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The Mystic Harp

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Album Review

Famed Celtic harpist Derek Bell (of the Chieftains) is featured on 19 lovely Celtic-style compositions by J. Donald Walters, with most melodies originally from his work A Celtic Suite. Walters' dreamy synthesizer arrangements set off Bell's harp with lush synthesizer strings played by David Miller. Bell also plays concert harp, oboe, oboe d'amore, and English horn — all of which add stately nobility and an Irish sense of longing to the pieces. Seagulls and surf on "Maura's Lament" add an atmospheric touch, while snare drums beat home "Parade." One of the most magical tracks is "Ancient Memories," a breathtaking track whose feet hardly touch the ground. "Deirdre's Sorrows" is one of the few fast-paced pieces; the liner notes reveal a woman's distraught musings before she stabs herself and falls on her lover's grave (ah, the Irish!). Walters sings the final song, "Emerald Isle," with a human warmth and innocence. Also featured on "New Dawn" is violinist Alasdair Fraser. The duet between Bell and Fraser is like new sweethearts holding hands for the first time. The Mystic Harp radiates the delicate and loving side of the Celtic tradition.


Born: 1935 in Belfast, Ireland

Genre: World

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Although best known as the harpist with the Chieftains, Derek Bell's career includes a raft of musical achievements and credits extending into the worlds of both classical and folk music -- and he didn't begin playing the harp until he was in his thirties. A major figure in music education as well as music performance, Bell is perhaps the leading Irish harpist in the world, and has done more to elevate the instrument to a level of international respectability before a wider audience than any other...
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The Mystic Harp, Derek Bell
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