July 2019

Adra is now available to order from Tŷ Cerdd. This album from Welsh guitarist Chris Roberts features new transcriptions of Welsh Harp music from the Robert ap Huw manuscript, along with my solo piece Hiraeth am Nefoedd, which Chris commissioned for the album – using these tunes as source material to create a piece in the style of Britten’s Nocturne.

June 2019

Just returned from a very enjoyable trip to Finland, where my piece Flicken for chamber orchestra & film was premiered at the Avanti! Summer Sounds Festival. At the end of June, Vojtech Sembera recorded my solo baritone piece Threads and Ribbons in the Czech Republic, and I look forward to sharing that recording when it is finished. More than Gold received its second performance in Belfast by the Cappella Caeciliana Choir at the start of June. The Chamber Choir Ireland workshopped my new choral work Tearing as it is Woven, which will premiere in the Autumn 2019. Chris Roberts premiered the solo guitar piece he commissioned, Hiraeth am Nefoedd, on June 30th, with another performance on July 6th. This piece which will be released on his album on July 25th, more news on that soon. Finally, I’m delighted to announce the publication of two of my choral works, Asphyxiate and The Blue Bird with Cailino Music Publishers. These scores will be available soon at my composer’s page on their site.

New video available of my piece for PANIC Music Ensemble that premiered in April 2019 – Stutter.

Being a serious composer at the Sibelius monument in Helsinki.

May 2019

Spent the majority of May working on three pieces for the summer – Flicken for chamber orchestra and film to be performed in Porvoo, Finland, Esau’s Hunger for double guitar orchestra, electronics and light projections for performance at the 21C Guitar Festival in Ottawa, Canada, and finished my new choral work Tearing as it is Woven for the Chamber Choir Ireland and CMC Choral Sketches programme (premiere in Autumn 2019).

My big news was the release of my first published chapter in Annunciations: Sacred Music for the 21st Century, edited by George Corbett, which can be read for free at the link in the title. I contributed chapter 7.2 and 7.3, discussing sacred music in my output and the collaborative process which lead to the creation of Hinneni, the score for which is published in the book.

I spent some time in workshops with performers for the summer – Shards on a Beach for double bass and electronics with William Cole of the Ulster Orchestra, and Threads and Ribbons with singer Vojtech Sembera, who will record the piece in the Czech Republic in early June. I was also delighted to have my piece Ezer selected by the Peridot Duo for a performance in the States in their 2019/20 programme. Crossing the Firth was also broadcast on the Radiophrenia Glasgow station on May 22nd.

Finally, I’m thrilled to be able to share a project that has taken 2 years to put together: my large work for solo viola The Testimony of John Paton, performed by Laura Sinnerton of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and recorded in VR and ambisonic sound (kindly provided by Michael McKnight and Declan Keeney from Queen’s University, and funded by HMUK). You can watch below, headphones recommended, along with a VR headset if you have one available.

And keep an eye out for this upcoming release from guitarist Chris Roberts, which features my solo guitar piece Hiraeth am Nefoedd, more information in June on the release and the UK tour.

April 2019

April contained some exciting premieres, and plenty of work for new projects coming up! I’m halfway through writing Flicken, a piece for chamber orchestra and film that will be premiered by the Avanti Chamber Orchestra in Porvoo, Finland on June 28th as part of the Savellyspaja composition course. I’m also working on a large piece for double guitar orchestra, electronics and projections for the 21C Guitar Conference in Ottawa, Canada at the end of August. I’ve been invited to give a paper on my writing for guitar at the conference while I’m attending.

Was delighted to find out (slightly belatedly) that my string quartet Enturfment was in the finals of the 14th Sun River Prize for Students’ New Music Composition Competition in Chengdu, P.R. China 2018. A good reminder that I need to keep track of where I send music and to check if my entry was successful…

My commission from Choir & Organ, Asphyxiate, enjoyed a very well received premiere in April, performed by the St. Salvator’s Chapel Choir and conducted by Claire Innes-Hopkins.

Early April saw PANIC Music Ensemble’s second concert, this time focusing on new works for electroacoustic ensembles. Threads & Ribbons was performed for the second time, and my new piece for the ensemble, Stutter, was premiered. This was my first time writing for live electronics, and using graphic notation, and I’m very pleased with the results.

In May, Crossing the Firth will be broadcast on the Radiophrenia Glasgow station. Date of broadcast to be confirmed.

March 2019

March began with the premiere of Engines of Babel at the New Music Dublin Festival on 2nd March, a large chamber ensemble work commissioned by the CRASH Ensemble.The piece received a positive review in the Journal of Music from Adrian Smith, and from Michael Lee at GoldenPlec, their comments are below.

“The standout piece was Anselm McDonnell’s Engines of Babel which wrapped up the concert. This positive assessment is no doubt due in part to base cravings for some element of drama which McDonnell managed to supply in an equally base fashion. After a barrage of percussion at the beginning, the air was literally let out of this composition from the mid-point onwards by having percussionist Alex Petcu manipulate a balloon producing a rubbery, hissing sound. At the point where the air was about to be depleted, Petcu suddenly popped a balloon with his feet, producing a momentarily disorientating effect as nobody could see where the bang came from. This trick may well be a one-off gimmick but it worked and fitted in with the overall sense of anarchic freedom which differentiated this piece from the other items on the programme.”  Adrian Smith

“Unafraid of drama, the closing work by Anselm McDonnell, Engines of Babel, showed an emerging composer with a great deal of confidence and promise. With its monumental opening, this engaging piece bristles with energy, the playing interspersed with the hisses and cries of the musicians as the sonic textures build.” Michael Lee

Engines of Babel will be broadcast on Lyric FM at a future date.

