On the morning of July 16th, 2014, our teacher, friend, mentor and companion, Patrick O’Brien, began his journey beyond the earthly life.
Pat O’Brien was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1947. He played and taught guitars, lutes, and historical harps in his native New York City for almost 50 years; he played and sang folkloric and popular music as well as jazz and contemporary classical guitar before coming to early music. He taught Renaissance and Baroque lutes, vihuela, early guitar, theorbo, archlute, cittern and early harp at Sarah Lawrence, Mannes, N.Y.U., Queens College, Stony Brook U., and SUNY Purchase. A longtime director of the Lute Society of America, Pat was also a director of the New York Continuo Collective. He performed and taught at the Boston, Holland, and Vancouver early music festivals; New York City Opera; the Nottingham and Toronto guitar festivals; Basel Historical Harp Festival, Guitar Foundation of America Annual Conference, Musica Antigua (Spain), and Scuola Civica di Musica (Milan). He recorded with the King's Noyse, the Harp Consort, the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, and, with Dennis Cinelli, the 19th-century guitar duets of J. K. Mertz. He also recorded with lutenist Paul O'Dette, with whom he was writing a method for 16th-century lute. Since 2012, he was on the faculty of Julliard.
Above all, Pat was known for his unique skills in teaching and pedagogy. He taught his innumerable students not only the mechanics and technique of playing their instruments, but instilled his own poetic and erudite approach in all of them. He spent many hours with each of his students, patiently tending to their individual needs. There was hardly a lesson with Pat that did not end up with coffee, lunch or dinner, and always filled with fascinating conversation. Pat left an indelible mark on everyone he came in contact with and he is going to live in the music and memories of all his students and friends forever. Words are inadequate to describe his loss when, as one of his students said: “it feels like the muses have all fallen mute with grief.” Requiescat in Pace.
The day Pat passed away, his daughter, Elanor, sent the following message:
At 3:51 a.m., Wednesday, July 16, Patrick O'Brien left this world for his next adventure. Please join us in wishing him a safe and happy journey.
What a dear, sweet friend and companion, and a wonderful person. We are so lucky to have had him, and he has given us so much to treasure. We have only gratitude for these gifts and for your love and support.
Mom and I appreciate your continued understanding of the process we are now sharing quietly and privately. There will be a memorial gathering, not very soon, but sometime in the future. You will hear much more from us in time. The best thing you can do for now remains the same: send love.
You are welcome to send a note by postal service if you wish:
50 Plaza Street East
Brooklyn, NY 11238
Please make sure you include a return mailing address if you send a message. I will enjoy responding to you at some future date. You are welcome to include a telephone number as well. Please do not be concerned if you do not hear from us for a little while. We are so appreciative of everyone who has been thinking of us and of Dad, and we know there will be many conversations we will want to have with you in the future.
Until then, please stay well, be good to yourself, and be joyful, in loving memory of Pat.
With much love and many thanks,