Derek Bell – Plays With Himself (1980)

FrontCover1George Derek Fleetwood Bell, MBE (21 October 1935 – 17 October 2002) was a Northern Irish harpist, pianist, oboist, musicologist and composer who was best known for his accompaniment work on various instruments with The Chieftains.

Bell was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Because he had been misdiagnosed at an early age as having a disease that would lead to blindness, his parents gave him a musical upbringing. He was something of a child prodigy, composing his first concerto at the age of 12. He graduated from the Royal College of Music in 1957. While studying there, he became friends with the flautist James Galway. From 1958 to 1990 he composed several classical works, including three piano sonatas, two symphonies, Three Images of Ireland in Druid Times (in 1993) for harp, strings and timpani, Nocturne on an Icelandic Melody (1997) for oboe d’amore and piano and Three Transcendental Concert Studies (2000) for oboe and piano. He had mastered and held a notable collection of instruments, including various harps, harpsichord, piano, cymbalom, and all the members of the oboe family of instruments (musette, oboe, cor anglais, bass oboe) and the heckelphone.

Derek Bell3

As manager of the Belfast Symphony Orchestra, Bell was responsible for maintaining the instruments and keeping them in tune. Out of curiosity, he asked Sheila Larchet-Cuthbert to teach him how to play the harp. Over time he had many harp teachers. In 1965 he became an oboist and harpist with the BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra. He had been known to be able to skilfully play the pedal harp, neo-Celtic harp, and wire-strung Irish-Bardic harp. Bell served as a professor of harp at the Academy of Music in Belfast.

Derek Bell

Bell was briefly featured in a 1986 BBC documentary, The Celts, in which he discussed the role and evolution of the harp in Celtic Irish and Welsh society. Derek Bell also appeared with Van Morrison at the Riverside Theatre at the University of Ulster in April 1988. An hour-long BBC special was broadcast in which Derek Bell talks extensively as well as accompanying Morrison on several songs including “On Raglan Road”. The video is available on YouTube in full “VAN MORRISON – In Conversation and Music 1988”. Apart from this, video of him only exists in minor interviews and performances with The Chieftains.

Bell died of cardiac arrest in Phoenix, Arizona on 17 October 2002, just four days shy of his 67th birthday. He is remembered at Cambridge House Grammar School, Ballymena, as House Patron of Bell House. (wikipedia)

Derek Bell4

And here´s one of his solo-album …. with this really bizarre cover.

Derek Bell, was best known as the harpist and piano player of the Chieftains. However, he played a multitude of instruments. On this album, recorded in 1980, he plays piano, harpsichord, harps, cor anglais, oboes and cimbalom. The music is largely classical with some adaptations of folk melodies. (

Could Derek Bell have picked a better title for this baroque extravaganza? No. No he could not ! (

What a nice album !


Derek Bell (all instruments: harpsichord, concert harp, piano, neo-Irish harp, oboe d’amore, cimbalom, oboe)

Derek Bell2

01. Minuet (from The Duo Concertane Opus 74 in B Flat For Concert Harp and Piano) (Dussek) 4.41
02. Sonata In C Major For Oboe And Harpsichord (Besozzi) 7.30
03. Rondeau Ecossais For Pianoforte (Field) 4.15
04. Peruvian Dances (Traditional) 4.09
05. Tocata Burlesca For Oboe And Piano (Bell) 3.06
06. Mazurka Opus 28 For Concert Harp (Holý) 3.54
07. Notturno Opus 12 For Concert Harp (Holý) 2.52
08. Spanish Dance Opus 7 For Concert Harp (Holý) 3.45
09. Turkmenian Melody (for Cor Anglais and Piano) (Korchmarev) 2.46
10. Lotus Land Opus 47 For Pianoforte (Scott) 3.38
11. Three Bagatelles For Oboe D’Amore And Piano (Strutt) 5.18
12. Hungarian Folk Dances Cimbalom Solo With Harpsichord (And Piano, Harp And Oboe) (Traditional) 3.31