Music is Magical: 81-Year-Old Dementia Sufferer Conducts Symphony Orchestra


Pianist Paul Harvey’s spontaneous composition went viral last year. Paul is 81 years old and has dementia, but that didn’t stop him to fulfill his lifelong dream of conducting a symphony orchestra. And they played his songs.

Last September, Paul’s son Nick had recorded him improvising a two-minute piece from four notes. Nick posted the video on Twitter, proof that a person’s musical ability can survive memory loss.

Paul was also featured live on TV playing the piano from his home in Sussex. It was recorded by the BBC Philharmonic orchestra as a single. The proceeds go to the Alzheimer’s Society and Music for Dementia, which advocates for dementia patients to have free access to music as part of their care.

This year, Paul was invited to conduct the BBC Philharmonic orchestra playing two of his compositions.

Paul, a former music teacher and classical pianist, was very emotional with the orchestra. He conducted both Four Notes, while Nick played the piano, and an older composition of his titled Where’s the Sunshine.

Photo Credit: SWNS

“It was magical, it was very, very special to work with such wonderful musicians,” Paul said. “It made me feel alive, I couldn’t believe that an orchestra was playing my music and I was standing in front of it conducting them.

“I hadn’t conducted in such a long time before this, it was a real thrill,” he added.

Paul had taught music at the Imberhorne school for 20 years. He moved into a nursing home as part of his dementia care.

Nick joined his dad on the trip, organized by Music For Dementia. He said he couldn’t believe seeing his dad “come alive again” since the video of him playing piano went viral.

Photo Credit: SWNS

He also advocates for music to be a key part of dementia sufferers’ care.

“It moved dad and me and my two brothers beyond compare,” Nick said. “It was a dream come true for dad to conduct and play with an orchestra of that caliber as an 81-year-old. It’s what dreams are made of.”

Nick shared that his dad is still having memories of what had happened over the last few days.

Photo Credit: SWNS

“His short-term memory is generally shot to pieces but when big events like this happen it’s like a branding iron on his brain. From my experience with dad, the right piece of music at the right time can be absolutely incredible.

“You don’t have to be a talented musician to enjoy it though. Just listening to music, it starts to trigger memories of the past and gives people that connection.

Nick is happy that music brought Paul back to life again. “He’s playing the piano more than he has in the eight years.”

Source: Good News Network


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