the piano is being unlocked,” Merv said.
“I just love playing the piano. I love doing things and I love being at the forefront.
“I came up and started playing it and I was absolutely astounded at the number of people who went out of their way to come and mention how pleasant it was to hear the piano being played in the city area.”
The piano was first placed in the CBD as a public art installation but its popularity ensured it quickly became a permanent feature.
Merv was instrumental in finding the piano that is now enjoyed by so many in the CBD pavilion.
“It does make a difference to the community.”
The 81-year-old has always had a knack for music and plays tunes by ear, often reading the music just once or recreating it after simply hearing a song.
“I started playing piano when I was about five years old, we never had a piano in the house, but every time I went on school holidays I was sent to relatives and they either had pianos or the little pedal organs.
“I could only ever play with one hand, the right hand.”
At 16, after starting work, Merv decided to start lessons.
“I used to read music for the first time and then I had it in my mind then and I could sit there with my eyes shut and play whatever it was.”
However, his tutor was unimpressed with his methods and told him he’d never play the piano.
Still determined to play, Merv turned to his sister for help.
“I said to her, ‘can you teach me a simple tune to play with both hands’?
“And she taught me the Merry Widow Waltz and that was the first tune I ever played with both hands.”
It was 1956 when Merv finally mastered the art and after 65 years of playing the piano he’s not looking to give it up any time soon.
“I’m riddled with arthritis and the constant finger drills on the piano help me with my arthritis.
“My GP tells me that whatever I can do, what I do on the piano, is helping me to stave off the chances of getting dementia or any of the other things.
“So to me, being able to play the piano means a lot to me physically and mentally.”
In addition to delighting crowds in the CBD Merv also volunteers his time to play piano at the RSL drop in centre and for residents at Palm Lakes Care.