November 2021 – CD Reviews

Thank you to Robert Hugill of Planet Hugill, who gave my debut CD Light of Shore 4 stars in his recent review, saying “This is a substantial and thoughtful disc, McDonnell’s music is not always an easy listen, and perhaps the contrasts and complexities that it contains are a musical reflection of the multi-layered nature of what it means to be a composer in a community as complex as Northern Ireland. The performances on the disc are all first rate, and it is clear that McDonnell’s music can be technically demanding, but extremely rewarding.” You can read the full review here.

Thank you also to Andrew Shiels of Elective Hermit, who reviewed Light of Shore at the start of the month, describing the disc as “Here’s a delightful ear wiggler for you! In this his first album, Belfast-based McDonnell presents a wide-ranging and immensely interesting set of sonic experiences.” You can read the full review here.

In other news, I’ve been working on several new pieces: a project involving 3 primary schools in Belfast, a new commission for accordion, narrator, and electronics, a commission for Belfast brass band The First Old Boys’, a commission from the Crash Ensemble, and I’m also involved in the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Composer’s Hub (read more on that here). Delighted to be on this scheme with so many friends! More on all that soon, I’ve been too busy writing notes to do much updating to the website…

2022 RSNO Composer’s Hub Cohort

Two recordings are available from November: Coimheascar, commissioned by BBC Radio 3, and I Thirst, which received its live premiere in Cardiff University by the CMG Vocal Group, conducted by Dr Robert Fokkens. Several tracks from Light of Shore were broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster, Lyric FM, and Con Tempo (Montreal, Canada).

You can watch I Thirst at this link, from 45:20.

Coming up in December: my first premiere in Thailand! Cross-Purposes will be performed in Bangkok on December 18th. Three Words for Light, my suite for cello and electronics, will be performed by Martin Johnson at a private album launch in the CMC Ireland in December.

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BBC Radio 3 Broadcast

My new chamber sextet Coimheascar/Struggling Light, commissioned by BBC Radio 3 for the BBC Concert Orchestra, will be broadcast next Wednesday (27th October) at 8:30am on the Radio 3 Breakfast Show. Conducted by Chloe Rooke. Looking forward to it!

Players of the BBC Concert Orchestra recording Coimheascar, conducted by Chloe Rooke.

My album Light of Shore also got some radio play over the past few weeks, on Athlone Community Radio, BBC Radio Ulster (listen here from 43:00), and Lyric FM’s Sound Out (listen here from 30:00).

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October – Album Release

Light of Shore is finally out! You can listen on all streaming platforms and order the album on bandcamp. 85 minutes of music for solo instruments and electronics! I hope you enjoy listening.

It’s been a monumental amount of work, and I’m so grateful for the support I’ve received throughout this project: Moving On Music, ACNI, and QUB for funding; Cormac O’Kane of RedBox Studios Belfast and Christoph Stickel of CS Mastering for mixing/mastering; Martin Johnson, Isabelle O’Connell, Cahal Masterson, Chris Roberts, and William Cole for their superb performances of my music; Javier Desiderio of El Señor Guindilla Records, Dylan Fowler of Stiwdio Felin Fach, Charles Mueller of Oktaven Audio LLC, and Jonny McGuinness of the Sonic Arts Research Centre at QUB; Piers Hellawell and Simon Mawhinney for their guidance and advice on these pieces; Contemporary Music Centre Ireland for their Colleagues Programme, leading to the creation of Three Words for Light; Manchán Magan for his fascinating book; Vincent and Sarah McDonnell for their photography and design help (and Vincent for the album artwork); countless family and friends for listening and supporting; Matthew Whiteside and Nick Roth for their advice on self-releasing an album; my Lord and Saviour Jesus, who gave me a passion and interest in music.

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