Funding, Artists

Six exceptional musicians awarded the BBC NI & Arts Council NI Young Musicians’ Platform Award

15th January, 2023

Six exceptionally talented young musicians from Northern Ireland have been awarded the Young Musicians’ Platform Award, supported by The National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and BBC Northern Ireland. The six award recipients include classical awardees, tenor, Owen Lucas, soprano, Rebecca Murphy and tenor, Andrew Masterson; traditional folk music awardee and fiddle player, Méabh Smyth, contemporary singer-songwriter awardee, Eve Belle-Murtagh, and Jazz awardee, drummer, Andrew McCoubrey.

Three females and four males pictures in the Ulster Hall in Belfast. One female is holding a violin and the other is holding a guitar.
Pictured (L-R) are Ciaran Scullion, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Méabh Smyth, Andrew McCoubrey, Rebecca Murphy, Owen Lucas, Eve-Belle Murtagh and Richard Yarr, BBC Northern Ireland.

The biennial awards which are run by the Arts Council in collaboration with BBC Northern Ireland, aim to showcase and support the development of gifted young musicians from the region by providing individual funding awards of up to £5,000. This funding enables the recipients to spend a sizeable amount of time learning from a master musician, mentor, teacher or composer either in Northern Ireland or abroad.

As well as this training opportunity, the awardees will receive two professional BBC radio broadcast engagements, including one with the Ulster Orchestra on Thursday 16 March 2023 at the Ulster Hall, Belfast. Performances at this level raise not only the professional profile of the young musicians but also give a boost to their performance experience.

Highlighting BBC Radio Ulster’s continuing commitment to specialist music and to developing new musical talent, four presenters from the station will mentor the new awardees in helping them prepare for their upcoming performances with the Ulster Orchestra which will be broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster/Foyle. John Toal, a classical pianist and presenter of Classical Connections will mentor the three classical musicians while Folk Club presenter, Lynette Fay, will mentor the folk musician, Stephen McCauley of The Stephen McCauley Show will mentor the singer-songwriter and Linley Hamilton will mentor the jazz awardee.

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music and Opera, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“The Arts Council is committed to providing valuable, meaningful opportunities for our artists to develop their professional careers and we are hugely proud to partner once again with BBC Northern Ireland to offer these awards to exceptional young musicians. Congratulations to all six musicians on receiving these awards which offer a unique opportunity to develop musical skills, learn from the best and perform live with the Ulster Orchestra. All of the previous recipients of this award have gone on to have incredibly successful careers in music and I’ve every confidence that the new recipients will benefit greatly from this experience.”

Paul McClean, Executive Editor Music, Arts and Events, BBC Northern Ireland, said:

“At BBC Radio Ulster we are the station ‘Where Music Matters’ to us. We are dedicated to providing our listeners with the best in specialist music and nurturing new talent is something we are extremely passionate about. We are delighted to be involved in finding new classical, traditional, jazz and singer/song writing artists and to be able to have our listeners engage in their journey as they grow and develop with some help from John, Lynette, Linley and Stephen, each of whom has a deep love of music.”

Previous recipients of the Young Musicians’ Platform Award include acclaimed classical pianist, Michael McHale, soprano, Laura Sheerin, harpist, Richard Allen, violinist, Michael Trainor; folk artists, Jack Warnock, Conor Mallon and Niall Hanna; singer-songwriter Roisin Donald/Roe; and jazz musicians, Ed Dunlop and Katherine Timoney, among others.

Free tickets to the BBC Invitation Concert featuring the Young Musicians’ Platform Award recipients and the Ulster Orchestra on Thursday 16 March will be released in due course at and

For more information on Arts Council of Northern Ireland funding opportunities visit

About the awardees

Classical Awardees:
Owen Lucas, tenor

Owen Lucas is an opera singer who began his studies at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. In 2019, he was accepted onto the Glyndebourne Academy, under the direction of Mary King. His vocal talents have been recognised early on, and he has been performing regularly with Northern Ireland Opera, participating in productions such as Die Fledermaus (2019) and La Boheme (2021). Recently, he portrayed the role of Gastone in the production of La Traviata (September 2022).

