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The Trench Award

Now, in its tenth year, the purpose of the Trench Award, which includes a number of bursaries, is to assist singers and musicians from the Midlands/Mid-West region to develop their professional careers through further study at a University/Music College/accredited music establishment, in Ireland or abroad, undertaking classical music studies in pursuit of a career in professional performance.

The Trench Award 2023

Took place on Sunday 30 April at
Birr Theatre & Arts Centre.

Accompanist | Dearbhla Brosnan

Following our callout for applications, we invite six finalists to perform a 15-minute programme at the Trench Award Gala Concert during Birr Festival of Music. The winners are selected by a prestigious panel and also take part in a series of masterclasses during their time at our Festival here in Birr.

In previous years, Fergus Sheil, David Brophy, Sandra Oman, Bruno Caproni and Julian Evans have all been adjudicators. 



The Trench Award is our top bursary, named in honour of Julia & Patrick Trench.



2023  Julieanne Forrest | Violin

2022  Martina Rosaria O'Connell | Flute

2021 Aoibhin Keogh Daly | Cello

2020 Ben Gannon | Oboe

2019 Aidan Chan | Piano

2018 Philip Keegan | Tenor

2017 Richard Thomas | Violin

2016 Sarah Brady | Soprano

2015 Carolyn Holt | Mezzo Soprano 

2014 Heather Fogarty | Mezzo Soprano

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This award is named in recognition of Birr Lions Club's ongoing support of Birr Festival of Music. They have generously supported numerous community, education and cultural organisations in Birr since establishment in 1974.



2023  Deirdre Higgins | Soprano

2022  Aimee Banks | Soprano

2021 Maria Matthews | Soprano

2020 Jessica Hackett | Soprano

2019 Leah Redmond | Soprano

2018 Ben Gannon | Oboe

2017 Kevin Neville | Baritone

2016 Rachel Goode | Soprano


In memory of the late Audrey Chisholm, concert pianist and hugely popular teacher for many years at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin.  Audrey grew up on Oxmantown Mall, Birr. Her father, William, was head forrester at Birr Castle, her mother, Ciss, taught piano and gave Audrey her first lesson. 


Awarded to an instrumentalist and funded from Audrey's estate by her brother Danvers and curated by Linda O'Shea Farren.


2023 Adam Buttimer | Piano 

2022 JJ McNamara | Piano 

2021 David Vesey | Piano

2020 Peter Regan | Piano

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Awarded to a singer in the Trench Award, this is a residency at the Summer Opera Academy in Tuscany of renowned baritone Bruno Caproni and pianist Julian Evans. 


The recipient joins a small group of international singers for vocal coaching, Italian lessons and performance opportunities, visiting Puccini's birthplace in nearby Lucca and generally immersing themselves in Italian culture.


2023 Caroline Behan | Soprano

2023 Anna-Helena McLachlan | Mezzo Soprano

2022 Niamh St John | Soprano

2021 David Kennedy | Tenor

2020  Sarah Luttrell | Mezzo Soprano

2019  Dylan Rooney | Baritone

2018  Philip Keegan | Tenor


2023 marked 10 years of The Trench Award and in recognition of this major anniversary, this bursary was awarded to mezzo-soprano, Heather Sammon


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A bursary awarded to a Midlands student entering full-time music studies in the classical field. 



2022 Catherine Cotter | Cello

2020 Aoibhin Keogh Daly | Cello

2019 David Kennedy | Tenor

2018 Dylan Rooney | Baritone

2017 Mollie Wrafter | Violin 

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Maureen de Forge & Catherine Cotter

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