John (Clark) O'Donnell. Educator, choir conductor, pianist, b Portland, Me, 8 Jun 1935, naturalized Canadian 1975; BA (St Francis Xavier) 1958, M ED (Gonzaga U, Spokane, Wash) 1962, M MUS (King's College, London) 1970. He moved to Canada to study 1954-8 at St Francis Xavier University, and returned in 1962 as director of music at the same university. He was chairman of the university's music department 1970-83 and in 1990 continued to teach there.
O'Donnell was already a well-known choirmaster and choral clinician in Nova Scotia when he was invited in 1966 to direct the newly formed choir Men of the Deeps. On his return to Canada in 1973 from studies in England, he became the permanent director, conducting the choir, researching repertoire, and writing arrangements for the group. Although his graduate work had concentrated on 18th-century liturgical music, his association with the choir has led his academic interest into coal-mining and disaster songs. He has published articles on this repertoire and has compiled two collections of coal-mining songs, The Men of the Deeps (Waterloo 1975) and And Now the Fields Are Green (Sydney, NS 1991).
O'Donnell has performed as a pianist, and has been broadcast on CBC radio, and was the organist-choirmaster 1965-75 at St Ninian's Cathedral in Antigonish. He wrote the music for Mad Shelley, a play by Patrick F. Walsh, published by St Francis Xavier University in 1971. He has arranged piano accompaniments for three anthologies of Cape Breton folk music compiled by Allister MacGillivray (1985, 1986, and 1989). In 1974 O'Donnell was provincial chairman for the Nova Scotia Festival of the Arts and in 1983 he was appointeda Member of the Order of Canada.
'Towards a collection of coal mining songs in Canada,' CFMJ, vol 12, 1984
'Labour's impact on the community - a Cape Breton perspective,' CFMJ, vol 14, 1986