On 20th of March I visited Dublin City University, where I had been invited to give a talk on my research at the new Practice as Research Symposium ‘Contemporary Approaches to Music Composition and Sonic Arts’. The conference was organised by my fellow PANIC musician Martin Devek, it was a wonderful day and a delight to hear papers from other composers reflecting on their own practice.

30th of March saw the premiere of my choral piece More than Gold, written for the Cappella Caeciliana choir. I was delighted with their performance, and that they kindly based the concert on my piece. This piece will receive several performances this year, including another one by Caecilana in June, when I hope to record it.

The Contemporary Music Centre has published a feature on their Choral Sketches project, which I am involved in this year. The feature is available here and includes an interview where I had the chance to reflect on the workshop experience with the Chamber Choir Ireland, and the project as a whole.

In other news, Hiraeth am Nefoedd received a trial performance by
Chris Roberts in Birmingham Conservatoire, he is currently finishing recording his debut album Adra, which will be released on July 25th in Cardiff. Crossing the Firth is scheduled for a performance at the HearSay International Audio Arts Festival 2019 in Kilfinane Ireland on April 6th. PANIC music ensemble presents a new concert of electroacoustic music in QUB on April 11th (including the premiere of Stutter, a new work I’ve written for voice, piano, live electronics and tape, and a second performance of Threads & Ribbons). I’m excited to have been selected for the Savellyspaja 2019 composition course, writing a new chamber orchestra piece for the Avanti Chamber Orchestra to accompany an art film, which will be premiered in Porvoo, Finland in June 2019.

January/February 2019

It’s been a busy start to 2019! Several updates to announce.

I’m delighted to have been selected to be involved in the CMC Choral Sketches 2019 programme, working with Tarik O’Regan, Paul Hillier and the Chamber Choir Ireland on a new piece for autumn 2019. I am collaborating with Scottish author Euan Tait on this project, and he kindly wrote a text for me to set. CMC announcement.

My commission for Choir & Organ’s New Music Series 2019, Asphyxiate, can be heard (and the score downloaded for free) from Choir & Organ. I’m grateful to the St. Salvator’s Chapel Choir for a fantastic recording, and look forward to the premiere in St. Andrews on April 21st. An interview about the piece is available in the Jan/Feb edition of Choir & Organ.

The Ficino Ensemble performed my new work for them, Five Scenes from a Retro Viewer, in Dublin in February, and I’m excited to share the recording below.

My new work Engines of Babel for the CRASH Ensemble, commissioned as part of the Free State 11 for New Music Dublin Festival, will premiere on March 2nd in the National Concert Hall in Dublin. Tickets can be purchased here from the National Concert Hall. The concert will be recorded for broadcast on Lyric FM.


Crossing the Firth, my first piece for electronics, premiered in Dublin on February 6th. It can be heard here. This piece will be used as audio for a film by contemporary Scottish filmmaker Oliver Mezger in 2019, which reflects on the effects of erosion on the island of Inchcolm and uses this as an analogy for Scotland’s distancing from its spiritual past.

December 2018

It’s been an exciting last month of 2018!

Firstly, I can share the recording of my first North American premiere with you, A Slave in the Land of Liberty, performed by the C4 Composers/Performers Collective.

My new work for Solo Baritone, Threads and Ribbons, was chosen to be recorded in the Czech Republic by composer and performer Vojtech Sembera. More news on that in 2019.

There was also lots of preparation for upcoming projects. I am delighted to be commissioned by the Crash Ensemble for the New Music Dublin Festival in March 2019, you can read more about this project here: Journal of Music.

The Ulster Orchestra will be performing a movement from The Pearl in January, more news to follow.

Looking forward to the Jan/Feb publication of Choir & Organ, which will contain the new work they commissioned from me, Asphyxiate. 

Finally, I have been involved since the summer with a new ensemble called PANIC Music Ensemble, we had our inaugural concert in November, and I had two works premiered, including an old song from 2015, which you can hear below!

October/November 2018

Excited to share the latest set of recordings of premieres that took place in October and November –

On a Stone Pillow, Jacob Dreamt of Salvation premiered by Izzy O’Connell in Dublin on October 11th.

On Nov 1st I conducted the Cantiunculae Chamber Choir in their premiere of a work they commissioned from me, Anthem For Doomed Youth. The performance took place in the PRONI building in Belfast.

I received a recording of the Japanese premiere of a movement from my suite for solo guitar, performed by Mitsuo Nagata in Kyoto.

And on Nov 5th, viola player Laura Sinnerton from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales recorded my major new work for solo viola, The Testimony of John Paton. The work is designed to be presented in an interactive format, and will soon be available in 360 VR, but for now please enjoy this fixed recording of it.