Anselm McDonnell Wins 2024 Seán Ó Riada Composition Competition

Photo by Laura Sheeran

CMC Composer Anselm McDonnell has been announced as this year’s winner of the Seán Ó Riada composition competition. Anselm's winning composition, ‘Gallagher’, is an homage to the music of Rory Gallagher and will have its world premiere at St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral Cork on Friday, May 3rd, at 7.30pm. 

The Seán Ó Riada competition invites submissions of new works annually from Irish composers and is held in collaboration with the Cork International Choral Festival and Chamber Choir Ireland

Anselm McDonnell collaborated with the author Tim MacGhabhann on the composition, after they bonded over a mutual love of Rory Gallagher, during their time on artist residencies at the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris. Anselm's composition 'Gallagher', weaves several quotations from the musician’s work into a musical texture that plays off the rich imagery in Tim's poems. The performance of ‘Gallagher’ will be part of the Cork International Choral Festival’s annual collaborative concert with choir-in-residence, Chamber Choir Ireland, led by their Artistic Director Paul Hillier. 

Commenting on the news of his win, Anselm McDonnell said:

It's an honour to have been chosen as the winner of this year's Seán Ó Riada Competition for ‘Gallagher’ my collaboration with author Tim MacGhabhann. I'm looking forward to working with Chamber Choir Ireland again, as they bring such a rich sound and interpretive nuance to new compositions. I'm excited that the work's premiere will be part of the Cork International Choral Festival, especially given the close link between Gallagher and Cork, his childhood home and burial place.

Chamber Choir Ireland Member Eoghan Desmond, Composer Rhona Clarke, and Artistic Director of Chamber Choir Ireland, Paul Hillier, who evaluated McDonnell's winning piece, summarised their reaction, stating:

The text is strong and the music responds to it well without losing its own character. The musical textures are nicely varied, keeping things fresh, yet focused, and the vocal lines work with imaginative variation. While challenging, it is accessible to a wide range of high-level amateur choirs. The composer's use of rhythm and texture creates an engaging piece for singers and audiences alike.

This year’s Cork International Choral Festival takes place from 1st – 5th May 2024. For more see

Anselm McDonnell's composer residency took place from October - November 2023 and was co-funded by the Contemporary Music Centre, Ireland and the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris. Find out more about artist residencies at the Centre Culturel Irlandais here.