In 1999 after about 15 years as the host of a weekly Irish music radio program The Four Green Fields on WCUW 91.3 FM in Worcester. I decided that there simply wasn’t enough Irish traditional and folk music coming into New England’s second largest city. In fact, quality live traditional Irish music was almost non-existent in these parts
On occasion an Irish band would pass through Worcester County, such as Skylark or Maura O’Connell at John Henry’s Hammer Coffeehouse in Worcester or Four Men & A Dog or Tommy Sands at the Olde Vienna in Westborough and for a time in the late 80's early 90's Kris McCrory was bringing in acts on a semi-regular basis at the U.C.C. on Institute Road. That series, short lived as it was, brought in some phenomenal Irish (and Scottish) music including Patrick Street, Capercaille, Andy M. Stewart & Manus Lunny, Scartaglen and even Altan with the late Frankie Kennedy. But in 1999 there was nothing.
So I decided to try my hand in early 1999 by promoting a concert at Doherty High School featuring the Cassidys a family band who originated from Donegal. It was an enthusiastic audience who attended and I decided to endeavor to bring in other musicians on a semi-regular basis. Thus Coolbawn Road Productions was born. The idea was to put together some concerts and in the process to help raise some much needed revenue for WCUW 91.3 FM.
When trying to decide who would be the first band to kick off the series luck was on my side as the band Lúnasa was ready, willing and able. Next was lining up a venue. I got just as lucky there too as Cal Dolan and Des McKay at the Irish Times were willing to provide me concert space on the third floor of their establishment at no cost. So on a Sunday afternoon in August it began.
Concerts continued at the Irish Times for several years and among the musicians who performed there were Liam Clancy, Robbie O’Connell & Donal Clancy, Across the Pond, Aengus, bohola, the Brock-McGuire Band, the Ceili Bandits, Danu, Paddy Keenan & Tommy O’Sullivan, Arty McGlynn & Nollaig Casey, Teada & Niall, Cillian Vallely & Ted Davis.
When Cal and Desi moved on from the Irish Times we tried to continue the association with the venue but it just wasn’t the same. A couple of concerts took place at the Knights of Columbus on Circuit Avenue with Gráda but when until the Hibernian Cultural Centre opened in 2005 the series was moved to 19 Temple Street in Worcester. The first musicians to perform at the Centre were Massachusetts’ native Colm Gannon and former Tèada flute player and guitarist John Blake. Others have followed and in the last ten years the partnership between Coolbawn Road Productions and Hibernian Cultural Centre of Worcester has been such that the Centre today is established as one of the premier venues in America to hear Irish music.