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Brian MacKay 

Brian MacKay has wide ranging experience as a conductor, pianist, vocal coach, orchestral oboist, chamber musician and teacher.  A graduate of the Royal College of Music and the Kodaly Institute, he studied conducting under Lawrence Leonard, János Fürst, Katalin Kiss and Peter Erdei.  In recent years he has conducted annually at Castle Ward Opera as well as performances with the National Symphony Orchestra, the Irish Chamber Orchestra, the National Chamber Choir, Opera Theatre Company, The Czech Virtuosi, Orchestra of St Cecilia, Fishamble Voices, Nairobi Orchestra and the newly formed Oriel Ensemble. 


Brian has been musical director of the St.George’s Singers, Belfast, since 2002.  As a coach and repetiteur he worked for many years for Opera Theatre Company and Wexford Festival Opera and has been a guest coach at the RSAMD and the Liszt Academy, Budapest.  During two years as a student in Hungary Brian sang with the professional Hungarian choir ‘Ars Nova’ and was made a life member for his services to the group.


Brian continues to pursue a performing career alongside his conducting work, concentrating on chamber music at the piano or harpsichord.  He plays continuo with many ensembles, most notably the Irish Chamber Orchestra.


Teaching experience includes Royal College of Music Junior Department, City of London School, St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, several years as Chair of the Kodály Society of Ireland, Artistic Directorship of  Irish Vocal Masterclasses and many seminars, workshops and summers schools throughout Ireland, UK, Europe and Africa.


In 2007 Brian was appointed Associate Conductor of the National Chamber Choir of Ireland.



Christopher Cowell

His first work as a director was with students at the Royal Academy of Music
and with British Youth Opera.

Internationally, he has directed in Chicago (Semele, Il Viaggio a Reims), Denmark (Orlando, l’Elisir d’Amore, Don Pasquale, Il Turco in Italia, Rinaldo, Figaros Bryllup, Cosi fan tutte, Il Tabarro, The Bear, Rita, Le Docteur Miracle etc.) and France (Il Campanello, Une Education Manquée). He was Assistant Director to Peter Brook on Don Giovanni in Aix-en-Provence  and to Tom Cairns on King Priam in Antwerp and at English National Opera.

For the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden he has directed his own adaptation
of  La Cenerentola and the recent revival of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as well as assisting on La Bohème and Les Contes d’Hoffmann.

In 1995 he joined the team of directors at Glyndebourne where he has directed La Traviata, Rodelinda and Le Comte Ory for their tour as well as having assisted some of the best-known names in opera on Festival productions.

Early on in his career he forged a long term relationship with Surrey Opera, leading to productions of Hansel and Gretel, Faust, Die Fledermaus, The Flying Dutchman and Turandot. He has also directed productions for British Youth Opera (The Magic Flute), The London Handel Festival (Agrippina, Poro re dell’Indie, Atalanta), Castleward Opera (Madama Butterfly, Carmen), Pegasus Opera (Falstaff), RSAMD (Idomeneo), Morley Opera, among others.

He has prepared many performing translations, notably The  Coronation of Poppea, Orfeo and Carmen for English National Opera, Ulysses Comes Home for Birmingham Opera Company and Faust and The Flying Dutchman, which have been recorded by Chandos.

His teaching work has covered many aspects of theatre and includes twenty years as a visiting lecturer at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama as well as various projects at The Opera Academy, Copenhagen, Europera Summer School, Copenhagen, LAMDA, The Slade, Croydon School of Art and Design etc.



 Jonathan French

Jonathan French comes from Manchester and studied Piano at Chetham’s school of Music prior to commencing his degree studies at Birmingham Conservatoire.
As a former student, Jonathan won every keyboard prize at the Conservatoire and went on to gain a First Class Honours Degree and a Diploma of Professional studies with distinction whilst a pupil of Professor Malcolm Wilson, Head of the School of Keyboard Studies.
Jonathan has given many solo recitals and concerto performances at prestigious venues including Symphony Hall Birmingham, Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, Concert Hall Glasgow, and Southwark Cathedral, and is very much in demand as both a soloist and accompanist.
Notable performances have included Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the C.B.S.O and Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto no.2 with the Birmingham Philharmonic, both at Symphony Hall, Birmingham.  He has also performed Rachmaninov Concertos with the Liverpool Philharmonic at the Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, and with Birmingham Symphonia at the C.B.S.O. Centre. Also Grieg’s Piano concerto at Bridgewater Hall Manchester, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto no.1 at both the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow and De Montford Hall, Leicester.  Jonathan has given many solo recitals at important musical events, including the Warwick and Stratford music festivals.
As an accompanist Jonathan has worked with numerous different instrumentalists and singers performing and recording recitals and cabarets around the U.K and abroad.
He is currently combining a busy performing career with teaching and coaching at the Birmingham Conservatoire where he has recently been given an honorary B.C. award.


