Exceptional Young Musicians land leading role in BBC Ulster Orchestra concert

25th February, 2022

Tune in to BBC Radio Ulster’s Classical Connections with John Toal this Sunday 27 February at 7pm for a very special BBC Invitation Concert featuring the six current winners of the BBC NI and Arts Council of Northern Ireland Young Musicians’ Platform Award.

Young Musicians’ Platform Awardees, Andrew Irwin, Angus McCall, Justine Gormley, Jack Warnock, Rose Connolly, Roisin Donald (ROE) and Stephen McCauley (BBC) on the balcony at the Ulster Hall Belfast.
Pictured: Young Musicians’ Platform Awardees, Andrew Irwin, Angus McCall, Justine Gormley, Jack Warnock, Rose Connolly, Roisin Donald (ROE) and Stephen McCauley (BBC)

Join the six awardees as they take to the stage of the iconic Ulster Hall in Belfast performing alongside the Ulster Orchestra, with conductor David Brophy, in what promises to be a spectacular concert. The winners include classical awardees, opera singer, Andrew Irwin, cellist, Angus McCall and pianist, Justine Gormley; traditional music awardees, Jack Warnock and Rose Connolly and, contemporary singer-songwriter awardee, Roisin Donald (ROE).

The BBC NI and Arts Council of Northern Ireland Young Musicians’ Platform Award is a biennial award programme which aims to showcase and support the development of exceptional 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. For the first time, the awards have been extended beyond the classical, jazz and folk genres and now includes contemporary singer-songwriter artists.

As well as this training opportunity, the awardees receive two professional radio broadcast engagements, including this current one with the Ulster Orchestra. Performances at this level raise not only the professional profile of the young musicians but also gives a tremendous boost to their performance experience and professional CV.

Each week, National Lottery players raise £30 million for good causes across the UK. Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music and Opera, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, explained how National Lottery funding is making a difference to the young musicians in the region,

“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 these six exceptional young musicians. Thanks to National Lottery players, these artists will have a unique opportunity to develop musical skills, learn from the best and perform live with our wonderful 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. I would encourage everyone to tune in this Sunday to experience these hugely talented musicians.”

Highlighting BBC Radio Ulster’s continuing commitment to specialist music and to developing new musical talent, three presenters from the station have been mentoring the new awardees, helping them prepare for their upcoming performances with the Ulster Orchestra. The mentors include, John Toal, a classical pianist and presenter of Classical Connections who is mentoring the three classical musicians; Folk Club presenter, Lynette Fay, who is mentoring the traditional awardees, and Stephen McCauley of The Stephen McCauley Show who is mentoring the contemporary singer-songwriter awardee.

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

“At BBC Radio Ulster 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 and singer/songwriting artists and to be able to have our listeners engage in their journey as they grow and develop with some help from John, Lynette 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, Conor Mallon and Niall Hanna and jazz drummer, Ed Dunlop, among others.

Listen to the concert on Sunday 27 February at 7pm on BBC Radio Ulster’s Classical Connections. Visit