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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

years before!"

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

dry battery!"

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

down there."

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."

The Chieftains, Friday, March 11, 8 p.m., the State

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.

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Plays in the Park announced open calls for summer 205

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

Mercer County Institute for the Arts offers eight-week

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.

Joyce Indik Wordsmith Competition winners will have their

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.

Unlimited Potential Theater Company offers a poetry

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.

Amateur Radio

Delaware Valley Radio Association offers a course in

Amateur Radio

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 attaa2f@arrl.net. Classes begin Thursday, March

24 at the Boy Scout Center in Monmouth Junction.

Scoliosis Screening

Princeton Integrated Healthcare offers free scoliosis

screenings for

school age children and teens. 10 Vreeland Drive, Skillman. Call

609-688-9200 for information.

Please donate

Artists Helping Children, a part of National Heritage


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

Montgomery Center for the Arts seek fine art paintings

and sculpture

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,

Skillman 08558.

Call for Art

Mercer County Community College seeks short fiction,

poetry, essays,

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 kelsey.review@mccc.edu.

Good Cause

Kelsey Theater fundraiser cruise leaves on August 7 from

New Jersey

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

crobinson@cruiseone.com. Deadline is Friday, April 1.

Composition Contest

Voices Chorale invites children ages 5 to 12 to compose a

piece of

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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