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A tribute to Derek Bell (1935-2002) of The Chieftains,


When Alexander the Great visited Diogenes and asked whether he could do anything for the famed teacher, Diogenes replied: 'Only stand out of my light.' Perhaps some day we shall know how to heighten creativity. Until then, one of the best things we can do for creative men and women is to stand out of their light.

- John W Gardner (1912-2002), author and educator

Playing a rare instrument like the oboe d'amore, one belongs to a brotherhood of the few. Increasing the instrument's repertoire in the twentieth century as opposed to digging through clouds of museum dust makes for an even smaller sibling fraternity.

I used to make Derek's oboe d'amore reeds for him. He suffered from problematic eyesight and was unable to scrape at the cane to within a hair's breadth by eye, as oboists must.

He was a man who always showed humour, kindness, and gave willingly of his vast knowledge and experience. He sprayed his wicked sense of humour everywhere, and always managed to get one thing one was saying entirely the wrong way around: on purpose? I wouldn't be surprised! The greatest of leg-pullers, who else would record an album entitled Derek Bell plays with Himself, the front cover of which shows an angelic Derek surrounded by assorted keyboards, various harps and oboes galore? 'Go on, I dare you to think I'm not totally innocent!' is written all over his nonchalent, unassuming face.

'Derek Bell plays with himself'
'Derek Bell plays with himself'

His letters were unmistakable. How I regret not having kept their envelopes as well as their content! He bestowed upon me all the Doctorates, Professorships and accreditations of which he thought I was worthy. It always made me smile, great fiction reading indeed!

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Copyright © 24 October 2002 Jennifer Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland


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