At his son’s piano, Paul Harvey, a former composer and concert pianist, played a classical piece first. Nick Harvey recorded it on his phone.
“I didn’t know how many more chances I’d get to capture him playing like that,” said Nick Harvey, who also is a composer and writes music for British television shows.
Then Nick Harvey asked his father to play “Where’s the Sunshine,” a piece Paul Harvey composed in the 1980s as music director of a British secondary school. Nick Harvey said that, like many of the other songs his father wrote for school productions, it could have “easily been good enough for the West End stage.”
Nick Harvey wasn’t sure his father would remember this one. It’s clear in the video Paul Harvey wasn’t sure about that, either.
In the video, he hesitates as he begins, then confidently and fluidly plays the composition he wrote decades earlier. His son posted it on Twitter. Within a day, it had been viewed more than 2 million times. Tens of thousands of people reacted with awe and admiration. Celebrities including James Corden and British singer Emeli Sandé retweeted it.
Thank you @mrnickharvey for sharing this personal moment. Your dad's composition is beautiful. Listening to him play, I am reminded of the healing power of music and the refuge it provides for us. Love to your dad and family and all others suffering with dementia ❤️ https://t.co/t3IlavszIr— Emeli Sande (@emelisande) June 24, 2019
Nick Harvey included this note with the video:
“Dad has dementia. Sometimes he drifts into another world and I feel like I’m losing him. He is never more present, however, than when he plays the piano. He came to mine today and I asked him to play one of his compositions. He thought he wouldn’t be able to remember it.”
Some of the people who reacted to the video wrote that they remembered Paul Harvey and his compositions. Many others wrote that they were moved by his playing.
“What an utterly beautiful piece of music, made even more poignant by the sight of the ‘like’ counter rolling up as I listened, testifying to hundreds of others feeling as I did,” wrote one woman on Twitter.
“Oh, doll. That is so very lovely. Bless your dad. The next few years will be so hard but hopefully he will have moments like this to remind you all that he’s still here. Love to you all xx,” wrote another.
Nick Harvey said he’s “absolutely over the moon” for his father’s sudden celebrity.
He extended a thank-you from his father to his new fans and said his father is his “musical idol.”
“He deserves wider recognition,” Nick Harvey said. “He has more talent in his little finger than most people have in their whole body.”
He also found the original sheet music.
We’ve just found this. With lyrics by Pete Talman, ‘Where’s The Sunshine?’ was written for an original Imberhorne School (East Grinstead) production in the 1980s when dad was head of music and Pete was head of drama. It was a fantastic show. I remember it as if it were yesterday. pic.twitter.com/J1E8Gfv3dc— Nick Harvey (@mrnickharvey) June 24, 2019
Nick Harvey said the past few days have been emotional for him, starting when he began the recording of his father playing “Where’s the Sunshine,” his now-viral song.
“Behind my phone, I was choking back tears. I knew it would be an incredible keepsake for the whole family,” he said.
In an interview with the Press Association news agency, Paul Harvey said he is happy his music is reaching masses of people, even at this late stage in his life, and even though he has dementia.
“I am very pleased that something I’ve written has had such an effect,” he said. “It’s come so late in life, it shows that it can happen at any time.”