December was a busy month of performances, Altnagelvin Hospital Choir premiered Sparrows’ Anthem, Elmgrove Primary School Choir performed my carol Children the Wide World Over, and PANIC Music Ensemble performed two pieces at the CMC Ireland Christmas Concert – Circle Machines and Where I go, I hear the noise. Recordings of these performances can be heard below.
The first performance of November was a second outing for Anthem for Doomed Youth, and it was a pleasure to conduct the Cantiunculae Chamber Choir in St. Patrick’s Parish Church in Belfast.
PANIC Music Ensemble played the last in a series of concerts on November 13th, a performance at Dublin City University that included my piece Stutter. We’re currently preparing for a guest performance on Dec 12th at the Contemporary Music Centre Ireland, where we’re excited to be playing at their Christmas concert and premiering two of my collaborative works, Circle Machines and Where I go, I hear the noise.
Contemporary sopranos the Peridot Duo gave the New York and Boston premieres of Ezer in mid-November. I’m also delighted to find out that in March 2020 the St. Salvator’s Chapel Choir will perform Asphyxiate on tour in the USA, dates and venues tba.
London based male voice choir Mosaic Voices have commissioned a new work for January 2020 setting a Hebrew text from their Shabbat service (they are the professional choir of New West End Synagogue). I travelled over at the end of November to meet the choir and their artistic director Michael Etherton to discuss the new piece.
In other news, I’m grateful to I care if you listen TV for hosting a video of Stutter on their site, which can be seen here. Chris Robert’s October performance of Hiraeth am nefoedd is now available on YouTube, thanks to Craig Jackson and the Broadcast Team at Queen’s University Belfast for documenting the concert.
October started with the Irish leg of Chris Robert’s Adra album tour, playing my piece Hiraeth am nefoedd in Limerick, Kilkenny, Belfast and Dublin. The piece was also broadcast on the Sound Out programme on Lyric FM. The album had its Irish launch at the Contemporary Music Centre in Dublin, with reflections from composer and guitarist Benjamin Dwyer, who gave the album an extremely positive review. PANIC Music Ensemble performed two of my pieces, Stutter and a new work, Where I go, I hear the noise in Maynooth University and Dublin City University Chapel – recordings below. We also filmed a short promo video for the ensemble, which can be seen on the PANIC page of my website. For November, I’m looking forward to working with the Jewish choir Mosaic Voices, who have commissioned me to write a new work in Hebrew for Holocaust Memorial Day 2020.
A video of Esau’s Hunger for Double Guitar Orchestra & Electronics is now available on YouTube. Stunning light projections by Laurenz Theinert. Thank you to Tim Brady for conducting and Lukas Pearce and Michelle Elle for audio/film documentation.
YouTube of Vojtech Sembera’s new vocal project, featuring my piece Threads and Ribbons.
Back from a trip to Canada for the premiere of Esau’s Hunger for double guitar orchestra & electronics, with a fantastic lighting projection arrangement by Laurenz Theinert. I also presented a paper about my writing for guitar at the 21C Guitar Festival in Ottawa. Recording/video will be available soon.
A project that has been in the works since last Christmas, I recently received a recording from Czech singer Vojtěch Šembera of my piece Threads & Ribbons. I’m grateful to Šembera for the amount of work he put in to this nuanced and detailed performance, and glad to be able to share it!
A busy Autumn ahead: Chris Roberts brings his Adra tour to Ireland, performing my piece Hiraeth am nefoedd in Limerick, Belfast, and album launch at the CMC in Dublin, and in Kilkenny. PANIC music ensemble is preparing for two concerts in Dublin (October & November) which will feature performances of my work Stutter. Chamber Choir Ireland will give the premiere of Tearing as it is Woven (date tbc). On November 9th, Cantiunculae give a second performance of Anthem for Doomed Youth in Belfast, and a new commission for the Altnagelvin Hospital Choir will be performed on December 13th at the Guildhall in Derry/Londonderry.
Finally, I’m pleased to announce two major projects I’ll be working on for 2020. The first is a new chamber work for the London Symphony Orchestra, featuring myself on guitar and written as part of the LSO Soundhub Scheme. Secondly, I am curating a programme for a chamber music concert for the National Concert Hall Dublin in 2020, as part of a series celebrating Beethoven’s anniversary. This includes a commission for the concert.
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. From September to October Chris is touring the album around the UK & Ireland.
Just returned from an 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.
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 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…
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 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.