New Appointments and Awards (September 2020)

The Festival of Voice finalists, from left to right: Jade Phoenix, Sarah Luttrell, Sean Rafferty (NI Opera patron), David Corr, Andrew Irwin and David Howes.

New Appointments and Awards (September 2020)

A round-up of recent music and arts appointments and awards in Ireland and the UK, including Northern Ireland Opera, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and Music Network, Mermaid Arts Centre, Tyrone Guthrie Centre, English Folk Song and Dance Society, and BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales. To send us your news, email [email protected].

David Corr, a baritone from Dublin, has been named this year’s winner of the Deborah Voigt Opera Prize at Northern Ireland Opera’s Festival of Voice 2020, which took place in Belfast on 30 August. Also competing at the event – the first time live opera had been performed in the city since before lockdown – were Andrew Irwin (tenor) from Fermanagh, who won the Audience Prize, David Howes (bass baritone) from Clare, Sarah Luttrell (mezzo soprano) from Laois, and Jade Phoenix (soprano) from Wicklow.

The five finalists worked with vocal coaches in the lead-up to the competition and sang for a panel of opera professionals, hosted by Northern Ireland Opera’s patron, BBC broadcaster Sean Rafferty. 

The competition finale was filmed and will be broadcast on Northern Ireland Opera’s YouTube channel at 8pm on 13 September.

For more, visit


Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and Music Network have announced percussionist Kevin Brady of the Tommy Halferty Trio, and chamber group Ikigai as awardees of the Musician-in-Residence Programme for 2020. 

Brady will be Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council’s Musician-in-Residence during September and October, while Ikigai, a chamber group featuring violinist Andrew Sheeran, cellist Gabrielė Dikčiūtė and pianist Maja Elliott, will undertake the residency in October and November.

During his residency, Brady will work with the Tommy Halferty Trio in exploring and composing music influenced by Brazilian instrumental music. The new music composed by Brady and the trio will celebrate the diversity of cultures in Ireland today and will be performed on 15 October. 

In October and November, Ikigai will explore the music that has influenced them as a group, including classical, Baroque, folk and indie, and artists such as Bon Iver, Max Richter and Sufjan Stevens, while working on new individual compositions. They will perform their new collection of works and interpretations of existing material on 22 November. 

Commenting on the Residency, Councillor Una Power, Cathaoirleach of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, said: 

We had a very successful first Residency of 2020 with Dave Flynn so we’re very much looking forward to Kevin Brady and Ikigai working in the county over the next few months.

For more, visit


Mermaid Arts Centre have announced the appointment of Julie Kelleher as the new Artistic Director. Kelleher, who previously worked as Artistic Director at the Everyman Theatre in Cork, will begin her new role in mid-September, succeeding Niamh O’Donnell. 

Kelleher holds degrees in Drama and English from UCC. She has worked as an actor, director and producer with numerous Irish arts organisations and companies including Painted Bird, Kinsale Arts Week, Cork Midsummer Festival, Hammergrin, Corcadorca, Dublin Theatre Festival and Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre. 

She recently worked on producing the world premiere of Mick Flannery’s Evening Train musical and the Landmark/Everyman co-produced world premiere of Asking for It by Louise O’Neill. Recent directing credits include The Lonesome West by Martin McDonagh (2018), and Bluetooth by Rachel Thornton (2018). Kelleher is also Chair of the board of Theatre Forum Ireland.

Commenting on her appointment, Kelleher said:

I’m thrilled to be joining the team at Mermaid Arts Centre, which has an outstanding reputation as a centre for fun, entertainment and for making and enjoying art, and that has artists and audiences always at heart. These are matters of great importance to me too and I’m very excited to have the opportunity to build on the excellent work of my predecessors, especially that of Niamh O’Donnell. 

For more, visit


Dr Éimear O’Connor has been announced as the new Director of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Monaghan. 

O’Connor has over thirty-five years of experience working in the Irish arts sector as an arts practitioner and manager. She began her career as a visual artist and exhibited in Ireland, Denmark and North America. She is also the author and editor of several books and articles on Irish historical and contemporary art.

O’Connor is a former member of the Arts Council and the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art. She is also an independent consultant for cultural organisations and has curated exhibitions for Hunt Museum, Limerick; Crawford Art Gallery, Cork; RHA Gallery, Dublin; and recently, for the new Waterford City and County Council Gallery of Art.

Commenting on her new appointment, O’Connor said:

I am honoured and delighted to join the dedicated team at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, as we prepare in 2021 to celebrate Sir Tyrone Guthrie who gifted his ancestral home to Ireland, and the fortieth anniversary of opening the Centre to national and international artists. The future will be an exciting balance between maintaining the supportive peace and solitude of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre to support its resident artists to make excellent work, and at the same time, raising our profile while developing, maintaining, and sustaining national and international collaborations and partnerships.

For more, visit


The Alan James Creative Bursary and Residency Programme, run by the English Folk Song and Dance Society, has announced the recipients of this year’s bursaries. The programme is now in its eighth year and aims to support artists in creating new ideas sourced from traditional English folk music without the necessity of a final product.

Each bursary is worth up to £2,000, granting artists access to a rehearsal space and library resources. 

The bursaries have been awarded to singer-songwriter Marie Bashiru, musician Katy Bennett, multi-instrumentalist and composer Jo Freya, banjo player and guitarist Roan Long, singer-songwriter Maz O’Connor, and composer and button accordionist Hugh Sheehan

The projects the artists will work on will include researching the cross-pollination of folk music in the UK with Rastafarian music and songs of the Black and Asian civil rights movements; the traditional music of Cumbria, The Lake District, Westmorland and Cumberland; and experiences from the queer community in Birmingham. 

For more, visit


The BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales has announced Gavan Higgins as the new Composer in Association and Sarah Liann Lewis has been appointed the orchestra’s Composer Affiliate. 

British composer Higgins studied French horn and composition at Chetham’s School of Music, Royal Northern College of Music, and the Royal College of Music. He was appointed Rambert Dance Company’s inaugural Music Fellow in 2010 and has been commissioned by, and worked with, orchestras and ensembles including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Manchester Camerata, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Carducci Quartet and Fidelio Trio.

Welsh composer and singer Sarah Liann Lewis studied Music and History at Cardiff University, where she also completed a Master’s degree in Composition. She has been commissioned by BBC Radio 3, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Cowbridge Music Festival, and the Wales International Piano Festival among others. Prior to her new appointment, Lewis completed a Britten Pears Young Artist residency, was a Heidelberg Music Festival Composer Fellow, participated in Quatuor Bozzini’s Composers’ Kitchen, and gmem CNCM Marseille’s ‘Les Musiques’ Festival. She has also worked with Hijinx Theatre Aberystwyth Academy through Ty Cerdd’s CoDI programme. 

For more, visit


Published on 9 September 2020

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