How Brian O’Donovan set Boston’s stage for connection and community

The Power of the Local Pub

How Brian O’Donovan set Boston’s stage for connection and community
How Brian O’Donovan set Boston’s stage for connection and community
Episode Trailer

Boston producer Brian O’Donovan made a lot of space for Irish music and culture. He was dedicated to sharing it widely.  And though he presented music on formal stages and through his WGBH broadcast “A Celtic Sojourn,” casual, public Irish music sessions were ever important and enduring for him. This beloved leader lifted up traditional music. And he elevated the practice of ‘just going to the local pub’ into an act of radical community building.

Here’s a list of Boston area session. Of course these gatherings, like the living traditions that propel them, can evolve. So make sure to check with the pub before heading out, to confirm times!

* Burren Pub (Somerville): 6pm slow session in the back room of the Burren, followed by 8:30pm faster session in front room
* Druid Pub (Cambridge): 8pm singing session at the Druid

* Druid Pub (Cambridge): 8pm Scottish session
* The Haven (JP), 6:30m session 

* Druid Pub (Cambridge): 8-11pm Irish session 
* Medford Brewing Company (Medford): 6-pm session Second Weds of the month

* Druid Pub (Cambridge): 8pm SONG Session
* Piper’s Club @ Canadian American Club: 7:30-10 FIRST Thursday of the month,

* BeBop (Boston), 6pm session
* Irish Cultural Center (Canton): 6-9pm session
* Burren Pub (Somerville) 9:30pm 

* Backbeat Brewery (Beverly), 10:30am-1:30pm every other Saturday
* Bunratty Tavern (Reading), 1-4pm
* Emmetts’ Pub (Boston), 3-6pm…  and also 9pm-midnight
Hugh O’Neill’s (Malden), 5-8pm, mix of half singing, half tune playing
* Tavern at the End of the World (Charlestown), 5pm:
* Burren Pub (Somerville), 9:30pm 
* Druid Pub (Cambridge), 3:30-6:30pm
* Brendan Behan (Jamaica Plain), 5pm –

* Druid Pub (Cambridge) – 12-3pm 
* Burren Pub (Somerville) – 3-6pm 
* Dubliner (Boston) – 3-6pm 


Thank you to everybody for listening. And a special thank you to this month’s underwriters: The Irish & Celtic Music Podcast, John Sigler, Randall Semagin, Ron Kral, Isaiah Hall, David Vaughan, Susan Walsh, Matt Jensen, John Ploch, Tom Frederick, Paul DeCamp, Suezen Brown, Jonathan Duvick, Gerry Corr, Mike Voss, Sean Carroll, Isobel McMahon, Bob Suchor, Finian McCluskey, Rick Rubin, Ken Doyle, Chris Armstrong, Ian Bittle, and Chris Murphy.

Episode 76-The Power of the Local Pub
How Brian O’Donovan set Boston’s stage for connection and community
This Irish Music Stories episode aired October 14, 2023

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Transcript coming soon!

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Cast of Characters

Episode guests in order of appearance

Shannon Heaton


World-reared, Boston-based flute player, singer, composer, teacher, and host of Irish Music 

L.A.-born, Boston-based uilleann piper

Waterford-born folk singer, songwriter and activist 

Matt Heaton


Pennsylvania-born, Boston-based guitarist and bouzouki player

Brian O'Donovan


Cork native who transformed Boston’s traditional music community.

Oregon-born, Boston-based fiddler/pianist/composer 

Maeve Gilchrist


Edinburgh-born, New York-based harp player and composer

Philadelphia-born, Boston-based dancer, teacher, and choreographer

Keith Murphy


Newfoundland-born, Vermont-based multi-instrumentalist and singer 

The Heaton List