Bernadette Iglich

Bernadette Iglich choreographed Opera Theatre Company of Ireland's production of The Cunning Little Vixen, directed by James Conway in 2002, and Don Giovanni for English Touring Opera in autumn 2002. She was the movement director on Sweeney Todd, Royal Academy of Music 2004, choreographer for ETO's productions of Jenufa, EugenE Onegin, Susanna, Don Giovanni. She also worked on the Movement for Treatment Theatre's Who Killed Mr Drum and Casanova for Told by an Idiot. Bernadette directed Hansel and Gretel, Stowe Opera, Jepthe, ETO, The Marriage of Figaro, Iford Arts. Prior to choreographing and directing Bernadette has danced and performed with various companies including Tanztheater Wuppertal, ARC Dance Company, Siobhan Davies Dance Company and London Contemporary Dance Theatre. She has also worked with many other leading choreographers and directors in dance, opera and theatre.


Frances Kelleher

Irish pianist Frances Kelleher is largely known for her work with singers, which developed through her studies in Cork’s School of Music (CSM) with the late Maeve Coughlan and Bridget Doolan.

After graduating from University College Cork and being the highest placed pianist on the CSM performance diploma course, Frances won a 2-year postgraduate scholarship in Accompaniment to Guildhall School of Music and Drama (GSMD).

While there, she won the Anthony Lewis Memorial prize in Accompaniment and the Guildhall Lieder Prize.
She was also chosen by Graham Johnson to perform in his junior Almanac series at St. John’s Smith Square.
Frances subsequently worked as staff accompanist at GSMD for 4 years.

On her return to Ireland in 2001 Frances continued her studies at Dublin’s Royal Irish Academy of Music with Dr. John O’Conor, graduating with a First Class Honours Masters in Music in 2003.

In 2004 she worked as repetiteur on Opera Ireland’s winter season of Orfeo ed Eurydice, also travelling with them to Wiesbaden Opera House for their first tour abroad in May 2005.

Frances has worked for the National Chamber Choir, Lyric Opera, Opera Theatre Company, and is a regular recitalist with International Sopranos Majella Cullagh, Cara O’ Sullivan and Mary Hegarty.

In March 2006 Frances performed in Sydney Opera House with Cara O’ Sullivan and Tenor Breffni Horgan.
In July 2006, she acted as Musical Director for London’s Oyster Opera’s production of Cosi fan tutte.
Frances is currently on the staff of CSM.




Patrick McBeth

Irish pianist Patrick McBeth studied Piano and Cornet at the University of Huddersfield. There he graduated with a First Class Honours degree and won the Universities Rodwell Prize for Piano.

Subsequently he spent two summers at the Aspen Music Festival and School, Colorado, studying solo piano and chamber music with the American pianist Rita Sloan. He was also awarded a “Music Association of Aspen” scholarship to study as a collaborative artist.

Patrick continued his studies throughout the year with Mabel Swainson at the Leinster School of Music, Dublin, before beginning further studies with Malcolm Wilson and Irish Composer/Pianist Philip Martin at Birmingham Conservatoire. There he completed the Conservatoire’s Post-graduate Diploma in Performance course with Distinction and won the Renna Kellaway Recital Prize, The Chempin Beethoven prize, The Vincent Leider Prize and The Dennis Matthews Piano Scholarship.

In 2002 Patrick was awarded the prestigious Joseph Weingarten Scholarship to study at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest with the Hungarian pianist Nemithy Attila.

In 2003 Patrick won The Birmingham Music Sound Foundation Scholarship, enabling him to complete Birmingham Conservatoire's Premier Performers Diploma, the Advanced Professional Performers Diploma and the Conservatoire's MMus with distinction.

Past engagements include recitals at The Liszt Academy of Music  (Budapest), Symphony Hall (Birmingham), Belfast’s Harty Room, Dukes Hall  (Royal Academy of Music, London), Wheeler Opera House, Benedict Music Tent (Colorado, U.S.A), C.B.S.O. Centre  (Birmingham), Hereford International Summer School Recital Series, Calne Classical Music Series  (Wiltshire), Halifax Classical Music Series, tour of Northern Ireland, a tour of Scandinavia, recitals in the Baltic States, solo recitals throughout the UK and a live broadcast for the BBC and Radio Ulster.

