Man with dementia who played piano in viral video inspires £1m charity donation

Video of 80-year-old Paul Harvey improvising on piano was widely circulated on Twitter

Isobel Lewis
Monday 02 November 2020 12:50
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Composer with dementia inspires 1m for research charities.mp4

A former music teacher with dementia who played the piano in a viral clip has inspired a £1m donation towards Alzheimer’s research.

In September, a video of 80-year-old Paul Harvey improvising the piece “Four Notes” on piano was widely circulated on Twitter after it was shared by his son Nick.

After being viewed more than 1.6 million times, the song is being released in collaboration with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra last week.

On Monday (2 November), Scotland’s first billionaire Sir Tom Hunter appeared on BBC Breakfast with Harvey, describing how the pianist had “lit up the screen” as he played the instrument.

Hunter said that he and his wife had been “so moved” by the piece that they decided to donate £1m to be split between the Alzheimer's Society and Music for Dementia. Harvey was seen holding back his tears during the interview as he learnt about the donation.

Hunter said that he hoped to “help put a light into trying to release people from Alzheimer’s”.

“We really believe music is a key,” he said. “We really believe you're onto something and we really want to help.”

Thanking Hunter for his “fantastic” donation, the 80-year-old said: “I didn't think I could be moved much more now, but I can.”

Harvey had previously worked as a composer before being diagnosed with dementia last year.

He has however been able to continue playing piano pieces from memory, as well as creating new ones.

The song “Four Notes’ was inspired by an old party trick in which Harvey would request four random musical notes and then improvise a song, his son explained.

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