THE BELL TOLLS
TOO SOON FOR DEREK
A tribute to Derek Bell (1935-2002) of The Chieftains,
by JENNIFER PAULL
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,
'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!
Copyright © 24 October 2002
Jennifer Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland