Extraordinary People

Tear-jerking moment man with dementia weeps as hero sends special message after seeing him play piano

Viral video is now being released as a music single

Whether you’re 9 or 90, the magic of meeting your idols always holds a special power.

And one man, at the grand young age of 80, had the surprise of his life when his hero sent him a special message after being spurred on by seeing a performance of him playing the piano.

It all began when Paul Harvey, 80, went viral back in September, when a video of him playing the piano captured the nation’s hearts which his son had recorded.

The footage was so emotive as former composer Paul has been diagnosed with dementia, yet with music he is still able to connect to the world and remember how to play.

After his son posted on the clip online, it quickly went on to amass nearly 2million views. One of which was Paul’s hero, fellow composer Stephen Sondheim.

American composer and lyricist Sondheim then contacted BBC Breakfast, who invited Paul on the show to surprise him with the special message as he watched in shock.

In the video, Sondheim thanked Harvey for the compliments he had given him before joking: “Thank you for that lovely tune that you invented, which I can’t wait to steal.”

Almost sobbing, Paul replied: “Wow, thank you so much, wow… I didn’t think there was any more surprises, the great man himself, the great man himself, wow!

“Tell him, for him, he can have that tune with pleasure, anybody else I’d charge for it. Wow, oh my goodness. Oh dear, that is deeply wonderful. Thank you so much for doing that.”

Paul had initially been invited on the show to watch the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra play his arrangement of the improvised tune from just four notes – F-natural, A, D, and B-natural.

Thanks to the symphony orchestra poising their violins and primping their cellos, the song will now be release as a charity single named Paul’s Tune with the proceeds split between the Alzhiemer’s Society and Music for Dementia. 

After hearing his piece, Paul was overwhelmed, saying: “Wow, wow. Fantastic. I was just listening to a wonderful piece of music and then all of a sudden I said to myself, ‘I wrote that! I wrote that tune!’ Wow. I won’t forget that, that was very wonderfully special.”

Speaking about the collaboration, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra composer David Whilbey revealed how excited they are to join forces with Paul.

He said: “It’s a wonderfully nostalgic, romantic piece of music and the fact that it was improvised as well makes it more special really.

“It really just highlights the power of music, and the importance of music to mental health.”

Meanwhile, Paul’s son Nick said sitting at the piano “brings dad back” from his dementia.

Research has shown that music can improve mood, mental alertness, and memory, while also reducing anxiety, blood pressure, and pain. It is also believed to delay ageing.

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