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Irish Ayes

Celtic Sojourn host Brian O'Donovan's Boston bests



orn in Clonakilty in West Cork, Brian O’Donovan came to a place where there are actually more Irish people: our town, where he serves as host of WGBH’s Celtic Sojourn and its holiday-time Christmas Celtic Sojourn and St. Patrick’s Celtic Sojourn. An Emerson grad who once worked for the New England Patriots (we’re not making that up), O’Donovan knows Boston. Here are some things he likes the most about it:


The Lizard Lounge. Cambridge’s tiniest and best rock club. I love to steal away and walk there from my place, sit and just take in some of the best, and I mean best rock‘n’roll you can imagine: the Dennis Brennan Band, Duke Levine, Kevin Barry, Billy Beard, Richard Gates, Session Americana, and their special guests, who are often big-time celebs. And a great beer selection.


First Mondays at Jordan Hall. First Mondays opens the doors of the magnificent Jordan Hall at the New England Conservatory to one and all. No questions asked, no dress code or previous knowledge required. We love to go to Ginger Exchange on Huntington Avenue for dinner, and then to hear the wonderful music absolutely free!


Many folks have heard of The Moth: people telling true stories. Massmouth is an organization that encourages people to listen, and indeed to stand up and participate. In our era of screens, social media, and short attention spans, what could be more uplifting than the realization that old-fashioned storytelling is all the rage.



The Druid. Best pub food in Boston, bar none. Sometimes you can’t afford to eat at home, as this place beats the price. My favorite time to go: latish on a Tuesday night, around 9 p.m. Have dinner and a pint and get ready for a great trad Irish session that starts up in the corner. Stay a little later and you might very well experience step-dancing on the tables.


The Boston Public Library atrium. Grab, a coffee from the café, a seat, Internet access, and just absorb the atmosphere. You easily could be in Florence, or Vienna.


The Cantab on a Tuesday night. Brilliant bluegrass open mic and performance. They might run out of Sam Adams occasionally, and the floor is a little sticky, but Bud Light tastes really good when listening to some of the amazing young bluegrass talent.


Café Algiers. Not for its coffee which I find mediocre, but for the tables, the cubbiess, the corners where, with just the right look, you can pretend to be Marx or Sartre, even while writing your shopping list.


The Harvard Natural History Museum. Just walking through it brings me to a different era of exotic animals and taxidermy.


Night Song on Sundays at First Church In Cambridge. For a guy with serious doubts about religion, I still love to sit in a spiritual environment and allow its sounds and atmosphere to envelop. This is therapy. Free, open to all, and about 45 minutes, every Sunday evening at 7.


Walden Pond, Whether for a winter walk around a frozen lake, contemplating Thoreau in the splendor of its fall, or sneaking a beer in a plastic red cup on late, lazy summer afternoons on the sandy beach at the edge of its mirror, Walden is a magic place.