Behind the Scenes with Brian O’Donovan and A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn

Vice President of Communications for The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory Lisa Condit spoke with Brian O’Donovan about A Virtual St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn which will be performed on Thursday, March 11. Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Then tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.

Color photograph of Brian, an older white man with short hair and a trimmed beard. The photo is taken from the side, waist up. Brain wears a light yellow button down with a black vest. He holds a microphone up between clapping hands. There is an out of focus microphone and part of a person in the foreground.

Brian: I think what everybody misses most is the sense of being together around events and particularly around music and at The Hanover Theatre. Those rituals are being in the comfort of each other. We had a decision to make whether to sit out an entire year or more, or to come back and do something innovative using the technologies that were available to us. We’ve come up with a series of virtual concerts. We did one in December, which was very successful, again with The Hanover Theatre, that allowed people to gather virtually in the safety of their own homes and yet feel as if they were part of the central event. 

Color photo of three musicians sitting at microphones. The person on the far right is an older white man with short hair and glasses holding a guitar and looking down. The person in the middle is a white woman with short brown hair. She is holding a violin, smiling and looking out to the audience. The person on the left is a white woman with long brown hair. She is out of focus and looks smiling at the woman in the middle.

The Singalong Creates Community

Lisa: One of the engaging and enjoyable parts of your shows is that singalong element because it is the audience participation that gets us every time. That is, I know, what is going to make Julius Caesar exciting this summer as well. There is that other piece, that shared experience, so you are having a singalong that people can participate in. So, tell us about that. 

A color photo of a white woman with shoulder length brown hair that's half up. She is singing into a microphone with her hands in the air, animated. She wears a black dress with a brightly colored floral pattern and a cropped tie front red sweater. She has a big bangle bracelet on each wrist.

Brian: It’s a tradition of ours to finish the first half of the show with a tribute to that idea that everybody loves Irish music because it is participatory in many ways. And in this case, we’d love to have them join in a song that everybody knows called “The Leaving of Liverpool”, which would have been made famous by the singing of The Clancy Brothers and then we invite everybody to join in. That cannot happen in real time, so we have made it possible for people to join in with us virtually. 

Lisa: Tell us a little bit about the song “The Leaving of Liverpool”. Why that song? Why is that so important? 

Brian: Absolutely, well, it is a song about home. It’s a song about seafaring and seafaring is the perfect kind of analogy of what we have been on. 

We have been on a voyage really, and we are looking forward to coming back and visiting with all the people that we love.

It’s like, so fare thee well, I know I’ll be back someday. That is what we know from this pandemic, we are going to be back together someday. So that symbolism is there, we are being tossed on the stormy ocean of isolation, and of fear, and worry and anxiety. We thought it was a fitting backdrop to this show. This song is optimistic and defiant, if you will.

A color photograph of two women with brown shoulder length hair. The woman on the left wears a loose dark green knee length dress with sheer long sleeves and plays the violin. The woman on the left wears a black long sleeve lace top and a grey knee length skirt and black nylons. She plays a harp.

A Talented Cast

Lisa: Tell us a little bit more about the cast, you have got some really great performers that are going to be a part of the show. 

Brian: We do, they are great. 

The purpose of this show, Lisa, is to bring people on a general tour around Irish music and culture and how it has influence around the world. This is an invitational, informal and lighthearted romp through that. 

 A color photograph of two girls dancing and smiling. They both are caught mid-movement with a foot off the ground. The one closer to the camera has her hands on her hips, the other has her hands raised in the air. They wear short sleeved black dresses with full, knee-length skirts and red Celtic knot patterns on them.

Because we are virtual, it gives us a tremendous opportunity because it allows us to visit some of these performers in their homes. We go up to Newfoundland, which has very strong Irish influence to hear the great singing of Matthew Byrne. Then, we will fly over to visit with Caitlín Nic Gabhann and Ciarán Ó Maonaigh, who were with us in the past in Worcester. When they returned from their tour here, they got married and had two beautiful twins, Frankie and Rosie, who we will see and visit as we listen to their music.  

We have some exciting places to visit and music to explore. We look forward to people being with us. 

This is something that really supports the theatre. The Hanover Theatre has been particularly active during this time and not just going home and closing the doors but seeing how they can keep people company during these lonely, isolating times. We are delighted and very proud to be partnered with them.

 It’s also support of the music, the musicians themselves, and the support staff that are out there. Being with us is a statement that you support the arts, and we will be back stronger than ever.