Dr Anselm McDonnell

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. He is a founding member of Northern Irish new music ensemble PANIC, who create experimental, intermedia improvisations, and he performs regularly with them on the electric guitar. McDonnell studied with Professor Piers Hellawell at Queen’s University Belfast, passing his PhD in composition in 2020 with no corrections.

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 SoloistEnsemble, The Assembly Project, C4 Ensemble, Ottawa Guitar Orchestra Society, Rosetta Contemporary Music Ensemble, and the Gallery of Actual Music Ensemble. He has also written for prominent soloists: pianist Isabelle O’Connell, guitarist Mitsuo Nagata, and violist Laura Sinnerton. Competitively, Anselm was a finalist in the Peter Rosser Composition Award (2015 and 2018) and the 14 th Sun River Prize in Chengdu, China. He received 1 st 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 3 rd International Kastalsky Choral Writing Competition, Russia. His large chamber work Engines of Babel, commissioned by the CRASH Ensemble, received honourable mention in the Thailand Arts and Music Symposium, Bangkok. 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. McDonnell has also contributed a chapter in a book documenting the project, Annunciations: Sacred Music for the 21 st Century, which includes chapters from MacMillan and Paul Mealor, published in May 2019 by Cambridge Open Book Publishers. His work has been broadcast on Lyric FM, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio Ulster, and Radiophrenia Glasgow.

In 2020 McDonnell was commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, National Concert Hall Dublin, BBC Radio 3 (Audio Postcards Series), the Royal Astronomical Society (a work for orchestra and choir, performed in September as part of their bicentenary celebrations), CRASH Ensemble, Hard Rain SoloistEnsemble, and Jewish choir Mosaic Voices. Upcoming projects include a new commission for brass band for the New Music Dublin 2022 festival and a piano concerto for the Ulster Orchestra and Cahal Masterson, commissioned by Belfast City Council. His music is featured on six CDs, including forthcoming releases from the CRASH Ensemble and Australian group Ensemble Offspring. His first portrait album, Light of Shore, was released in October 2021, supported by Moving On Music and Arts Council NI.