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This article was prepared for the March 9, 2005 issue of U.S. 1
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Chieftains Are Here: It Must Be St. Patrick’s Day
Even before forming his traditional Irish music group, the Chieftains,
in 1963, uileann piper Paddy Moloney had a vision. Some day, he would
take traditional Irish music to all corners of the world. Now at 66,
he’s done that, and then some.
Contrary to popular belief, the Chieftains weren’t always on tour,
playing in large theaters. The band started out very modestly, with
founder Moloney running Claddagh Records out of his home in Dublin,
Ireland. The band sold perhaps a few hundred records their first year.
After eight years of running the record label and touring Europe and
the United States with the rest of the Chieftains, Moloney and the
band signed with Island Records in 1970 – and won an Academy Award in
1975 for their soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s film, "Barry Lyndon."
The Chieftains have recorded and released more than 40 albums since
1963, and have recorded for RCA Victor Records since 1986. They have
toured Europe; parts of Asia including China, Australia, Canada; and
all over the United States. Their most recent album for RCA Victor,
released last month, is "The Chieftains, Live from Dublin."
"During the 1950s, when the revival of Irish traditional music started
happening, I was out there," Moloney said in a phone interview from
his winter home near Naples, Florida. "I was an all-Ireland medalist
for piping, but I was always out there. I loved all kinds of music. I
loved jazz, and I even had a skiffle band for a time before the
Chieftains. We called ourselves the Three Squares."
After spending the better part of a year in emotional recovery from
the sudden loss of Derek Bell, the Chieftains’ longtime harpist, the
band recorded an October, 2003, concert in Dublin at the National
Concert Hall in tribute to him. Bell suffered a heart attack in early
October, 2002, in Arizona, the morning he was to fly home to Ireland
after staying a week at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. The good-humored
Bell had been the Chieftains’ harpist since the mid-1970s. He was just
Was Bell the classic thick-headed Irishman? "Yes, he was hopeless to
get on and do things himself," says Moloney. "We noticed he was moving
slower and shuffling around, so we got him to go to the Mayo Clinic."
It took pressure from the rest of the Chieftains for upwards of a year
before Bell finally sought medical help. He was admitted to Mayo for
treatment of an enlarged prostate and an enlarged heart. "He had a
small operation, and they told him he’d need to take it easier, eat
the right foods, and exercise a bit more. He was on the road to
recovery and suddenly the poor old heart gave out the morning he was
getting ready to leave.
"When they got in touch with me to tell me he had died, I couldn’t
believe it. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the band so disturbed in
all my life," Moloney says. "For more than 20 years we were the best
of pals. We went to India together, and went up in the Himalayas
together, because it was his dream since 1963 to get to India, as he
was very much into Buddhism."
Bell had married a woman from San Francisco about 20 years ago,
Moloney says, and was always anxious to get home after weeks away on
tour to see his wife and their seven cats.
Appropriately, "Live from Dublin" is a tribute to Derek Bell. Track
four on the new CD is "Derek’s Tune," something Mooney wrote shortly
after Bell’s untimely death.
The album is very well-recorded, with just the right amounts of
audience ambience. It includes a guest spot from the Nashville-based
Americana-country singer Allison Moorer, and even includes a blues
piece and some jazz.
"Van Morrison was there at the concerts, you know, because he loved
Derek," Moloney says with pride. "We had two nights of concerts and
you can only fit so much on a CD. The concerts turned out to be a very
successful radio show, so I thought, why not bring it out as a live
CD, a tribute album to Derek." Most of "Live from Dublin" is new
material, Moloney says.
Besides Moloney on uileann pipes and tin whistle, the Chieftains
include Matt Molloy, flute; Sean Keane, fiddle; and Kevin Conneff,
bodhran and vocals. After performing for a full year with an empty
chair on stage where Bell used to sit, Moloney finally found a
replacement for him – a young woman, Triona [pronounced Trina]
"For a whole year we avoided a harp player and had an empty chair
there in his place. But on this tour we have Triona Marshall with us,
and I know Derek is keeping an eye on me," Moloney says. "He believed
in the after-life. I was back in Belfast last year playing with an
orchestra and someone introduced me to Triona. Next thing I knew, we
were playing ‘Carolan’s Concerto’ together. It dawned on me that was
the same piece of music we’d played when I first met Derek, nearly 30
Moloney and his influential friends, like Van Morrison, Paul
McCartney, and Elvis Costello – whose wedding to Diana Krall the
Chieftains played at – have worked to start a Derek Bell Scholarship
Fund at Limerick University. "The proceeds from those concerts in
October, 2003 in Dublin went to start the scholarship fund," says
At their upcoming shows at the State Theater and the New Jersey
Performing Arts Center, the Chieftains, including Marshall on harp,
will be accompanied by Irish step dancers Donny Golden and Cara
Butler; the Canadian acrobatic dancing brothers, Jon and Nathan
Pilatzke; and the Nunez Brothers, Carlos, Pancho and Jorge. The band’s
album, "Santiago," released in 1996, focused on music from Galicia, in
the northwest of Spain. The earliest settlers in Ireland came from
Galicia, Moloney says, "so Carlos Nunez and his brothers will be
joining us. Carlos is now a big star in Europe, and he plays the
gaita," Galicia’s version of uileann pipes.
Moloney says he began playing tin whistle when he was six years old.
Raised in Dublin, his mother was a housewife and his father was a
career man in the Army. "Every summer, we’d go down to the country,
about three hours away by bus, ’cause no one had motor cars in those
days, to my grandparents’ house," he says. His grandparents lived in
County Laoif, in the Midlands.
"It was just a little cottage with no electricity or running water
even, but to me, that place was a palace. The people would come there
and tell stories and play music," he says. When it’s pointed out this
was clearly during the days before TV, he adds, "yes, and how. I think
there was a radio, but it was only allowed on Sundays because it was a
He looks back fondly on his childhood in Dublin and those summers at
his grandparents’ house with his sisters. "Those years were amazing.
We may have been poor, but there was never a want, we never knew of a
want," he says, adding, "music was always the source of entertainment
Now that Bell is gone more than two years, does Moloney still feel his
presence on stage, at least, occasionally?
"Not really," he says, "I’ve found that Derek has done away with all
that nonsense in his own way. He’s found me a great harp player named
Triona Marshall. We play ‘Derek’s Tune’ every night in concert, and
every night when I mention his name, there’s a burst of applause."
Theater, 15 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick. $25 to $55.
732-246-7469. Also, Saturday, March 12, New Jersey Performing Arts
Center, 1 Centre Street, Newark. 888-466-5722.
musicals, "Miss Saigon," "Aida," and "Dreamgirls." Auditions will be
held at the Roosevelt Park Amphitheater, Edison, on Friday, April 22,
7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, April 23 and 24, noon. Be prepared to
sing, accompanist provided. Callbacks will include reading and
dancing. For information visit www.playsinthepark.com or call
VSA Arts of New Jersey
programs in drama and acting for students ages 4 to 18 with
disabilities. Workshops will be held at the Regional Day School of the
Mercer County Special Services School District beginning in April.
Register by March 23. Visit www.vsanj.org or call 732-745-3885.
read at the Plainsboro Municipal building, Saturday, April 2, 2 p.m.
Dessert reception follows and event will be sign-language interpreted.
Register. Visit www.vsanj.org or call 732-745-3885.
workshop series at North Brunswick High School beginning Wednesday,
March 23. The program will be taught by Gha’il Rhodes Benjamin, an
actress, writer, poet, spoken word artists, storyteller, and teaching
arts with her own production company, Talking Poems and Storytelling
Productions. Open to individuals ages 16 and over. Assistive listening
devices, Braille materials, and transportation are available. Visit
www.vsanj.org or call 732-745-3885.
licensing. No minimum age and Boy Scouts are invited to meet the
requirements for the radio merit badge. Course, free; textbook, $15;
FCC license exam, $14. For information and registration call
609-727-1723 or E-mail email@example.com. Classes begin Thursday, March
24 at the Boy Scout Center in Monmouth Junction.
school age children and teens. 10 Vreeland Drive, Skillman. Call
609-688-9200 for information.
seeks donations to send stuffed animals to children orphaned as a
result of the tsunami. Donations may be sent to Rachel and Josh
Goldstein, 657 Ithaca Place, Hightstown 08520. For information call
Call for Artists
for the annual Open Juried Show in May. For a prospectus, send a SASE
to Montgomery Center for the Arts Juried Show, 124 Montgomery Road,
Call for Art
brief excerpts of novels, black and white line drawing, and cartoons,
for consideration in "The Kelsey Review," a Mercer County literary
magazine. Deadline is Monday, May 2. Material can be on any topic but
should not have been previously published. For information call
609-586-4800 ext. 3326 or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
for a five-night Bermuda cruise on the Voyager of the Seas. $497. Call
Colleen Robinson at 609-275-0335 or E-mail he at
email@example.com. Deadline is Friday, April 1.
music with a vocal element. Deadline is Friday, April 15. Free music
composition workshops will be held at Trinity Cathedral, Tuesday,
March 15, 3:30 p.m.; and Princeton Public Library, Saturday, March 19,
1:30 p.m. For information visit www.voiceschorale.org or call
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