Donnacha Dennehy


Donnacha Dennehy’s music has been featured in festivals and venues around the world, such as the Edinburgh International Festival, Carnegie Hall New York, The Barbican London, The Wigmore Hall London, The Linbury at the Royal Opera House London, BAM New York, Tanglewood Festival, Holland Festival, Kennedy Center, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in the UK (which opened its 2012 Festival with a portrait concert devoted to Dennehy’s music), Dublin Theatre Festival, ISCM World Music Days, Bang On A Can, Ultima Festival in Oslo, Musica Viva Lisbon, the Saarbrucken Festival, and the Schleswig-Holstein Festival.

Dennehy has received commissions from, among others, Alarm Will Sound, Bang On A Can, Contact (Toronto), Dawn Upshaw, Doric String Quartet (London), Fidelio Trio, Joanna MacGregor, Kronos Quartet, Icebreaker, Nadia Sirota, National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Orkest de Volharding (Amsterdam), Percussion Group of the Hague, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, So Percussion, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (Minnesota), Third Coast Percussion, Ulster Orchestra, United Instruments of Lucilin (Luxembourg), and Wide Open Opera (Dublin). Collaborations include pieces with the writers Colm Tóibín (The Dark Places), Paul Muldoon (in progress) and Enda Walsh (including the two operas The Last Hotel and The Second Violinist). In 2010 his single-movement orchestral piece Crane was ‘recommended’ by the International Rostrum of Composers.

Returning to Ireland after studies abroad, principally at the University of Illinois in the US, Dennehy founded Crash Ensemble, Ireland’s now-renowned new music group, in 1997. Alongside the singers Dawn Upshaw and Iarla O’Lionáird, Crash Ensemble features on the 2011 Nonesuch release of Dennehy’s music, entitled Grá agus Bás. NPR named it one of its “50 favorite albums’’ (in any genre) of 2011. In October 2014, RTE Lyric FM released a portrait CD of Dennehy’s orchestral music. Other releases include a number by NMC Records in London, Bedroom Community in Reykjavik and Cantaloupe in New York. Previously a tenured lecturer at Trinity College Dublin, Donnacha was appointed a Global Scholar at Princeton University in the Autumn of 2012. He was also appointed composer-in-residence for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in Texas (2013-14). He joined the music faculty at Princeton University in 2014.

In recent years, Dennehy has concentrated especially on large-scale musico-dramatic works. His first opera The Last Hotel (2015), with a libretto by Enda Walsh, was met with critical acclaim in the UK when it premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival in August 2015. His second opera with Enda Walsh, The Second Violinist (2017) won the 2017 Fedora Prize for Opera (Salzburg/Paris) and was premiered in July 2017 at the Galway International Arts Festival. It is scheduled for a run at the Barbican in London in September 2018. Other recent pieces include the docu-opera The Hunger (2012-16), co-produced by Alarm Will Sound and Opera Theatre St. Louis, and presented at BAM, New York; Surface Tension, premiered by Third Coast Percussion in February 2016, and The Weather of it for the Doric Quartet co-commissioned by the Wigmore Hall and Carnegie Hall, premiered at the Wigmore Hall in July 2016. Forthcoming projects include a piece for the members of the LA Philharmonic (for their Green Umbrella Series), and Broken Unison for So Percussion, co-commissioned by the Cork Opera House and Carnegie Hall. A recording of his new piece for Nadia Sirota and viol consort, Tessellatum, was released by Bedroom Community in August 2017. His music is published by G. Schirmer in New York, part of the Music Sales Group.

Biography updated in January 2018