Just Four Notes: 80-Year-Old Man With Dementia Tops Music Charts

Paul Harvey, piano, orchestra, music

SHARE THIS STORY

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Paul Harvey, piano, orchestra, music

Just Four Notes: 80-Year-Old Man With Dementia Tops Music Charts

SHARE THIS

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email

Paul Harvey always loved music. He studied at the Guildhall School of Music, composed a piece which is still used in music exams, and as a concert pianist appeared on BBC. In 1964 he became a music teacher at a school in East Grinstead in the UK. His party piece was to compose a tune from four random notes, something his son, Nick remembers him doing when Nick was just nine years old.

Sadly, as Paul grew older he began to suffer from dementia. 

“The moment we realised that something was awry properly when Ali, my wife, invited dad over for Sunday lunch and he arrived at 6 am, looking flustered and confused,” Nick says. “That was a turning point.”

As Paul’s condition worsened the only thing that helped him was to play the piano.

Paul Harvey, Piano, dementia
Paul at the piano. Photo via The Guardian

“My memory’s fine when I’m playing the piano,” Paul explains. “I can remember all the things I’ve done. When I am looking at television or other things around where I live, then I start forgetting things. And if something is not in the right place, then I panic a bit. But if I’m a bit stressed, I will go and play the piano, and I’ll be alright then.”

Five weeks ago Paul was having a bad day and in an attempt to help him Nick sat him at the piano and, remembering his father’s old party trick gave him four random notes. He then filmed his father as he took those notes and turned them into a lovely piece of music. Nick then uploaded the footage to Twitter little expecting the response he would receive.

Congratulations poured in and the piece went viral: it was even aired on Radio 4 and listeners suggested it should be played by an orchestra. The BBC Philharmonic orchestra, playing from home, recorded Paul’s piece which went straight to the top of iTunes and Amazon’s music charts.

“I didn’t expect all this fuss and palaver,” says Paul. “Fortunately, because of my age, I’m a bit laid-back about the whole thing, in the nicest possible way. Mind you, I wouldn’t mind conducting the BBC Philharmonic – they were fantastic. I would love that.”

Four Notes, dementia
The BBC Philharmonic Playing Four Notes

The other big highlight for Paul was the chance to meet and to chat with world-famous musician and composer Stephen Sondheim who liked the piece so much he threatened to steal it.

“He can have it for nothing!” Paul joked.

And the name of the tune which has created such a stir? Why Four Notes, of course. And you can listen to it here.

Not many people can claim to have composed a No 1 hit. For an 80-year-old man with dementia, it’s nothing short of astonishing, not to mention incredibly heartwarming.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

related articles

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

more stories

Join our mailing list

Never miss our seriously happy global news!
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter: