Courtesy of Bill Brett
In Memoriam: Brian O'Donovan - A Life of Music, Passion, and Achievement
On Friday, October 6, 2023, the world lost a true icon of Celtic music and a remarkable individual, as Brian O'Donovan, the beloved host of WGBH's A Celtic Sojourn, passed away at the age of 66. Brian's life journey was a remarkable blend of musical brilliance, unwavering dedication, and diverse accomplishments.
Born in Clonakilty, County Cork on July 30, 1957, Brian O'Donovan's love affair with Irish and Celtic music began at a young age. His roots in West Cork, shaped his deep connection to Celtic culture and tradition. He went on to pursue his education at University College Cork, where he received his degree in 1978. His academic pursuits eventually led him to England and later to Boston, where he continued his studies at Emerson College.
In Boston, Brian's life took a serendipitous turn when he attended a traditional music session at The Village Coachhouse in Brookline, and was introduced to the love of his life, Lindsay Henes. They married in August of 1981, beginning a partnership that would endure through life's many adventures and challenges.
While Brian is widely celebrated today as the host of A Celtic Sojourn, his earlier professional career was in a very different arena. He held management and executive positions at Foxboro Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots. As General Manager, he oversaw all stadium sporting and music events, demonstrating his exceptional organizational and leadership skills. In 1994, when the Kraft Family acquired the New England Patriots, Brian assumed the role of VP in charge of facilities management, further cementing his legacy in the world of sports management.
Brian's influence extended beyond football as he played a pivotal role in securing and managing the 1994 World Cup and contributed to the creation of Major League Soccer. With the launch of the league, he took on the roles of General Manager and Chief Operating Officer of the New England Revolution, making indelible marks in the world of international soccer.
Yet, it was his passion for Celtic music and poetry that truly defined Brian's life. As the host of WGBH's A Celtic Sojourn for 37 years he became a beacon for enthusiasts of Celtic traditions. His inviting presence on the airwaves introduced countless listeners to enchanting melodies, heartfelt stories, and the rich heritage he held dear. Brian and his family took these traditions to the stage for a remarkable 20 year run of “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn,” delighting families of all ages with his spirit. Brian's dedication to promoting Celtic music and culture was unwavering, and his legacy as a champion of this art form will endure through generations.
Beyond his professional accomplishments, Brian O'Donovan was known for his generous spirit, kindness, and mentorship. He touched the lives of many in the music industry, offering guidance and encouragement to emerging talent. His commitment to preserving and sharing the beauty of Celtic culture was not just a job—it was an integral part of his being.
Brian is survived by his loving family: his wife, Lindsay, his daughters Aoife (Eric Jacobsen) and Nuala, and his sons Ciaran (Emily Donaldson) and Aidan (Jule O’Donovan), and his cherished grandchildren, Ivy Jo, Nomi, and Harriet. He was the much loved brother, uncle, and granduncle of his 8 siblings, Aileen, Millie, Michael, Carmel, James, Margaret, Ann, and Ray; their spouses, children, and grandchildren, and was the much loved nephew of his Auntie Sheila. He is also survived by his loving brother and sister-in-law, Greg Henes and Betsy Bernstrom, and their children. Brian was predeceased by his cherished parents, Jim and Joan O’Donovan of Clonakilty, and his dear niece Kate O’Brien of Cork. His infectious laughter, zest for life, and unwavering love will be profoundly missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him.
A funeral service to celebrate Brian's extraordinary life will be held on Wednesday, October 11, at First Church in Cambridge, 11 Garden St, Cambridge, MA at 1:30pm. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to The Friday Cafe at the UCC Church in Cambridge or the Brian O’Donovan Legacy Fund for Celtic Music at Club Passim in honor of Brian's memory.
To watch the Wednesday (Oct. 11) service via Livestream, please follow this link:
Brian O'Donovan's light will continue to shine through the music he championed and the lives he touched. He will be remembered as a true ambassador of Celtic culture, a mentor, and a dear friend to all who had the privilege of knowing him.
May his soul rest in eternal peace, and may his music forever soothe the hearts and souls of all who listen.
(photo courtesy of Bill Brett)