Dr. Anselm McDonnell is a composer of Irish/Welsh heritage based in Belfast, who has composed over seventy pieces for orchestra, chamber groups, choirs, soloists and electronics. His music has been performed in Canada, Finland, Czech Republic, Japan, Russia, France, North America, and various locations around the UK and Ireland. A diverse range of interests have led to the creation of work in collaboration with lighting designers, theologians, poets, filmmakers (including 360 VR, ambisonic recording and spatialized sound), improvising musicians, fashion designers, dancers, and actors. An award winning guitarist, he also performs contemporary works on electric and classical guitars.
McDonnell has worked with ensembles such as the London Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Choir Ireland, CRASH Ensemble, BBC Singers, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Ulster Orchestra, Avanti! Chamber Orchestra, Ligeti Quartet, St. Salvator’s Chapel Choir, Hard Rain Soloist Ensemble, The Assembly Project, C4 Composers/Conductors Choir, Ottawa Guitar Orchestra Society, Rosetta Contemporary Music Ensemble, and the Gallery of Actual Music Ensemble. He has also worked collaboratively with individual performers: guitarist Chris Roberts, Mitsuo Nagata, horn player Andrew Budden from Psappha, violist Laura Sinnerton from the BBC NOW, and pianist Isabelle O’Connoll. Competitively, Anselm was a finalist in the Peter Rosser Composition Award (twice, in 2015 and 2018) and the 14th Sun River Prize in Chengdu, China. He received 1st prize in the Feis Ceoil Choral Composition Competition 2017 and the Chamber Ensemble Competition 2018. In July 2018 a collection of his choral works was awarded first prize in the 3rd International Kastalsky Choral Writing Competition. His large chamber work Engines of Babel, commissioned by the CRASH Ensemble, received honourable mention in the Thailand Arts and Music Symposium, Bangkok, Thailand. His first recorded choral piece, Hinneni, was commercially released by the St. Salvator’s Chapel Choir on a CD celebrating the music of Sir James MacMillan, Annunciations, and his solo guitar work Hiraeth am nefoedd is on Chris Robert’s Adra release from Tŷ Cerdd. McDonnell has also contributed a chapter in a book documenting the choral project, Annunciations: Sacred Music for the 21st Century, which includes chapters from MacMillan and Paul Mealor, published in May 2019 by Cambridge Open Book Publishers.
In 2020 McDonnell was commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, Hard Rain SoloistEnsemble, CRASH Ensemble, and the National Concert Hall Dublin, writing a new work for soprano Elizabeth Hilliard and piano trio. His work is featured on four forthcoming CDs in 2021: his first portrait album, supported by Moving On Music, the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, and ACNI, a new release from NMC Recordings and Laura Sinnerton of works for solo viola, a duo for a forthcoming CRASH Ensemble release, and a duo for Ensemble Offspring to be released on the newly formed Irish Composer’s Collective label. He is a founding member of Northern Irish new music ensemble PANIC.
2016 – 2020 Queen’s University Belfast, PhD in Music Composition, supervised by Professor Piers Hellawell: Passed with no corrections, examined by Professor Paul Mealor OStJ CLJ OSS FRSA and Dr. Zeynep Bulut
2015 – 2016 Cardiff University, MA Music Composition: Distinction
2012 – 2015 Queen’s University Belfast, BMus Music: First Class Honours
Member of the Association of Irish Composers
BASCA member (British Academy of Songwriters, Composer and Arrangers)
Supported Artist by Help Musicians UK