St Columb’s Hall Concerto Award

The St Columb’s Hall Concerto Award was founded by Darren Hargan in partnership with YAMAHA Music Europe and  the St Columb’s Hall Trust to establish one of the most significant awards for musicians in Ireland, and one of the most important concerto performance opportunities in Europe, in celebration of St Columba’s Day.

Three soloists, selected from 12 by the jury, will perform in the Concerto Award Finalists’ Recital on 4 February 2024 for the opportunity to perform a concerto with Le Foyer des Artistes on 9 June, 2024.

St Columb’s Hall is an iconic building with a music tradition spanning 135 years and the St Columb’s Hall Concerto Award has been founded to celebrate the new chapter of live music which we have opened at the Hall. Open to talented instrumentalists from around the world, this is an unique opportunity for an emerging soloist on the path to an international career in music.

The Prize

The St Columb’s Hall Concerto Award is one of the most significant music awards and concert performance opportunities in Ireland.

St Columb’s Hall Concerto Award – £5,000

Challenge Curve Audience Prize (by audience vote) – £1,000

Instrument Categories







The Sculpture

The St Columb’s Hall Concerto Award is a sculpture, commissioned by Le Foyer des Artistes and the St Columb’s Hall Trust, as an embodiment of the Columba journey from Derry to Iona. It’s a celebration of the heritage of St Columba and the legacy of cultural pilgrimage in ancient Celtic culture, a source of infinite inspiration in art and music.

Stone is a material which embodies the perpetual movement of people throughout the ages, from medieval pilgrims to present day travellers, crossing lands and seas to found new cultural landscapes and to connect with new peoples.

For this reason, we were delighted to offer the St Columbs Hall Concerto Award commission to the young Irish artist, Luke Alen-Buckley. He is passionate about the genealogy of rocks and the stories they tell us from billions of years of existence.

Luke’s previous works include Talisman, a series of ancient Irish stones, carved and polished to a jewel-like finish which peer deep into the souls of our ancestors yet evoke feelings of transience and rebirth. He has exhibited throughout Europe and is currently overseeing exhibitions of his work in London and Monaco.

With special permission from the National Trust for Scotland and Colin MacDougall, Le Foyer des Artistes was gifted an ancient stone from the monastic island of Iona for Luke to sculpt,  together with Irish blue limestone, to distil the symbolism of St Columbas own journey from Derry to Iona and the traditions of ancient Celtic culture which bind these two lands.

LukeAlen Buckley

The Jury

We are proud to announce the panel of distinguished musicians who will preside over the St Columb’s Hall Concerto Award. They need no introduction, and their combined expertise will ensure that this major bursary and professional engagement opportunity will be awarded to a consummate young musician, ready for the challenge of an international music career in the 21st century.

Selection process:

  • 12 successful soloists will be preselected and announced in November 2023. They will be invited to St Columb’s Hall in Derry, 2-3 February 2023, to present a 30 minute recital from a prepared 45 minute programme of their own choice for an international jury.
  • 3 applicants will be chosen by the jury to perform a 30 minute recital, from the same prepared 45 minute programme, in The Concerto Prize: The Finalists’ Recital, a public concert at St Columb’s Hall on 4 February 2024 at 7.30pm. Prize winners will be announced after the performance on 4 February 2023.
  • The St Columb’s Hall Concerto Award 2023 winner will return to the Hall on 9 June 2024 to play with Le Foyer des Artistes.

Application requirements

All candidates should submit a video recording of a 40 minute recital of their choice, from memory, together with their CV, proof of birthdate, a recent photo and a letter of recommendation from a respected professional.



Open to all musicians of any nationality

Age Limit

The age limit is set to a maximum of 25 years old on 9 June 2024 

Official Accompanist

A professional accompanist will be available, but soloists may bring their own and should indicate this on their application. Accommodation is not provided for accompanists. 

Application Deadline (online): 30 October 2023

Late applications will not be accepted 

Semifinals: (live rounds)

2-3 February 2024, St Columb’s Hall, Derry City.

Final (Finalist’s Recital - public performance):

4 February 2024, St Columb’s Hall, Derry City

Tickets for public attendance of the recital can be booked here.

Travel and accommodation

Le Foyer des Artistes will arrange accommodation for each of the twelve soloists. All other costs are the responsibility of the artists.

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Jury Chair
Michael McHale

Belfast-born Michael McHale has established himself as one of Ireland’s leading pianists and has developed a busy international career as a solo recitalist, concerto soloist and chamber musician. 

He has performed as a soloist with the Minnesota, Hallé, Moscow Symphony and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestras, City of London Sinfonia, London Mozart Players and all five of the major Irish orchestras, and performed at the Tanglewood and Tokyo Spring Festivals, Wigmore Hall, London, Berlin Konzerthaus, Lincoln Center, New York, Symphony Hall, Boston and Pesti Vigadó in Budapest. 

Michael’s début solo album The Irish Piano was released in 2012 by RTÉ lyric fm and selected as ‘CD of the Week’ by the critic Norman Lebrecht. More recent solo releases include Schubert: Four Impromptus on Ergodos, Miniatures and Modulations on Grand Piano, and a first orchestral album Irish Piano Concertos featuring works by John Field and Philip Hammond with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and conductor Courtney Lewis. His discography of over twenty albums includes releases on Delos, Nimbus Alliance, Champs Hill, and seven duo recital albums on Chandos with Michael Collins. The début album of the McGill/McHale Trio Portraits on Cedille featuring special narrations by Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali was released in 2017 and immediately entered the Top 25 US Billboard Classical Chart. Upcoming releases include a recording of Strauss’s ‘Burleske’ with the BBC Symphony Orchestra on Chandos, and a recording of two new works by Cliff Eidelman with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Winner of the Terence Judd/Hallé Award in 2009, Michael was also awarded the Brennan and Field Prizes at the 2006 AXA Dublin International Piano Competition, the 2005 Camerata Ireland/Accenture Award, and in 2016 a Major Individual Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. He studied at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Cambridge University and the Royal Academy of Music, and his teachers and mentors include John O’Conor, Réamonn Keary, Christopher Elton, Ronan O’Hora and Barry Douglas. In 2017 Michael was invited to become a Patron of the Ulster Youth Orchestra, and in 2018 he was appointed as a part-time professor of piano for undergraduate and postgraduate students at the Cork School of Music in Ireland.

Michael collaborates regularly with Sir James Galway, Michael Collins, Patricia Rozario, Dame Felicity Lott and Camerata Pacifica.

“…McHale played with cool authority and understated panache as one expected from a young pianist whose international career is in serious take-off mode…” Dick O’Riordan, Sunday Business Post

“…performed with zest and sensitivity by pianist Michael McHale with the RTÉ National Symphony under Courtney Lewis… McHale makes a potent case for all of it” Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

“…McHale was a wonderfully incisive soloist… this was exactly the sort of headlong, exciting adventure that Prokofiev intended it to be…” Michael Dervan, Irish Times