Dr. Anselm McDonnell is an Irish/Welsh composer based in Belfast who has composed over eighty pieces for orchestra, chamber groups, choirs, soloists, and electronics. His music has been performed in Estonia, Hungary, Thailand, Canada, Finland, Czech Republic, Japan, Russia, France, North America, and across the UK and Ireland. A diverse range of interests have led to the creation of work in collaboration with rap artists, lighting designers, theologians, poets, filmmakers (including 360 VR, ambisonic recording and spatialized sound), improvising musicians, fashion designers, dancers, and actors. His compositions have been described as ‘abrasive and compelling’ (Irish Times), ‘bristling with energy’ (GoldenPlec), ‘an overall sense of anarchic freedom’ (Journal of Music) 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.’ (Robert Hugill) An award winning guitarist, he performs contemporary works on electric and classical guitars. He also works as a freelance engraver and teacher: working as engraver for Musiquity Edutech Ltd in Mumbai, running professional development seminars on notation in Sibelius software, teaching GCSE and GCE Composition at the Ulster College of Music, and teaching part time on composition, performance, and classical analysis modules at Queen’s University Belfast.
McDonnell has been commissioned by ensembles such as the London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, First Old Boys Brass Band Belfast, CRASH Ensemble, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, St. Salvator’s Chapel Choir, Hard Rain SoloistEnsemble, Tacet(i) Ensemble, C4 Ensemble, Ottawa Guitar Orchestra Society, Rosetta Contemporary Music Ensemble, and the Gallery of Actual Music Ensemble. His music has received performances from the Ulster Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the BBC Singers, Chamber Choir Ireland, and Avanti! Chamber Orchestra. He has also written for prominent soloists: Elizabeth Hilliard and the Degani Piano Trio, clarinettist Francesco Paolo Scola, cellist Martin Johnson, violinist Ioana Petcu-Colan, violinist Larissa O’Grady, pianist Isabelle O’Connell, pianist Cahal Masterson, guitarist Mitsuo Nagata, accordionist Dermot Dunne, violist Laura Sinnerton, singers Joshua Ellicott and Rebecca Murphy. Competitively, Anselm is the winner of the Jerome Hynes Young Composers’ Award 2022 and was a finalist in the Peter Rosser Composition Award (2015 and 2018) and in 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 in Russia. His large chamber work Engines of Babel, commissioned by the CRASH Ensemble, received honourable mention in the Thailand Arts and Music Symposium 2019, Bangkok, and his music has been featured in the festival every year since. In June 2023 he will have a portrait concert of his chamber music in Bangkok by the Tacet(i) Ensemble. His 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 21st Century, which includes chapters from MacMillan and Paul Mealor, published in May 2019 by Cambridge Open Book Publishers. His music has been broadcast on Lyric FM, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio Ulster, ConTempoCKIAFM (Canada) and Klassikaraadio (Estonia) – which dedicated an hour-long programme to his music.
McDonnell’s music is featured on ten CDs, including his debut double-disc album, Light of Shore, which was released in October 2021 and described in a four-star review by Planet Hugill as “technically demanding, but extremely rewarding.” A further three CDs are scheduled for 2024, including his second portrait album, Kraina, featuring works for voice, supported by ACNI and the PRS Foundation. His pieces have received positive reviews in The Wire and the Journal of Music and been performed at LSO St. Luke’s in London, the National Concert Hall Dublin, the New Music Dublin Festival, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the Wigmore Hall, and in 2024 he will receive his Carnegie Hall debut at the Stern Auditorium. He is currently writing new commissions for Chris Roberts, the Culterel Centre Irlandais, Paris, and two new works for the London Symphony Orchestra as a Jerwood Resident Composer.