Teen strikes top notes at classical music awards

A Breifne College student made a little bit of history as the first-ever finalist from Cavan in last week’s Frank Maher Classical Music Awards.

Lukas Bespalovas (17) a sixth-year student at the school was selected as one of only six finalists at the prestigious awards on Friday, October 2. With a €5,000 prize for the winner, it is Ireland’s largest such competition for secondary schools.

The first-ever finalist from Cavan since the competition went nationwide in 2012, Lukas plays piano and performed two pieces; Nocturne, Op.9 No.2’ by composer Frédéric Chopin and ‘Sonatina in A Major, Op.88 No.3 (3rd Movement)’ by Friedrich Kuhlau. Lukas was presented with a €300 bursary along with the other finalists, David Blake (17), Gonzaga College, Dublin (cello); Iedida Condria (17), Sandford Park School, Dublin (piano); Kevin O’Loughlin (17), Sandford Park School, Dublin (viola) and Helen Rutledge (18), St. Angela’s College, Cork (violin).

The winner of the top prize of €5,000 at the Top Security Frank Maher Classical Music Awards was 17-year-old violinist Julieanne Forrest from St. Peter’s College in Dunboyne.

The awards were created in 2001 by Top Security chairman Emmet O’Rafferty to honour the memory of his late teacher, Fr Frank Maher, who taught music at Castleknock College in Dublin.

“Congratulations to Lukas on his achievement in making the finals of this very prestigious competition,” Emmet said. “It’s a privilege to have been able to give these young musicians the support and recognition they deserve, which has never been more needed than now. Lukas now joins the ranks of extremely talented young musicians who have taken part in this competition and we wish him the very best for the future.”

Because of Covid-19, there was no audience this year and instead the young musicians performed individually in front of the judges only, in socially distanced surroundings. The performances were filmed and will be available post-event for family and friends to view.

The aim of the Awards is to showcase outstanding young musical talent in Ireland and are open to sixth year post-primary students of strings, woodwind, brass and piano. The €5,000 top prize must be used to attend a recognised place of tuition, a course of study in Ireland or abroad or on a purchase necessary for the development of their talent. Past winners have gone on to attend some of the world’s most prominent music colleges, which includes the Juilliard School, Shenandoah University of Virginia, Conservatoire Nationale Superieur de Musique et de Danse Paris, Kronberg Academy in Germany, the Meadows School of the Arts in Dallas, Texas, and the Royal Academy of Music in London.

The judging panel this year was Dr Gerard Gillen, emeritus professor of music at NUI Maynooth, Dr Kerry Houston, head of academic studies at DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama and classical pianist Veronica McSwiney.

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