FIND COMBER ROTARY ON FACEBOOK AT https://www.facebook.com/comberrotary/

Consistent with the ethos of the competition, all contestants are winners, so please stay in touch with us and with your fellow entrants by updating us on your experiences and successes.

The 2018 competition heats are on 03 & 10 March with the final on 17 March - further detail will appear here quite soon.

We had a fantastic master class with cellist Jonathan Byers on Saturday afternoon 23rd September 2017; Jonathan was the 1997 winner of the Northern Ireland Young Musician competition, and is now an internationally recognised professional musician. Four of this year's finalists were able to benefit from Jonathan's expertise: pictured with Jonathan and accompanist Michael Harrison are Gary Hunt, Conall Mc Hugh, Lucia Corrigan and Samuel Kane.

Jonathan Byers has since expressed his joy at having been a part of the master class, and how exciting it was that they were all working so hard and making such great sounds - also that they were all able to immediately put into practice any advice given.

The 2017 final thrilled the large audience - what a fabulous concert! Samuel Kane from Portadown College won the day with a wonderful performance on violin of the second movement of Sibelius’ violin concerto. Gary Hunt from Campbell College, Belfast was placed second, having played Fauré’s Elégie, and third place went to Rebecca Doherty after her delightful three pieces on three different recorders. The most promising under-16 prize went to 12-year old Christopher McDonald from St. Colman’s College, Newry, belying his age with masterful performances of Beethoven and Chopin.

Adjudicator Richard Yarr’s remarks are on our Past Results page.

Richard Yarr is Senior Producer, Classical Music with BBC Northern Ireland. He read music at Queen’s University and graduated with First Class Honours, and the May Turtle Scholarship for academic excellence, in 1992. He then gained a choral scholarship to King’s College London, where he completed a Master of Music Degree, before returning to Queen’s to undertake Doctoral studies.


Since 2000 Richard has been producing for BBC Radio Ulster and Radio 3. He is currently responsible for Ulster Orchestra content on BBC platforms, chamber music recorded across Ireland and local broadcasts of Choral Evensong. He also oversees BBC Radio Ulster’s weekly classical music show, Classical Connections with John Toal, and created BBC Radio Ulster’s highly successful School Choir of the Year Competition in 2015.


In other roles with the Corporation Richard co-ordinated the BBC-wide coverage of Derry~Londonderry City of Culture 2013, across TV, Radio and Online. He has also worked as part of the BBC Singers Management Team in London.


Richard is sought after as an adjudicator and locally he has worked with competitions including Bangor International Choral Festival, Carrickfergus, Portstewart and Larne Music Festivals.


Richard is Chair of the Charles Wood Festival and Summer School in Armagh and founded the Northern Ireland International Organ Competition in 2011. He has also been Director of Music at Christ Church Lisburn since 1992.

The adjudicator for the heats of the 2017 competition was Gillian McCutcheon.
Gillian began playing the clarinet at the age of 10, studying with Christopher King. She also studied piano with the late Bertram Jones. Whilst reading for her BMus at Edinburgh University, she travelled to London to study clarinet with the late Thea King at the Guildhall School of Music. Gillian was also awarded several prizes whilst at Edinburgh, The Tovey Memorial Prize for Performance, The Gwen Clutterbuck Scholarship for study abroad and The Frazer Scholarship which enabled Gillian to continue her studies with Richard Addison at the Royal Academy of Music where she graduated with an MMus in Performance. Since returning home, Gillian has continued to perform both as a soloist and as a chamber musician. She is also in demand as a teacher, adjudicator and as a reviewer for BBC Radio Ulster.

Richard Yarr adjudicated the final on Saturday 01 April - click here for his CV.


2015 finalist Ross secures his third level education. He has an offer to study for a BA in Flute Performance at the Royal Irish Academy of Music.
Ross Houston is 16 years old, a former pupil of Fourtowns Primary school and Cullybackey College, now studying at Ballymena Academy. Ross has been playing the flute since the age of 6 tutored by his father Glen Houston, Colin Fleming, Manchester Flute Professional Stephen Clark, Jennifer Sturgeon and currently with Bill Dowdall at The Royal Irish Academy of Music. Ross has also had regular master classes with Sir James Galway and William Bennett to name a few.

At the ripe age of 12 years old Ross was awarded his Associateship with Trinity College London (ATCL) gaining a distinction, he followed this up by obtaining a distinction in his Licentiate at the age of 14.

In 2014 Ross after months of arduous auditions was offered one of only 6 flute vacancies for The National Children's Orchestra of Great Britain, not only securing his position but also being offered the post of Flute Principal for the year. In 2016 after completing his term with NCOGB he was appointed Principal Flute with the world acclaimed National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain an Orchestra that he has returned to play with again in 2017.

Ross is also now in his 4th year with The Ulster Youth Orchestra and will be joined with his brother Jake Houston making it very much a family flute section for the 2017 season.

Recent news has seen Ross receive an offer to study for his BA in Performance at The Royal Irish Academy in Dublin at just 16 years old, a huge achievement. He will be accepting the offer and looks forward to studying with Bill Dowdall.

Congratulations to Grainne White, joint winner of this year's 2016 Northern Ireland Young Musician competition, and finalists Jamie Howe, Ganesha O'Donnell and Anna-Maria O'Donnell, who gave a lunchtime concert  in Armagh as part of the Charles Wood 2016 Festival. The programme included the first movement of Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”, and a rare opportunity to hear a movement from  Charles Wood’s string quartet. Each of the players also performed a solo item.

The appreciative audience was entranced by the musicianship of these young players. We wish Grainne well as she continues her studies at Wells Cathedral School.

Two of the finest young musicians to win awards in Comber Rotary’s annual Northern Ireland Young Musician competition made a special appearance together in September 2015. In front of a delighted audience in Andrews Memorial Hall, Comber, and accompanied by Tom¹s father on piano, Cathryn Lynch (percussion, Sullivan Upper) and Tom Myles on clarinet, (Regent House) performed a series of solo pieces, rounding off the evening with a rousing duet in their own version of famous Monti¹s Czardas.
Already Cathryn and Tom have made their mark on the local and UK-wide music scene: Tom won the National Children¹s Orchestra award for Most Outstanding Audition, while Cathryn reached the top 5% of percussion entrants in the BBC¹s Young Musician event last year.
Proceeds from the recital will go to the school funds and to the NI Music Therapy Trust.