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FOCUS: Melodies are good medicine (May 2020)

June 15th, 2020 · No Comments

Ninety-four year-old entertains patients

Music volunteer George Linton entertains patients at long-term care homes and hospitals. Despite being 94 years old Linton looks forward to returning to his unpaid gig post COVID 19. TANYA IELYSEIEVA/GLEANER NEWS

By Khyrsten Mieras

George Linton has lifted the spirits of hospital patients and those living in seniors’ residences across the city, one song at a time.

The 94-year-old volunteer and Toronto resident uses his musical talents of singing and playing guitar to brighten the days of patients in environments that are less than joyful. A unique aspect of his performances is the inclusion of melodies from the cultural background of each patient, such as the old Russian melody, “Those Were the Days.”

“Many people in the Toronto area come from far away countries, so I try to do a song from the homeland,” Linton says. “If you’re from Bulgaria I try to do a song in that background and other songs that cover many parts of the world. There are so many good melodies that carry from one country to another.”

His music has been met with a warm response from both patients and staff at the hospitals where he plays. Linton says he has received many positive comments such as, “you made my day,” and even, “your music took my pain away.”

Linton has been playing a range of melodies and music to patients in local hospitals for about 35 years. He recalls that he began by playing music for a friend who was in the hospital at the time. He found that other patients and staff were supportive and enjoyed the music as well, which encouraged him to continue playing in hospitals for those who appreciate it.

“From there it kind of spread and I found that patients in various areas [and] places enjoyed the music,” Linton explains. “When I do music in a hospital room, I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time because of the enjoyment that the patients get and not only patients but staff.”

Currently, Linton volunteers at four different hospitals in Toronto: the Toronto Western Hospital in the southwest of the Annex, St. Michael’s Hospital, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre downtown, and St. Joseph’s Health Centre in the west end. Linton rotates his visits between each hospital, travelling to a different location each week. On other days, he plays his music in different places within the city, including for residents at retirement homes.

Although Linton has no plans to retire any time soon, he hopes others will carry on his legacy and help in bringing the joy of music to the city’s hospital patients. 

“I appreciate getting the message out to younger musicians who may be encouraged to go and play for patients in hospitals because the younger [musicians] will enjoy it the way I have,” he says.

Tags: Annex · People · Life