After taping a concert with the band in Nashville for future TV broadcast, the 66-year-old musician had stayed behind in the United States to undergo minor surgery and get a routine physical examination. His doctors had given him permission to return home to Ireland before he succumbed. The exact cause and time of his death were not known at press time.
Born in Belfast, George Derek Fleetwood Bell started to play the piano at age 9, and he composed his first piano concerto two years later. A child prodigy, he won a scholarship to London’s Royal College of Music, from which he graduated with honors in 1957, and he followed that with a bachelor’s degree in music from Dublin’s Trinity College in 1959.
Before joining the Chieftains, Bell held various posts in classical music. He was manager of the City of Belfast Symphony Orchestra, deputy chorus master of the Northern Ireland Radio and TV Orchestra, and professor of harp at the Belfast Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. His instrumental mastery covered harp, oboe, cor anglais (tenor oboe pitched in F), piano, xylophone, and tiomp