Mark Armstrong (Ireland)

Mark ArmstrongMark Armstrong is one of Ireland’s most accomplished and versatile musicians.  A love of choral music commenced at an early age as a boy chorister and developed through his years in Trinity College Dublin where he was invited to direct the College Singers, a sixteen voice choir and Musica Sacra, a choral group specialising in works of the high Baroque.  Mark is an accomplished arranger for choir, wind band and orchestra, an award-winning composer of choral music and producer of recordings for many of Ireland’s foremost artists.

Guest-conducting engagements have included concert performances and recordings with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Irish Chamber Orchestra, Opera Theatre Company, Irish Film Orchestra, RTÉ Chamber Choir, RTÉ Philharmonic Choir, National Chamber Choir, and RTÉ Cór na nÓg.  Mark has been Musical Director of both Dún Laoghaire Choral Society and Tallaght Choral Society and has conducted collaborative concert performances with the Liverpool Welsh Choral Union (Requiem – G. Verdi) and the Edinburgh Royal Choral Union (German Requiem – J. Brahms). He has been a board member of the Association of Irish Choirs and has acted as Conducting Tutor on conducting courses run by AOIC.

Mark currently holds the appointment of Director of the Defence Forces School of Music in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel with responsibility for the administration, policy, planning, programming and musical direction of Ireland’s military bands. He is particularly delighted to return to Cork as an International Adjudicator in this year’s Festival.


Mervyn Cousins (UK)

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Mervyn Cousins was a Cathedral Chorister at Southwell in Nottinghamshire. He read for a Music Degree at Royal Holloway College, University of London, and was Organ Scholar there. He was a prizewinner both at University and at Royal College of Organists examinations. After posts in London, at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street and St James’, Sussex Gardens, Mervyn was appointed as Assistant Director of Music at St Edmundsbury Cathedral in 1987. He became Director of Music there in 1993 and was also Chorus Master of the Bury St Edmunds Festival Chorus. Mervyn was Director of Music at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral from 1997 until 2003, and he was also Organist to the University of Liverpool during this time. He has directed choirs and given recitals in many parts of the world as well as adjudicating at festivals in several countries.

He moved to Wales as Music Director of the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in September 2003, becoming its Executive Director in 2008. Mervyn moved from the festival in 2011, combining work for Mid Wales Opera with ABRSM examining at home and abroad. He also returns to Merseyside regularly to promote singing in primary schools.  In November 2015 he was appointed as ABRSM’s Deputy Chief Examiner, working partly from the music exam board’s headquarters in London.  His other interests include walking and bird-watching. He is married to Margaret, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Chester University (herself a professional singer), and they live in the hills above Llangollen with their three-legged cat Missie!



Maria Gamborg Helbekkmo (Norway)



Maria Gamborg Helbekkmo is Professor Emeritus at Bergen University College, where she taught choir conducting, piano, and solo voice. Educated as a pianist, singer, and conductor, she has gained wide recognition as a musician and teacher, and is especially known for her work with the female choir Voci Nobili. Her determination, combined with her artistic abilities and her unique musical ambience, has helped turn Voci Nobili into a very highly-esteemed European choir with many honours to its name. In 2005 she won the Norwegian Choral Association’s annual prize with Voci Nobili, and in 2006 she was awarded H.M. The Kings Medal of Merit in Gold for her educational and artistic contribution to Norwegian music.






Lorenzo Donati (Italy)

Lorenzo webLorenzo Donati is a composer, conductor and violonist, who studied with the most important Italian and international musicians in Arezzo and Florence. He performed at concerts with Vocale Vox Cordis, Hesperimenta Vocal Ensemble di Arezzo and Vocalia Consort di Roma, winning several national and international awards (Arezzo, Gorizia, Lugano, Montorio, Montreux, Senlis, Vittorio Veneto). In 2007 he won two first prizes at the Concorso Internazionale per Direttori di Coro “Mariele Ventre” di Bologna. Donati’s compositions are performed by ensembles as well as soloists around the world and have been published by many Italian publishing houses. His choral works were requested and/or performed by the Choir of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Coro Giovanile Italiano, Joyfull Company of Londen, St. Jakobs Chamber Choir from Stockholm.

Lorenzo has won notable awards in international competitions such as Arezzo (1996,  1999), Gorizia (1999,  2002), Rom (1999), Avellino (2003), Vittorio Veneto (2007). He publishes with Pizzicato Verlag, Carus Verlag and others, and he collaborates with several national cultural institutes like the association Cori della Toscana, the Centro Studi Musicali F. Busoni di Empoli, FENIARCO, Festival Incontro Polifonico Città di Fano, Fondazione Guido d’Arezzo.

Lorenzo Donati holds courses on choral music and composition in Italy and abroad (France, Russia) and for important director schools (Milano Choral Academy, Fondazione Guido d’Arezzo). He often is invited to join the jury at international contests. He teaches choral conducting at the Conservatory of Trento.


Bernie Sherlock (Ireland)


Bernie Sherlock studied choral conducting for two years with Peter Erdei and Ildikó Herboly Kocsár in Hungary, followed by orchestral conducting with Gerhard Markson in Dublin. She earned a BA in music from Trinity College Dublin and a Masters in Performance and Musicology from NUI Maynooth. Her award-winning chamber choir New Dublin Voices is a consistent prize-winner at major competitions around Europe as well as in Ireland. Most recently this includes Grand Prix in Budapest, Hungary; in Arezzo, Italy, and the Fleischmann International Trophy at the 2015 Cork International Choral Festival. Bernie has an international profile as an adjudicator, choral animateur, teacher of conducting and aural training and she has won several international prizes for her conducting and interpretation. She is a Lecturer in Music at the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama, Artistic Director of the Assocation of Irish Choir’s annual International Conducting Summer School, and the Irish representative on the World Choir Council. Bernie has been Musical Director of the Culwick Choral Society since 2008.




Jean-Claude Wilkens (Belgium)


Born into a family where music was an important part of life, Jean-Claude Wilkens studied music and mathematics in Liège Royal Conservatory in Belgium, and much later studied choir-conducting in Pierre Cao’s class at the Luxemburg Conservatory. He has also attended choir-conducting workshops with maestros such as Lucien Jean-Baptiste, Philippe Caillard, Fernando Eldoro and Eric Ericson.

Wilkens’ teaching career in secondary schools was diverted to that of cultural management, first in Jeunesses Musicales where he was Director, and then in the International Federation for Choral Music where he was Secretary General for 20 years. He is presently Manager of the French National Choral Organisation and its publishing house “A Coeur Joie”.

His professional activities are closely linked with choir music and choir musicians, and ensure he is well known on the international choral scene. Jean-Claude Wilkens was the conductor of the women’s vocal ensemble Hodie in Belgium, a group that have received awards and recognition all over the world. He has recently created a new vocal jazz group in Lyon, named Jazz’elles, which is already well acclaimed in France.