March 2024

March has been a busy month! It included my second album launch, radio interviews and reviews, four London premieres, and a premiere in Hong Kong!

I have been over in London quite a bit this past month. On 9th March I presented my first event with the London Symphony Orchestra as their Jerwood+ composer in residence, Politics of the Imagination. An evening of hip-hop and contemporary classical fusion, the event received a glowing 5-star review from Simon Duff in the Morning Star, who described it as ‘a bold evening that fires the imagination.’ You can read the full review here. The culmination of the evening was the premiere of my new 26 minute theatrical work Politics of the Imagination, a collaboration with rappers Joel the Custodian, Barrowclough, and Kosyne, which the Morning Star described as, ‘the piece has all the potential to be realised as a full theatrical Hamilton-style British success. These are three exciting rappers and three great musicians at the heart of a hugely memorable piece.’ I conducted the performance, making my LSO conducting debut! My piece Cross-Purposes for clarinet/cello/electronics opened the concert, the piece’s London premiere.

A week later Cappella Caeciliana made their London debut at the Actor’s Church in Covent Gardens on 16th March with a programme full of contemporary Irish choral music. The concert featured their 3rd performance of my piece The Blue Bird.

The third event in London was the opening concert of JAM on the Marsh’s festival season, Music of Our Time, which featured my brass quintet Rasp, performed by Onyx Brass. It was great to see Professor Paul Mealor there, my external examiner for my PhD, as I had to take my viva exam over Zoom due to lockdown! You can watch a brief recap of the concert below.

CMC’s Evonne Ferguson interviews the artistic team behind ‘Kraina’

My second self-published CD, Kraina, was launched in Belfast by Moving On Music and CMC Ireland. It was an honour to have Alexandra Łojek, the curator of the text, and Mariusz Stus, the Polish Ambassador of the Polish Consulate in Belfast, attend the event. Cahal Masterson and Rebecca Murphy performed a selection of songs from the album. Kraina received an excellent review from Planet Hugill, which described it as ‘music that is vividly alive and vibrant… (McDonnell) revels in tackling the complex and the difficult, creating music that is more than just song, and pushing his performers to emotional and expressive limits.’ You can read the full review here. Kraina was also the focus of a Culture File episode with Luke Clancy on RTÉ Lyric FM, and you can listen to that interview here. My radio interview with John Toal on BBC Radio Ulster also featured some discussion about Kraina, but focused mainly on my success in the Sean Ó Riada Competition, and you can listen to that here. CMC’s Amplify Podcast also features an interview about my work and the CD. You can hear that here.

Finally, on 23rd March Tapanatt Kiatpaibulkit gave the Hong Kong premiere of my solo viola piece The Anguish of John Paton at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen. Thank you to Tapanatt for including this piece! He has now premiered it in Thailand and Hong Kong.

Tapanatt performs The Anguish of John Paton in Hong Kong