San Francisco, CA
Born in Dublin (Ireland) in 1982, Dónal Rafferty studied piano and music theory at The College of Music and voice and aural training with The Palestrina Choir from the age of 7. He first studied music alongside primary and secondary school education, achieving success in local competitions for piano and singing, while also touring the world and gaining musical experience as a member of The Palestrina Choir. As a teenager, Dónal took up study of the clarinet and played with several student orchestras.
After secondary school, Dónal completed a bachelor's degree in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering with Mathematics at Trinity College Dublin, graduating in 2004. After time abroad in Sweden, he began composing music in his spare time, and soon afterwards returned to Ireland to pursue studies in composition. In 2007, he graduated top of his B.Mus degree class at National University of Ireland Maynooth (NUIM). During this time, he completed a piano performance diploma from London College of Music (ALCM) and a music theory diploma from Trinity College London (AMusTCL). In 2006, Dónal was selected as a finalist in the Neerpelt European Music Festival for Young People Composition Competition for his composition 'Unresolved Tension' for symphonic band. As a result, he was invited to the festival to participate in a composition workshop with composer Johan de Meij (Netherlands). Following graduation from NUIM, Dónal participated in the 2007 IMRO Irish Composition Summer School, studying with Kevin O’Connell (Royal Irish Academy of Music) and Nicola Lefanu (University of York). In the same year, he was engaged to produce arrangements of Irish traditional music for the South Carolina fiddle group Na Fidléirí and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.
Dónal commenced postgraduate studies in 2008 at King’s College London (KCL) for the degree of Master in Music. He specialised in composition with Robert Keeley and George Benjamin, and studied analysis with Arnold Whittall, and musicology with John Deathridge and Christopher Wintle. He graduated with distinction in January 2010. From 2009-10, Dónal collaborated with the London Chamber Orchestra, managing and developing their project for young composers LCO New Explore, which explored links between architecture and music. In 2009, his specially-composed work AlDEBurGH was performed at the Aldeburgh Music Festival. In 2010, he was the recipient of a Culture Ireland award to attend the premiére of his Choral Études at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. In the same year, he won the IMRO Award for Chamber Ensemble composition for his quintet Aquastrata.
Dónal has composed a variety of works for choir, small ensemble, and orchestra, and his output also includes soundtrack music for film and TV, and arrangements of traditional Irish music. His music has been performed by the Bridgewood Quartet, members of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, Na Fidléirí and Charleston Symphony Orchestra, the KCL Stranded Ensemble, Lontano, the College of Charleston Concert Choir, the Penbridge Trio, and Concorde. His music has been described as “that [which] repeatedly seemed to reshape itself in ways that seemed about to coalesce into something familiar, only to drift away from it again” (Michael Dervan, The Irish Times). Dónal is a member of the Irish Composers’ Collective.
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