Pianist Paul Harvey Defies Dementia to Conduct BBC Orchestra

Paul Harvey conducting.

Paul Harvey, a former music teacher, and pianist conducted the BBC Philharmonic orchestra while suffering from the effects of dementia. (Image: via BBC)

People coping with memory loss-related syndromes only strive to slow down the deterioration as these ailments often have no specific cure. Yet, sometimes victims of such progressively deteriorating ailments defy their handicap by performing acts that serve as precedents. In one such development, Paul Harvey, a former music teacher and pianist, conducted the BBC Philharmonic orchestra while suffering from the effects of dementia.

Paul Harvey is a dementia sufferer

Dementia is an ailment that makes the victims depressed and they find it hard to lead a normal life. Paul Harvey had to move into a sheltered accommodation five years ago for the condition. The former music teacher and pianist however discovered a new way to find happiness amidst the depression and the gradual loss of memory. His son Nick was also instrumental in his feat. He posted a clip of his father improvising four note-based pieces.

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Receive selected content straight into your inbox.

The video went viral on Twitter and received warm responses. Nick had posted the video for showing musical ability can overpower the effects of memory loss. Paul Harvey received an invitation to play from his home. Roughly a year after his show went online on the BBC Breakfast program, he was asked to execute the BBC Philharmonic orchestra. He played two of his compositions. 

Paul Harvey playing and conducting Four Notes with the BBC Philharmonic orchestra:

A dream come true

In a situation that can be labeled as a dream come true, the dementia-suffering conductor led the orchestra using two of his compositions. His son also played the piano and he conducted the orchestra with precision. The revenue for the concert will be given to Alzheimer’s Society and Music for Dementia. As expected, the experience made Paul emotional.

He said, “It was magical, it was very, very special to work with such wonderful musicians. 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.”

From his early years, Paul had a deep love for music and he cultivated it professionally too. He took lessons at the Guildhall School of Music in piano and became a composer. Later he became a skilled concert pianist. He spent 20 years as a teacher at the Imberhorne school.

Paul Harvey playing the piano with a small orchestra.
took lessons at the Guildhall School of Music in piano and became a composer. (Image: via BBC)

Finding relief through music

The onset of dementia did rob the happiness in his golden years but music came as a rescuer, rather unexpectedly. The orchestra performance won the audience and his son was also amazed. The BBC program has become a huge hit. 

Nick said, “It moved dad and me and my two brothers beyond comparison. 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. It was like an out-of-body experience.” Incidentally, the retired music teacher was accompanied by his two other sons too and all of them were emotional after the well-received performance. 

Nick went on to say his father can cope with dementia partly owing to the role played by music in his life. Doctors have said music can prove to be therapeutic for treating people coping with memory loss-related ailments. While dementia has no cure, using music is effective in keeping the victims in relatively stable condition.

Nick said his father was coping with dementia issues but at the time of conducting the orchestra, he delighted everyone in attendance by recollecting everything and giving an impeccable performance. 

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest

Recomended Stories

Send this to a friend