The Jury 2024

Séamus Crimmins (Jury Chairman and Artistic Director) has played a central role in music and broadcasting through key positions at RTÉ. He was Commissioning Editor FM3, founding Head RTÉ Lyric fm (National Station of the Year 2003) and Director, RTÉ Orchestras, Quartet and Choirs. He originated the Lyric fm Gerald Barry Festival (2000) and co-founded New Music Dublin (2013). Roles with the Arts Council include Policy Director (2003–7) and Consultant Music Adviser (2013-17).

Séamus showed promise as a conductor at QUB and, with ACNI bursary support, undertook masterclasses with George Hurst (Canford) and, later, Janos Furst. While he was Head of Music at the Abbey Grammar School, Newry (his alma mater) he resuscitated Newry Choral Union and, subsequently, he founded Dun Laoghaire Choral Society (1982).

Professional conducting experiences includes ICO, Northern Chamber Orchestra (UK), RTÉ CO, Orchestra of St Cecilia, Talich Chamber Orchestra Prague, London Baroque Sinfonia and many freelance orchestras. He conducted a string of highly successful music theatre productions at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre (including West Side Story). Opera Theatre Company productions of Haydn’s La Vera Costanza and three Handel operas – Tamerlano, Flavio and Amadigi – toured Ireland extensively and led to conducting appearances in London (Covent Garden Festival), New York (BAM) and major festivals in Melbourne, Lisbon (‘Expo 98), Brno, Prague, Buxton and Salisbury.

He has extensive experience as an adjudicator (Feis Ceoil, RTE, Dublin International Piano and Veronica Dunne Singing competitions) and is Artistic Director of the Irish Freemasons Young Musician of the Year Competition. Board experience includes Centre Culturel Irlandais, West Cork Music, Newry Chamber Music, IBO, OTC, Sing Ireland, OCI and CMC. Supported by a Loyola Trust Scholarship he completed an M.Phil in Christian Theology at TCD during the global pandemic. He enjoys a lively mix of consultancy work as an advocate for music in Ireland.


Darren Hargan is the Founder and Chief Executive of Le Foyer des Artistes which he launched in 2022 to critical acclaim with the backing of Tourism Ireland Switzerland, YAMAHA Music Europe, Arts&Business NI, Juventudas Musicales in Spain, Derry City Council, ChallengeCurve and Principal Sponsor, Alchemy Technology Services.

An Irish and Swiss citizen, he is a conductor and a much sought-after coach and accompanist for singers in Europe.

His career began at the Opernhaus Zürich under Alexander Pereira where he was engaged for 8 years as pianist and assistant conductor working with the most famous singers and conductors in the world. During this time, he was also principal coach of the Internationales Opernstudio.

Darren has conducted the Philharmonia Opernhaus Zürich, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Voralberg Sinfonieorchester, ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Vienna, Arnold Schoenberg Choir and the Karlsbader Sinfonieorchester in the Czech Republic. He has also worked regularly with Markus Poschner at the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana and the Coro della Radiotelevisione Svizzera, Switzerland.

As guest, he has also worked at Theater an der Wien, Le Grand Théâtre de Genève, Wexford Opera Festival, Selzach Summer Opera Festival, Zürcher Kammerorchester, Locarno Film Festival, Theater Luzern, American Music Institute in Graz, Theater Orchester Biel Solothurn, Theater 11 Zürich, Opera Northern Ireland and Blackwater Opera Valley Festival.

He attended the Royal Academy of Music in London with a full scholarship and assistantship to the Royal Academy Opera. He was also a student of the prestigious joint course at the Royal Northern College of Music with the University of Manchester and the Conservatorium van Amsterdam.


Gail Henry

Multi-platform Music & Audio Producer at RTÉ. Content Editor.

First female Chair of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) Classical Music Board.

Creative and Cultural Leadership specialist.

Outstanding track record of International award winning Music & Audio Content curation and production.

Advisor and Speaker on Music Education Advocacy, Arts and Business communication and strategic co-operation.


Paul Hughes joined the BBC in 1999 and was Director of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and Director of the BBC Singers. A graduate of Trinity College of Music where he studied piano, composition and conducting, Paul came to the BBC following senior leadership roles with The Academy of Ancient Music, IMG Artists, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra.

Cultural change, opening access to new and diverse audiences, and collaborating with the widest range of artists from the worlds of classical music, rock and pop, literature, and television, has been a driver throughout Paul’s career

A former Governor of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Paul has a passion for discovering and nurturing the next generation of musicians. He is a guest lecturer at several of the UK’s leading conservatoires, mentoring young conductors, composers and arts administrators

He is an honorary member of Trinity College of Music, the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, the Royal College of Music and has recently been honoured by the Finnish government for services to Finnish music. Paul is regularly invited as a juror for international music competitions.

He is a board member of Welsh National Opera, and of the Three Choirs Festival.


Garth Knox (1956) is at the forefront of the new music scene in several different fields, both as a player and as a composer. Drawing on his vast experience as viola player of the Arditti Quartet (1990 – 1998) and the Ensemble InterContemporain, (1983 – 1990), two of the best-known international contemporary music groups in the world, and his close collaboration with most of the leading composers of today, he has become a unique composer-performer of music of many different styles, ranging from minimalist understatement to the cutting edge of new techniques and new technologies.

More recently thanks to his interest in the viola d’amore and the medieval fiddle, his repertoire has opened up to the music of the past (medieval, baroque) which he persuasively brings into the present. His Irish roots enable him to dialogue with traditional music without complexes. A natural improviser, and an intuitive composer, his music often has elements of innovative instrumental theatre.

Garth Knox’s solo and ensemble pieces have been played all over Europe, USA and Japan. He has received commissions from the Kronos Quartet (USA), the Festival d’Automne in Paris, Proquartet (France), Concorde Ensemble (Ireland), Lucillin Ensemble (Luxembourg), Tokyo International Viola Competition (Japan), Camarata Variabile (Switzerland), and Radio France.


Since her Carnegie Hall debut recital in 2002, pianist Isabelle O’Connell has developed an international career as soloist and chamber musician that has taken her around the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Europe, to venues such as Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Chicago Cultural Center, Cleveland Museum of Art, Detroit Art Institute, the Gilmore Keyboard Festival, St David’s Hall, Cardiff and the National Concert Hall, Ireland.

Isabelle is co-founder of Grand Band, a piano sextet described by the New York Times as: “six​ ​ of​ ​ the​ ​ finest,​ ​ busiest​ ​ pianists​ ​ active​ ​ in​ ​ New​ ​ York’s contemporary-classical​ ​ scene”. Isabelle has performed as concerto soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland. She has also performed with Crash ensemble, Alarm Will Sound, Da Capo Chamber Players, the ConTempo and New Zealand String Quartets and is a member of the Friends of MATA ensemble.

Composers she has worked with include John Adams, John Luther Adams, Morton Subotnick, Meredith Monk, Julia Wolfe, Michael Gordon, Kevin Volans, Donnacha Dennehy, Dan Trueman, Bunita Marcus, amongst many others.

Isabelle has recorded for the Diatribe, Innova and Lyric fm labels. Her debut solo album RESERVOIR released in 2010 features solo piano music by nine contemporary Irish composers and for this The New Yorker hailed her as “the young Irish piano phenom”. She recorded Kevin Volans’ Concerto for Piano and Winds with the RTE NSO in 2014.

A Fulbright scholar, Isabelle holds degrees from the Manhattan School of Music and the Royal Irish Academy of Music. She is currently on the piano faculty at Bard College, NY.