About Birr Festival of Music

Incorporating The Trench Award, the aim of Birr Festival of Music is to expand the profile and enjoyment of classical music for all; to support emerging professional musicians in their training and development, with bursaries, masterclasses and performance opportunities. 

Julia & Patrick Trench had an abiding love of music.  Both sang, played piano, organ, flute and harp and were noted for their musical evenings at their home at Sopwell Hall, North Tipperary.  Julia was one of the many generous benefactors of the establishment of Birr Theatre & Arts Centre.  

Birr Festival of Music is immensely grateful to The Trench Trust for it's generous support.  

The Trench Trust (a message from Salters Sterling - Chair The JVM Trench Trust)

Julia Trench, who died in 2007 at an advanced age left the residue of her estate to create a Trust Fund, the income from which she designated should be used for educational, religious, welfare and social and community purposes. The Revenue Commissioners approved that such a fund with charitable status should be established and so the JVM Trench Trust has been supporting community projects mainly but not exclusively in the Midlands of Ireland. Julia Trench with her husband, Patrick had an abiding love of music both to make and to appreciate.

Julia sang, played the piano, the organ, the flute and the drums. Patrick played a similar range of instruments and in addition the harp. He also made many of his own instruments and built a concert hall at their home and brought together a range of instrumentalists from South Offaly and North Tipperary to create the Sopwell Light Orchestra. Both Julia and Patrick, though childless themselves, had a profound desire that children and young people should have expert introduction to the skills of listening to and making music. 

As Trustees of Julia’s Trust we are endeavouring to give expression to what we know would be her heart’s desire. It is therefore a matter of very great delight to us that Birr Festival of Music has managed to evolve a musical programme in Birr which began with a single competition concert on one Sunday evening and now has grown to include an elaborated competition Concert, Voice and Instrument masterclasses open to the public, a Children’s Choir, visiting musicians and street music in the town.

This is altogether a remarkable achievement about which the Trench Trustees are most enthusiastic and are very happy to acknowledge and indeed encourage support from other sources, particularly Birr Lions Club, so that this project remains a viable and growing enterprise into the distant future. Both Birr Theatre and Arts Centre and St. Brendan’s Church of Ireland had great meaning in Julia’s later years and it is entirely appropriate that they should be the venues for musical events associated with this Festival of Music.

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Birr Theatre & Arts Centre is delighted to be part Birr Festival of Music. Over many years Birr Theatre has been the catalyst to the establishment of so many festivals in the town of Birr.  In the early years Jazz in Birr and Birr Puppet Festival, then IF ONLY Dance Festival and Birr One Act Drama Festival and now the well-known Hullabaloo! Offaly’s Children’s Arts Festival, OFFline Film Festival and Scripts - Ireland’s Playwriting Festival.
Birr Theatre prides itself on being an incubator for many local festivals now well established in our town’s calendar, all of which complement the long running Birr Vintage Week & Arts Festival and extend our tourism season while expanding the arts engagement with our audiences. The importance of having a theatre in the town should not be underestimated – nor its value to the community as a whole, local businesses as well as emerging and established artists.

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Festival Steering Committee

Maureen de Forge (Chairperson)

Enda O'Connor

Tommy Lyndon

Emma Nee Haslam (Manager, Birr Theatre & Arts Centre)

Michelle de Forge (Director, Dunamaise Arts Centre)

Anne O'Callaghan Rowan

Rachel Corboy