May 2020

I was delighted (and pretty shocked) to pass my PhD viva without corrections this month and become Dr. McDonnell – which really means I’m just very qualified in making noises… It was a great pleasure to discuss my work (over Zoom) with Professor Paul Mealor and Dr. Zeynep Bulut. Looking forward to many post-PhD projects now!

I just put the finishing touches on my commission Courage, dear heart for the National Concert Hall, Dublin, which is part of a concert I am curating for their Beethoven anniversary celebrations. The concert (which is currently scheduled for Nov 5th, dependent on the changing situation with live performances) reflects on the interaction between composers and texts by Irish authors expressed through piano trio and soprano, and will feature works by American composer Jessica Meyer, and Irish composers Piers Hellawell, Grainne Mulvey, Ryan Molloy, and Elaine Agnew. The performers will be the Hard Rain SoloistEnsemble, and soprano Elizabeth Hilliard.

I’m very pleased to able to work with Hard Rain twice this year, as I’ve received a commission from them for a chamber trio as part of their PRSF Talent Development Scheme, for performance in late 2020/early 2021. It’s a year for chamber commissions, as I’m also excited to have been commissioned by the CRASH Ensemble to write a duo for cello and doublebass, which will be recorded for an album release and performed online in late 2020.

I hope to soon release a video that the Scottish filmmaker Oliver Mezger has made in response to my electronic piece Crossing the Firth. Oliver’s film Direct Shipping/Crossing the Firth creates a visual dialogue with my work that reflects on themes of crossing, thresholds, and in particular responds to the dangerous, often fatal, crossings made by migrants across turbulent waters.

At the start of May, my postcard Scamper, commissioned by BBC Radio 3, was broadcast three times, played wonderfully and agilely by Francesco Paolo Scola of the Ulster Orchestra.

Finally, I’m indebted to Francesca Hurst for the performance of this little piece as part of her Daily Dose of Piano series! Please have a listen, and make a donation to Francesca’s series.