Owen has performed regularly with St. Anne's Cathedral Choir (Belfast) and the Ulster Consort, under the direction of Matthew Owens. He is a frequent performer with local choral societies, and has achieved success in singing competitions in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. He won the tenor solo at the Dublin Feis in 2021, and the Northern Ireland Opera's Festival of Voice Debra Voigt Opera Prize and Audience Prize in 2022.

Rebecca Murphy, soprano
Rebecca’s operatic roles include Blonde Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Oper Köln), Frasquita Carmen (Oper Köln), Sandmännchen/Taumännchen Hänsel und Gretel (Oper Köln), Pünktchen Pünktchen und Anton (Oper Köln), Woglinde Das Rheingold für jung und alt (Oper Köln), Dritte, Norn/Woglinde Götterdämmerung für jung und alt (Oper Köln), Helmwige in Die Walküre für jung und alt, (Oper Köln), Amsel/Huhn Der Fuchs, der den Verstand verlor (Oper Köln), Liscione La Dirindina (Northern Ireland Opera), Ella Evening Primrose (Northern Ireland Opera), The Vile Little Girl The Musician (The Belfast Ensemble), Mabel Pirates of Penzance (The Belfast Ensemble), Rose Maurrant Street Scene (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), Soprano 1 Le Vin Herbé (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), First Witch Dido and Aeneas (Sestina Ensemble) and Maria West Side Story (Grand Opera House, Belfast). An advocate for children’s opera, she has also performed in a tour of Pampelmousse by Greg Caffrey (Northern Ireland Opera).

Also a skilled Ensemble Singer, Rebecca has appeared with Chamber Choir Ireland, the Charles Wood Singers, Savonlinna Opera Festival Choir (Finland), Sestina Ensemble, Genesis Sixteen, The Kellie Consort, RCS Voices, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and Les Sirénes. In concert, she has made her recital debut at the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival (in association with the Irish Heritage Bursary Prize 2017 – Wigmore Hall). She was also recently invited by BBC Northern Ireland to record a recital as part of their ‘Rosemary Street Young Artist recital series’.

Rebecca’s concert performances include Handel Messiah, Handel Alexander’s Feast, Jenkins The Armed Man, Bach Cantata BWV 199, Bach Magnificat, Brahms Requiem, Rutter Magnificat, Beethoven Mass in C, Vivaldi Gloria, Stanford Requiem, Mozart Vespers, and Handel Dixit Dominus.

Rebecca graduated with a Master of Music from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2018, under the vocal tutelage of Wilma MacDougall. Previously, she studied with Debra Stuart at Queens University Belfast, where she gained a Bachelor of Music. Rebecca continues her studies privately in London with Kathryn Harries. She has worked extensively in masterclasses and coachings with Oliver Klöter, Bruno Caproni, Julian Evans, Stefan Vinke, Sabine Vinke, Walter Sutcliffe, Rachel Nichols, Mairead Hurley, Lisa Milne, Sam Evans, Ailish Tynan, David Gowland, Iain Burnside, Lawrence Zazzo, and Christopher Underwood.

Rebecca - having been based in Cologne, Germany for the last 2 years, where she was a full time singer for Cologne Opera House, has recently moved back to Northern Ireland.

Andrew Masterson, tenor
Andrew Masterson is a Lyric Tenor from Omagh, Co.Tyrone and Alumni of the Royal Northern College of Music. He graduated with First Class Honours in both his Masters (MMus) and Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) at the College between 2016-2020, and studied with Tutors Thomas Schulze and Nicholas Powell. Andrew first explored the possibility of a career in singing during his Undergraduate degree at Queens’ University Belfast.

