Ian Bell has performed across Canada and in the United States since the late 1970s On his own and with a number of different ensembles, he has appeared at numerous folk festivals (Winnipeg, Mariposa, Edmonton, Ottawa, Yellowknife, Owen Sound, Lunenberg , Montmagny, and others) and in concerts and dances in venues ranging from The Lincoln Center to the finest Ontario barns.
Ian was first smitten by the folk songs he heard at hootenannies he attended with his parents in the very early ‘60s, and later at the Mariposa Festivals of the early ‘70s. While in his twenties, Ian was lucky enough to be able to find ways to make music with a number of great players who were a generation (or two) senior to him. They included fiddlers Tommy McQueston, and Carl Grexton, stepdancer Alec Mulligan, fiddler/dance caller Jack Hayes, and later, Mennonite singer Onias Weber. Ian is forever grateful to them for their generosity of spirit and the links they forged in the long chain of traditional music.
With the group Muddy York, and along with Wade Hemsworth (composer of the Blackfly Song, Log Driver’s Waltz), Ian performed for two weeks in the Folklife Pavilion at Expo 86 in Vancouver, BC. In 1993 Ian was named “Folk Artist in Residence” for that year at Joseph Schneider Haus Museum, in Kitchener, Ontario. In 1985 Ian served as artistic director for the Mariposa Folk Festival.
Over the years Ian’s accompanists and band-mates have included: Oliver Schroer – violin, David Travers-Smith –trumpet/producer, Geoff Somers – fiddle/mandolin, Anne Lederman – fiddle/ piano, Shane Cook – fiddle, Brian Pickell – guitar mandolin, Tom Leighton – piano, James Gordon singer, guitarist
As a long-time freelance broadcaster, Ian worked on many occasions with Stuart McLean on CBC Radio’s Vinyl Café. Ian co-wrote and served as musical director for five Vinyl Café national concert broadcasts. For seven years Ian was a regular contributor to the weekend Fresh Air program on CBC radio. Over the years, Ian Bell was a regular visitor to many CBC programs including Ideas, Gabereau, Crossroads, This Morning, and Radio Noon. He also appeared numerous times on Peter Gzowski’s Morningside.
Ian has also contributed to numerous film scores and performed period music for and occasionally appeared in the TV series, The Road to Avonlea.
Above: Doing the twist with Irish Mythen and The Young’uns at the Goderich Celtic Festival (photo: Allison Lupton)
Ian performs material from a large repertoire that includes both Canadian traditional music and his own songs and instrumental compositions. Ian’s original songs have been performed and recorded by: Anne Lederman, Ian Robb, Bobby Watt, Allison Lupton, Lee Murdock, The Lucky Sisters and others.
In 2004 Ian performed as part of the “Roots of American Music” Festival at Lincoln Centre in New York City. In July 2005 Ian travelled to Estonia with long-time collaborator Anne Lederman to perform at the Viljandi Folk Festival. An accomplished multi-instrumentalist (guitar, button accordion, mandolin, harmonica, fiddle, pipes) Ian appears on dozens of recordings as sideman as well as many under his own name.
Following the release of three CDs of well-received original songs, Ian returned to his roots in 2009 with a new CD of traditional songs and tunes – My Pious Friends and Drunken Companions. Ian was joined on this recording by many musical friends including Geoff Somers, Anne Lederman, Oliver Schroer, Denis Rondeau, Shane Cook, The Bilge Rats and James Gordon. It was a nominee for Canadian Folk Music Awards in the Traditional category.
In 2013 Ian and friends created Forget me Not When Far Away a new CD of traditional songs of the Great Lakes. It too has been nominated for a “Traditional Singer” CFMA award