Patrick is currently Head of keyboard studies at Ampleforth College.


Sheila McCarthy

Sheila McCarthy studied singing with Margaret Dillon and Maeve Coughlan.  She has experience as a performer in Oratorio, Opera, Musical Theatre and Song Recital.  Sheila taught vocal technique at the Samuel Beckett Centre for seven years.  She is currently much in demand as a private singing teacher in Dublin.





Nicole Panizza

Nicole completed her formal studies at the Elder Conservatorium of Music, University of Adelaide, South Australia, graduating with an Honours Degree in Music Performance, an Advanced Certificate in Accompaniment, an Advanced Diploma in Music Performance and an Associate in Music Diploma.

In 2004 she graduated with a Masters in Arts (Music Performance) in which she studied vocal accompaniment with Roger Vignoles and Malcolm Martineau (London) and Brian McKay (Dublin). In 2005 she commenced a Doctorate of Music through the Royal College of Music, London, in which she is focusing on American Art Song settings of the poet Emily Dickinson.

Nicole has freelanced in Sydney for the Australian season of Phantom of the Opera, Opera Australia and the Cologne and Covent Garden Opera Awards. In London, she worked as Education Officer for the Royal Opera, Covent Garden. In Ireland she has been a staff member of the Dublin Institute of Technology (Conservatory of Music and Drama) and University College Cork. She successfully established both the education program for the Cork based opera company Opera 2005, and the Opera and Lieder studies modules at University College Cork.  She is an examiner for the Royal Irish Academy of Music.

Nicole currently holds the position of Staff Coach/Accompanist at the Cork School of Music (IRL) and Vocal Coach, Faculty of Vocal Studies, Royal College of Music (U.K.).

Past engagements have included recitals in the National Concert Hall, The Bantry International Music Festival  (IRL) and The V and A Museum, The National Gallery, St James’s Piccadilly, Australia House and St Mary Abbots Church (U.K.) She was staff coach and repetiteur for Opera 2005’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro (2005) and The Threepenny Opera (2006). Nicole has also performed in public masterclasses with celebrated tenors Philip Langridge and Graham Clarke and as part of “Sommerlied Weinberg” (Austria), under the artistic direction of Roger Vignoles.

In addition Nicole has presented papers at international conferences and universities in
Kyoto (Japan), Adelaide (AUS), Edinburgh (U.K.) Bonn (Germany), London (U.K) and Amherst (U.S.A); all featuring music directly related to her Doctoral research.

Future engagements include presentations for Cambridge University (U.K), Accompanists Guild of South Australia (AUS) and performances in Australia, London and America. Nicole is also currently short-listed for an International Fulbright Award which will enable her to continue her Doctoral research in Boston and New York (U.S.A.) in 2009/2010.



 Hazel Ramsay

Hazel Ramsay gained an Honours degree in Music from the University of Glasgow before specialising in piano accompaniment at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama where she won several prizes for chamber music and accompaniment and represented the RSAMD on an exchange with the Rachmaninov Conservatoire in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. She then continued her studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Graham Johnson, Iain Burnside and Eugene Asti. During her time there she was awarded a Scholarship from the Cripplegate Foundation and won the Sydney de Vries Memorial Prize and the Accompaniment Prize. In 1996 Hazel was joint winner of the prestigious Gerald Moore Award for vocal accompaniment and in 2003 was a prizewinner in the 10th International Kuhlau Flute Competition in Germany.

Hazel has accompanied many vocal and instrumental recitals at London venues, including St. James’ Piccadilly, St. Martin-in-the-Fields and Southwark Cathedral as well as Hutchesons’ Hall and Merchants’ House in Glasgow.

In addition to performing and coaching, Hazel is also a member of the instrumental teaching staff at Benenden School and Sevenoaks School.



Roberto Recchia

Roberto graduated in 1991 from the Accademia dei Filodrammatici, the oldest acting school in Italy, where he received the Accademia prize. He worked as an actor and director with his own group, Malebranche,  and as an actor with other companies in Risveglio di primavera (Wedekind), Vittime del Dovere (Ionesco), Otello (Shakespeare), Cyrano (Rostand), Caligola (Camus), and Fare l’amore non è peccato (Campanile).

