Pianist inspires Bellshill pupils

Pianist and Bellshill Academy former pupil Paul Murray shows pupils what he has managed to achieve with just one hand.
Pianist and Bellshill Academy former pupil Paul Murray shows pupils what he has managed to achieve with just one hand.

Former Bellshill Academy pupil Paul Murray has astonished teachers and pupils with his incredible and moving story of triumph over adversity.

The gifted young pianist gained a place to study music at Aberdeen University after learning complex pieces that normally take months for professionals to learn.

But then the “natural classical musician” - who only began playing the piano at the age of 15 - was struck by a brain tumour, which required four months in hospital and multiple operations.

Later he was also diagnosed as suffering from Multiple Sclerosis.

His right hand no longer worked properly, and it seemed his promising career was over before it had truly begun.

But, as detailed in a recent Channel 4 documentary about his remarkable fightback, nothing could have been farther from the truth.

With a dedication former Academy music principal Angeline Boslen described as “inspirational”, he learned the phenomenally difficult skill of left-handed repertoire.

In a press report of his achievement Aberdeen University head of music Dr David Smith said Paul’s second year exam performance had moved adjudicators to tears - “not something that normally happens in an exam situation.”

Angeline Boslen, now principal teacher of support for learning, said the S2 music class pupils, and other classes Paul met during his visit to the Academy, had been both amazed and inspired by his example and his talent.

“Even people not hugely involved with music were deeply impressed by Paul, and what he has achieved,” she said.

At Aberdeen University he had stunned lecturers by playing one handed pieces many accomplished musicians would have found challenging with two hands.

Meanwhile Paul says Bellshill Academy, and the encouragement he was given during music classes there, was a major inspiration at a time when he was a talented beginner.

With little previous knowledge of classical music he nevertheless showed natural aptitude from the start, and - with solid encouragement from the Academy’s music department - decided to make piano a major element of his life.

After his devastating health setbacks it was one of his Aberdeen tutors, the composer Dr Paul Mealors, who suggested he try left-hand repertoire.

Five year after his initial tumour diagnosis, and partial paralysis, Paul - now still aged only 22 - successfully reworked Chopin’s Ballade Number One to be played with just one hand.

It was a special piece for him, as in between operations he had listened to the tune over and over on the Ipod his dad Stephen had given him.

Paul is now officially a Bellshill Academy “achiever”, and a former pupil of whom it is extremely proud.