Sunday, March 15, 2015

A St. Patrick's Day Countdown - Day 2

Our literary segment today comes from the pen of C. S. Lewis who was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1898 but spent most of his life in England beginning in 1916 with his admission to University College, Oxford. He never lost touch with what he called "my Irish life" visiting Belfast at every opportunity, maintaining a wide circle of Irish friendships and studying Celtic history and culture. 

The Meteorite

Among the hills a meteorite
Lies huge; and moss has overgrown,
And wind and rain with touches light
Made soft, the contours of the stone.

Thus easily can Earth digest
A cinder of sidereal fire,
And make her translunary guest
The native of an English shire.

Nor is it strange these wanderers
Find in her lap their fitting place,
For every particle that's hers
Came at the first from outer space.

All that is Earth has once been sky;
Down from the sun of old she came,
Or from some star that travelled by
Too close to his entangling flame.

Hence, if belated drops yet fall
From heaven, on these her plastic power
Still works as once it worked on all
The glad rush of the golden shower.

Music for the day is by the late musician and composer, Derek Bell, whose life was as interesting as his performances were beautiful. Bell was a musical prodigy and a master of the Irish harp and hammered dulcimer. Many readers may recognize his name through his association with the traditional Irish band, The Chieftains.  The first fifteen selections are of Irish or Celtic origin.

The following quote from tells the story of Bell's almost accidental associations with both the harp and The Chieftans. 

Harpo Marx playing the harp in the movies was Belfast native Derek Bell’s first acquaintance with the instrument, but it wasn’t until well after graduation from London’s Royal College of Music in oboe, piano and composition that Derek actually learned to play one. And even that was rather by accident. After a while in his job as manager of the Belfast Symphony Orchestra, where one of his tasks was keeping the harps tuned and maintained, he decided to learn to play them. He took his first lessons from Sheila Larchet-Cuthbert, and within a year or so, in 1965, became principal oboist and harpist with the BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra. As well, he began researching old brass-strung baroque Irish harps, and then writing arrangements.
In 1972 Derek, dressed in proper costume, played as Turlough O’Carolan in a St. Patrick’s Day radio commemoration of the 18th century blind harper. The musicians consisted of solo Irish harp, a baroque string orchestra, and a line of solo Irish folk instrumentalists calling themselves The Chieftains, including Paddy Moloney, with whom Derek was to become best friends. On the program was ‘Carolan’s Concerto’. In 1975 Derek joined the band as a full-time member, playing harp, piano, and various percussion instruments, meanwhile continuing his classical composing career and recording many solo albums.

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