He was a consistent performer during his time at the Royal Northern College of Music, playing Lord Lechery in Vaughan-Williams’ The Pilgrim’s Progress and Le Doyen in Massenet’s Cendrillon, as well as making a host of appearances in RNCM Opera Scenes (Falstaff, La Finta Giardiniera, l’Italiana in Algeri). He was the Narrator (Testo) in Monteverdi’s Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda at the Victoria Baths in 2020, and also sang the Tenor solos in Bach’s St.John Passion at the RNCM Concert Hall. He was graciously sponsored by the Lord and Lady of Lurgan Trust during his final year of study.

Andrew has worked with numerous reputable Opera Companies in the UK and Ireland, as both Chorus Member and Ensemble cast, including Wexford Festival Opera, Buxton International Festival, and most recently Irish National Opera, where he will be playing the Role of The Innkeeper in Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier, his Role debut with INO in March 2023. He has been a part of the company since May 2022, joining their inaugural Company Chorus. Andrew was part of the Young Artist Programme of Buxton Festival, and was the winner of the PwC Emerging Young Artist Bursary during his second year at Wexford Festival Opera.

Throughout the past years he has appeared on the stages of Usher Hall in Edinburgh, Royal Albert Hall and Festival Hall in London, Oslo Opera House and the Grieghallen in Norway, Bord Gais Theatre and The Gaiety Dublin amongst others. Andrew is a regular Guest Tenor with Edvard Grieg Vokalensemble, and is performing in a five-part concert series in collaboration with Conductor Edward Gardner. He is also consistently hired to bolster Chorus productions and has secured small roles with Bergen Nasjonale Opera, an opportunity he was given due to his successful period performing Peter Grimes with the RNCM as a student.

Jazz Awardee: Andrew McCoubrey, drummer
Andrew McCoubrey is a jazz drummer and improviser based in Derry. Since graduating from a Bachelor’s of Music at Queen’s University Belfast he has become a vital component of the Irish Jazz scene, playing regularly with musicians including Meilana Gillard, Scott Flannigan, and Dr. Linley Hamilton. In 2022 he has been sideman to many touring jazz musicians including Phil Robson, Rob Luft, Paul Booth. Building on a sold out gig as the Andrew McCoubrey Quartet at Scott’s Jazz Club in December 2023, and as part of his YMPA award he intends to establish himself as a bandleader in his own right.

Traditional Folk Awardee: Méabh Smyth, trad fiddle
Armagh native Méabh Smyth has been playing the fiddle from the age of 7 and is one of many talented young musicians to emerge from the Armagh Pipers Club in recent years. Growing up in a musical family, she was stepped in the fiery, rhythmic fiddle playing native to South Ulster and Donegal and has since developed her own unique style. A distinguished soloist, she was the inaugural Ed Reavy Fiddle Player of the Year as well as being crowned the 2021 Fiddler of London.

She was a featured soloist in the recent TG4/BBC Alba documentary series, Sruth, exploring the links between young Irish and Scottish musicians. She also plays regularly in a duo with her brother Tiarnán with whom she has released a self-titled EP. Having performed and taught at festivals all over Ireland and Europe including Celtic Connections, Baltimore Fiddle Fair and Belfast TradFest, and recently guesting with the group Búille, she continues to be an up-and-coming talent.

Contemporary Singer-Songwriter Awardee: Eve Belle Murtagh
Eve Belle is a singer-songwriter originally from Donegal, now based in Belfast. Her debut album 'In Between Moments' was released in October 2022, receiving 4 stars from the Irish Times. The Sunday Times described her as 'Ireland's freshest pop voice'. Since the release, Eve has found her way back to her lyrical roots, returning to a musical style which puts earnest emotion and honesty to the fore, with influences such as Julien Baker, Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers.

Across her career, Eve has performed all across Ireland and the UK, supporting artists including Hozier, Frightened Rabbit, Mick Flannery and Wyvern Lingo. Her cover of Coldplay's Violet Hill was shared on social media by the band themselves, with the interpretation receiving praise from Chris Martin. Newly independent, Eve is writing and recording new material at present and looking forward to exciting new releases in 2023.