Directed by Vito Molinari, with whom he founded the group Trio Zanzibar, he premiered in 2001 his new solo work Più stupidi di così, acted in a brand new musical (Rosa Salmone S.p.a.) and achieved a huge success with I love you, you’re perfect, now change!, an off-Broadway musical by Roberts and Di Pietro that he also translated into Italian.

Recent stagings include Nina ossia la pazza per amore, an opéra-comique by Dalayrac, for the Notti Malatestiane festival in Rimini; La Pisanella (d’Annunzio) with incidental music by Pizzetti at Santarcangelo Festival; the melologue Andromeda (Zingarelli),three Opéra-Minutes and Le Bal Masqué (Milhaud) and Le Gendarme Incompris (Poulenc) at Teatro de la Maestranza in Seville, where he also performed in Le Boeuf sur le Toit (Milhaud).

His work as director for the musical theatre includes: Cavalleria Rusticana (Fano 2004, Begamo 2006), Don Pasquale (Fano 2005), Don Gregorio (Wexford 2006), Dido and Aeneas, Phaedra and  Les Illuminations (Britten - Teatro Rossini, Lugo and Teatro Comunale, Bologna 2007), Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Vicenza, 2008), L’Italiana in Algeri (Como, 2009), Don Gregorio (Donizetti – Wexford 2006, Bergamo 2007, Fano and Catania 2008)  and eight Opera Scenes and Short Works staged at Wexford Festival Opera: Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart – 2000), Capuleti e Montecchi (Bellini - 2001), Madama Butterfly (Puccini - 2001), The Tales of Hoffmann (Offenbach - 2003), Viaggio a Reims (Rossini - 2004), The Medium (Menotti - 2005), Rita (Donizetti - 2007) and Suor Angelica (Puccini – 2008). He also assisted Corrado d’Elia in Conchita (Zandonai - WFO 2000) and Michal Znaniecki in Die Drei Pintos (Weber - WFO 2003).

Future commitments include Convenienze e inconvenienze teatrali (Donizetti, Fano 2009) and the double bill Riders to the sea (Vaughan Williams) / Il campanello (Donizetti) at Opera Fringe Festival in Downpatrick



Mark Shanahan

Mark Shanahan was born in Manchester of Irish parents and studied at Chetham's School of Music. He then studied at London University before joining the post-graduate conducting course at the Royal Academy of Music as the Sir Henry Wood Conducting Scholar. He won the National Association of Youth Orchestras  Conducting Competition for European Music Year.

His orchestral work includes broadcasts and concerts with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, RTE Concert Orchestra, Stavanger Symphony, the Orchestre Filarmonica de Gran Canaria, Netherlands Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Concert work has included performances at the Royal Festival Hall and the Barbican Hall, in wide-ranging repertoire from Berlioz's Damnation de Faust and Verdi's Requiem to Strauss's Ein Heldenleben.

Mark has conducted for Opera Ireland, English Touring Opera and the Wexford Festival. For Grange Park Opera he has conducted La Traviata and the acclaimed production of Bellini's I Capuletti ed i Montecchi, for Opera North La Traviata and The Queen of Spades  and Don Giovanni for the Royal Northern College of Music. Since 1993 he has been associated with English National Opera as a guest conductor, particularly associated with Italian repertoire, and productions have included Verdi's La Forza del Destino, Rossini's Barber of Seville, Leoncavallo's rarely heard La Bohème as well as Puccini's better known work of the same name along with La Traviata,  Otello, Ernani and Tosca - described by The Times as "a musical triumph". He recently made his debut at La Fenice, Venice and the National Reisoper in the Netherlands as well as conducting La Traviata for Opera North and Tosca in Frankfurt.

Mark is a guest at the Opera and Orchestral Department at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, guest professor of conducting at the Royal Academy of Music, London, and visiting Conducting Fellow at the Royal Northern College of Music. Mark has been Artistic Director of Forest Philharmonic since 1991.


Richard Wilkins

Richard is a highly experienced coach and accompanist who has taught on many vocal summer schools. He has worked with a wide variety of musical forms, ranging from musical theatre to opera.


He is a master of cabaret performance and works regularly not only with adults, but also with children, for whom he has composed much music during his career as a teacher.There are several 'volumes' of songs which are available under the 'Wilkins' music label! One song made it to the Blue Peter Prom platform in the summer of 2005!

Richard teaches part time in London and spends long weekends on the Isle of Wight where he conducts a talented amateur chamber choir and composes himself with cycling and walking.