Feb 2022

Thank you to everyone who came to Spike Cello Festival last week! Martin Johnson premiered my cello suite Three Words for Light at the Pepper Cannister – you can read a review of the concert in the Journal of Music. We then took the piece up north and performed it at the Seamus Heaney Homeplace at a concert that included the premiere of Judith Ring‘s Wildwoods (order it on bandcamp here), and I premiered Martin Della Vechia’s A Line, A Circle and performed movements from my own guitar suite Eyewitnesses of His Majesty.

In other news, the Ulster Orchestra‘s performance of my orchestral work Laniakea was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 Breakfast, and you can listen back here from 1:51:00. Pollen, Blood, and Seaspray was screened in Dublin, Paris, and Belfast, and can be watched back on YouTube till early March 2022. I finished up my brass band piece Rasp, commissioned by New Music Dublin Festival for the 1st Old Boys’ Brass Band, for premiere at NMD in April 2022.


Martin and I performing at the Seamus Heaney Homeplace on 17th Feb 2022, with composer Judith Ring and CMC Ireland’s Project Manager Linda O’Shea Farren.

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Upcoming Performances in February

February is going to be a busy month with plenty of performances and I’d love to see you there!

Northern Ireland:

Sat 5th Feb 7:30pm SARC, Belfast: premiere screening of Pollen, Blood, and Seaspray for accordion, electronics, narrator, and visual media.
Tickets are free but must be pre-booked: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/ulysses-journey-2022-belfast-new-music-and-film-screening-at-sarc-tickets-249240022617

Wed 9th Feb 8pm Black Box, Belfast: performance of Rasp for brass quintet by the New Antonine Brass Quintet. Tickets are £10/£6: https://thenightwith.com/event/the-new-antonine-brass-quintet-belfast/

Thu 17th Feb 8pm Heaney Homeplace, Bellaghy: I will be performing on the guitar alongside the National Symphony Orchestra’s principal cellist Martin Johnson. Performances of two of my works, including my cello suite Three Words for Light. Tickets are £12: https://seamusheaneyhome.ticketsolve.com/shows/873622985

Republic of Ireland:

Wed 2nd Feb 5:30pm Irish Film Institute, Dublin: premiere screening of Pollen, Blood, and Seaspray for accordion, electronics, narrator, and visual media.
Tickets are €9: https://ifi.ie/film/ulysses-journey-2022/

Sat 12th Feb 8pm Pepper Canister Church, Dublin: premiere of Three Words for Light, for cello and electronics, by Martin Johnson as part of the Spike Cello Festival. Tickets are €25: https://www.spikecellofest.com/events/spike-pepper-canister-saturday


Thu 10th-Sat 12th Feb Performances of Rasp in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Glasgow as part of The Night With Concert series. Tickets are £10/£6: https://thenightwith.com/events_schedule/


Wed 2nd Feb 5:30pm Culterel Centre Irlandais, Paris: premiere screening of Pollen, Blood, and Seaspray for accordion, electronics, narrator, and visual media.

It’s lovely to be back making so much music and I hope you’ll be able to join me for some of these concerts. I’m particularly looking forward to the concert at the Seamus Heaney Homeplace, as I will be performing on a guitar originally owned by Sean Shibe, kindly on loan to me by Brian and Linda O’Shea Farren. I’ve been practising in my matching boots…

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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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