The Trench Award 2021


The purpose of The Trench Award is to assist singers/musicians from the Midlands/Mid-West region develop their professional careers through further study at a University/Music College/accredited music establishment, in Ireland or abroad, by undertaking classical music studies in pursuit of a career in professional performance. The total value of of bursaries is €8000. 

This year's six finalists performed a 15-minute programme of their choice at our Trench Award Gala Concert at Birr Theatre & Arts Centre on Saturday 21 August with internationally-renowned performers Julian Evans and Bruno Caproni as guests judges. Dearbhla Collins also joined us as accompanist.

The Trench Award 2021Winners

The Trench Award | Aoibhin Keogh Daly

The Birr Lions Club Bursary | Maria Matthews

The Audrey Chisholm Award | David Vesey

The Canto Al Serchio Prize | David Kennedy


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Our 2021Finalists

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Maria Matthews, soprano

From Longford, Maria graduated from the TUD Conservatory of Music and Drama in 2018 with first class honours and currently studies in the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with Elizabeth McCormack. Maria has won the bursary for most promising young singer in Sligo Feis Ceoil 2013 and the Senior Vocal Bursary in 2018.


Her most recent performances include the role of First Lady in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte in conjunction with Irish National Opera’s Young Artist Showcase, as well as chorus member in Irish National Opera’s Aida in the Bord Gais Energy theatre in November 2018, the role of Geraldine in Barber’s A Hand of Bridge and Ellen Orford in Peter Grimes with TUD Opera Ensemble and chorus member in the inaugural performance of Standford’s The Veiled Prophet at  Wexford Opera Festival in 2019. She has worked frequently with Irish National Opera as a chorus member, joining them for concert productions of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (2020), Puccini’s La Boheme (2021) and Strauss’ Elektra (2021). Maria has also performed as soprano soloist for Bach’s St John Passion with Trinity Choral Society and for Fauré’s Requiem with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra in June 2019.

Laura-Joy Copeland, mezzo soprano

Laura-Joy, from Co.Kilkenny, has just completed the first year of her Masters degree in vocal performance at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, under the tutelage of Kathleen McKellar-Ferguson. She has performed the roles of Belinda IN Dido and Aneaus, and Mysis IN Kane O’Hara’s Midas. Alongside many solo performances, Laura-Joy has sung as a member of chorus in productions of Madama Butterfly, La Traviata, Handel’s Susanna and Die Fledermaus. 


During her undergraduate studies at TU Dublin, she was part of the highly-acclaimed TU Chamber Choir and Choral Society. She also performed in Opera Scenes OF Peter Grimes, Die Zauberflöte, Dialogues des Carmélites, The Rake's Progress and Cendrillon. She has performed in masterclasses and coaching with Rachel Nicholls, Patricia Bardon and Julian Hubbard. 



She has been awarded first place in the Milne Cup and second place in the Mezzo-Soprano Cup at ESB Feis Ceoil as well as receiving medals and accolades in several internal competitions within the Conservatory of Music at TU Dublin.


David Kennedy, Baritone

David is a 19-year-old classical singer from east Galway. He is currently studying under the direction of Owen Gilhooly and répétiteur Grainne Dunne at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, where he has completed year 1 of the B.Mus in Vocal Performance.


A multi-award winner in this year’s E Feis Ceoil, he has also been awarded the Eimear Noonan Music Bursary for Young Musicians in 2020 and the Musical Futures bursary in 2019 at Birr Festival of Music.



He has performed in various popular venues throughout Ireland and had the honor of being invited to perform at National Famine Commemoration for Uachtarán na hÉireann Micheal D. Higgins in May of this year. He also performed at the Mary Immaculate College concert series in 2020 and in the chorus of Lyric Opera’s The Barber of Seville in 2019.

David Vesey, piano

David is a 21-year-old pianist from Abbeyleix, Co. Laois. He is currently in his final year of studies on the BMus at the CIT Cork School of Music, studying with Santa Ignace and Michael McHale.Over the course of his degree, he has had masterclass opportunities with renowned pianists such as Pascal Nemirovski, Thérèse Fahy, Philip Martin and Barry Douglas.  

Consistently achieving high marks in his academic work, he was placed 1st in his class in his 3rd year exams in 2020. In March 2021, he was awarded first prize for the John A. Piggott Cup at Feis Ceoil and in May of this year was the overall winner of the MTU CSM Advanced Recital Competition, a competition with 64 participants.


David was selected as a pianist for two National Concert Hall Masterclass series during 2020, receiving classes from Finghin Collins and Barry Douglas. In February last year, he also performed a piano recital in the Crawford Art Gallery and in 2019 was chosen as part of the “Dunamase Piano Trio” to perform at the Ortús Chamber Music Festival in Cork.

Aoibhin Keogh Daly, cello

From Limerick, Aoibhin has been studying cello since the age of seven. First, at the Munster Music Academy and for the last three years at the CIT Cork School of Music (CSM) with Christopher Marwood. Also a budding composer,  her piece Cois Fharraige was performed at the Ceol Na Mara Summer School in 2019. 


She has participated in lots of summer music courses and toured abroad with choirs and youth orchestras. She has taken part in masterclasses with cellist Raphael Wallfish and during lockdown was selected by audition video to take part in an online masterclass with Dutch international cellist Pieter Wispelwey as part of the Swedish Old Ox Festival. She was due to take part in the Bantry Chamber Music Festival with her string quartet but this was sadly cancelled due to COVD-19. In lieu of that, her quartet will be taking part in a nine-day masterclass in CSM coached by members of the Vanbrugh quartet, Adrian Petcu and Mia Cooper (leader of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra). 

Lily Kettle, violin

From Wolfhill, Co. Laois, Lily recently completed her undergraduate degree at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire under Professor Jan Repko. She will begin her postgraduate studies at the Royal College of Music London this September.


An avid orchestral and chamber musician, she was previously appointed concertmaster of the National Youth Orchestra Ireland and since then has performed as part of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra, Irish Chamber Orchestra, SinfoNua Orchestra, Wiener Jeunesse Orchester Vienna, as well as side-by-side projects with the Royal Concertgebouw, New York Philharmonic and the Royal Ballet Sinfonia.


In 2019, she was appointed first violin with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra as part of their training scheme. She has also been mentored by a number of notable violinists including; Monica Huggett, Olivier Charlier, Maighread McCrann, Tobias Granmo, Daniel Rowland and Jack Liebeck.  

Lily also has a passion for music pedagogy and completed a Level 7 Diploma in Music Teaching and Performance at Trinity College Dublin in 2017. She has been involved in an array of community outreach organisations and projects across the UK and Ireland and is a current violin tutor with LEAP Ensemble at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.She currently plays on a Marco Minnozzi violin from 2019.