28 Jun 2022

Longford soprano to perform at this year’s prestigious Trench Award Final

Longford soprano to perform at this year’s prestigious Trench Award Final

Longford soprano Maria Matthews

A Longford soprano is one of six musicians that will perform at this year’s prestigious Trench Award Final which takes place on Saturday, August 21 during the Birr Festival of Music 2021. 

Maria Matthews from Moyne 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.

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The six musician’s for this year’s Trench Award Final are;

Laura Joy Copeland, mezzo-soprano, Kilkenny; David Kennedy, baritone, Galway; Aoibhin Keogh Daly, cello, Limerick ; Lily Kettle, violin, Laois; Maria Matthews, soprano, Longford and David Vesey, piano, Laois. 

All pursuing careers in the classical field, they will each perform a 15-minute programme at Birr Theatre & Arts Centre on August 21 from 7.30pm. They will also be accompanied by one of Ireland’s most accomplished pianists, Dearbhla Collins.

The recipients of The Trench Award, the Birr Lions Club Bursary, the Canto Al Serchio Prize (for voice), the Audrey Chisholm Award (for instrument) will be selected by an international panel. An Audience Choice and Musical Futures bursary are also presented. The total value of of bursaries is €8,000. 

Maria's 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.

The Birr Festival of Music was postponed last year due to Covid-19 restrictions, and this year’s event will now host a diverse range of classical music events across the Offaly town from Friday 20 to Sunday 22 August.

Internationally acclaimed baritone Bruno Caproni and pianist Julian Evans return to perform at Birr Theatre & Arts Centre with a programme including the music of Verdi, Wagner, Bernstein, Liszt and Rachmaninov. 

The Far Flung Trio made up of Kathrine Hunka (violin), Dermot Dunne (accordion) and Malachy Robinson (double bass) will feature for the very first time while percussionist Alex Petcu also makes his festival debut with a performance and special percussion workshop.

Dame Nellie Melba will be remembered in a pop-up performance in Emmet Square and the Offaly Drama Project will also host a unique event, The Meadow Project, at Birr Workhouse Burial Ground.

Vox Amicum Brass will also bring the festival to life with jazz and classical sounds in the streets and parks of Birr on Friday afternoon of the Festival.

Birr Festival of Music Director Maureen de Forge said, "Birr Festival of Music is delighted to present a wonderful range of top class musicians and singers again this year, with both outdoor and indoor performances. By postponing the Festival from May to late August we anticipated that the LIVE experience could be back, albeit with reduced audience numbers. Many of the live events will be facilitated outdoors under the shelter of the new Festival GeoDomes, in various green spaces in town.

“During the past 18 months we have particularly missed the children singing with Birr Young Voices, and look forward to hearing them again, with many new voices, in the Singing in the Air project, in collaboration with Birr Vintage Week & Arts Festival.”

Birr Festival of Music is kindly funded by The Trench Trust, The Arts Council of Ireland, Offaly Arts Office, The Audrey Chisholm Project and supported by Birr Lions Club and Birr Credit Union.

Tickets go on general sale on Friday 30 July. Visit or call the Box Office on (057) 91 22911 between 1.30pm and 5.30pm. All events must be pre-booked in accordance with Covid-19 restrictions.

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