Sunday, July 17, 2016

Harp, Derek Bell and O'Rourke's Feast

It was a beautiful day.  Perfect for pursuing any number of outdoor activities. I was forced to remain close to home to await a repair technician. One good result:  I was inspired to tune my much neglected celtic harp and take out some equally neglected music. While leafing through music, I rediscovered the tune that Irish artist Derek Bell kindly arranged for me of O'Rourke's Feast.
I began studying the harp as an adult, but became truly obsessed with the celtic harp and its history while falling in love with my now husband and Bronx Irishman, Hugh Gallagher.
Me and Derek Bell
New Jersey, 1990
My Irish harp obsession of course led me to its preeminent artist of the day, Derek Bell (1935-2002). Derek Bell was a member of The Chieftains when I met him in 1990. The Chieftains were touring the U.S. and of course I had to see them. Before the concert, Hugh and I went back stage and ran into the Chieftains founder Paddy Moloney. Moloney graciously introduced us to Bell. I think he was having fun having me as Derek's groupie. Upon meeting Derek, I did express my appreciation of his work, but we also chatted about Irish music history, specifically, the music legacy of Turlough O'Carolan. One of my coworkers at the time by the name of O'Rourke was also an Irish history nut. He constantly asked me when I was going to play O'Rourke's feast for him on the harp, preferably in the office so that everyone could see. So when I met Derek Bell I asked, "Why has no one done a harp arrangement of O'Rourke's Feast?" explaining why I was asking. He seemed intrigued. I never expected to hear anything further, but some time not long afterwards, I received an envelope in the mail with a note and arrangement of O'Rourke's Feast for harp.
Darling Gail,
Probably won't see you but don't know how long you'll be in Ireland!!! You might spot our Prom concert in the Dublin NCH Sept 6th otherwise we're hibernating after our August U.S. tour. Oyster Bay was the nearest to N.Y. Anyway here's O R's Feast. 
Fix it up how you like!
Love, Derek
O'Rourke's Feast
Carolan - Bell
A genius musician with an audacious sense of humor.
The world lost him too soon.

Video of Derek Bell from here

"I'd known for a long time that various cosmic forces were encouraging strongly nationalistic people to send their music to different countries because the theory was, if different nations could understand each other's music, it was a very high ladder to understanding the people...and there would be much less trouble in the world if people played and understood each other's music.  So we must enjoy that sense of difference between us. If we were all copies of each other the amount of fighting would be something phenomenal." - Derek Bell

If we all played music together, the world would be a better place.

Chieftains and Friends recorded in Matt Molloy's Pub, Westport, County Mayo from here
As I pluck the strings the vibration of the harp resonates against my heart, filling me with a sense of peace.


  1. What a delightful story and so nice to learn about another of your wonderful talents. Instruments are utter works of art.....even in their silence.

  2. Oh my.. how special you are and how special he was.
    Don't ever hesitate to have Hugh film you playing and share it:) Will look at the links after..
    Love this..


Thank you for your comments!