Awards bring much needed shafts of light

Awards bring much needed shafts of light Ava Dodd

Whatever about the darker elements surrounding us, shafts of light are shining on a number of our young musicians through bursaries funded by the State and private enterprise.

Those from the Government come via its Department of Media, Tourism, Art, Culture and the Gaeltacht having been solicited by the triennial Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition under its bursary scheme.

The awards followed a competition held in Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green Museum of Literature Ireland earlier this month before a jury consisting of our renowned mezzo Tara Erraught, Mark Shanahan, head of music at London’s National Opera Studio and Tobias Truniger, director of the Opera Studio attached to Munich’s Bavarian State Opera.

The €15,000 bursary is being dispensed in an unusual way to the six chosen recipients, which had been whittled down from 26 applicants. Following vocal rounds and separate interviews, the jury decided on a graded distribution of the funds. This seems fair, as one of the recipients – Dublin soprano Ava Dodd – had already secured the 2020 RDS bursary of €15,000.

Ava studied at the RIAM under professors Mary Brennan and Dearbhla Collins and at TCD. The ‘most promising performer’ at the Irene Sandford bursary at the RIAM and ‘young opera voice’ at Northern Ireland Opera’s Festival of Voice in 2019, Ava is now attending London’s Royal College of Music.

Mezzo Carolyn Holt, from Kildare, is another alumna of the RIAM and Mary Brennan. She graduated with distinction from London’s Royal Academy of Music garnering an ‘outstanding performer’ prize and acclaimed for her ‘wonderfully dark rich tone’. Carolyn recently completed studies at Scotland’s Royal Conservatoire and has undertaken several stage roles, not least the demanding Sister Helen Prejean in the UK stage première of American Jake Heggie’s opera Dead Man Walking.


A pupil of Virginia Kerr and Dearbhla Collins at the RIAM, Skerries-born Aebh Kelly won the Academy’s Maura Dowdall Concerto Competition last March for her performance of Mahler’s Lieder einesfahrendenGesellen song cycle. A multiple FeisCeoilprizewinner, Aebh’s stage appearances have included such dissimilar roles as Endimione in Cavalli’s La Calisto and Nancy in Britten’s Albert Herring.

Another mezzo is London-born Anna Marie McLachlan who studied at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in Greenwich and at the University of Southampton. She also has considerable experience in concert and operatic appearances to her credit, including the principal role in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice.

Having completed her studies at the RIAM, a scholarship has taken Greystones’ lyric soprano Jade Phoenix to London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Jade is also part of Wexford Festival’s Opera Factory, designed to mentor young singers through master classes led by internationally respected artists.

The last of the bursary sextet is Arklow-born mezzo Karla Tracey who studies with MairéadBuicke at TU Dublin Conservatoire where she undertook the significant role of Conception in Ravel’s L’Heure espagnole. Another FeisCeoil winner, Karla was part of the 2019 Wexford Festival chorus.

Delighted with the bursary, Veronica Dunne says she wants it to be her ‘legacy to future young Irish stars of opera’.