Donal McCrisken is a Belfast-based musician with many years experience as a pianist, accompanist, conductor, examiner and adjudicator. He holds a BMus degree from Queen's University, Belfast and a Masters in Music Theory and Analysis from University of Ulster.
Donal has been conductor of Cappella Caeciliana since 1999. Under his direction Cappella has given concerts and sung liturgies all over Northern Ireland, in Dublin, Scotland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and the USA. The choir has recorded five highly successful CDs and has broadcast frequently on BBC Radio 4, Radio Ulster and RTE. In April 2011 Cappella toured the USA giving highly successful concerts in Philadelphia and singing a choral evensong at the National Cathedral in Washington DC. In 2012 they gave the premiere of a new work by Ian Wilson and were part of Philip Hammond’s Requiem for the Lost Souls of the Titanic on 14th April in St Anne’s Cathedral. Cappella Caeciliana marked its 20th anniversary with the commission of a new work from Sir James MacMillan which incorporates parts for the highly successful trio ‘The Priests’ – three founder members of the choir. The work was performed in Edinburgh and Glasgow in November 2015 and had its Belfast premiere in March 2016, all conducted by the composer.
Donal is committed to the development of choralism and singing in Northern Ireland and has studied singing with Russell Smythe, one of London’s leading vocal teachers. With Russell he has organised vocal workshops in Belfast involving members of the British Voice Association. He has also organised and delivered many vocal workshops himself, working with voices of all ages and stages of development. He has worked extensively with Northern Ireland Opera as repetiteur, accompanist and workshop facilitator and teaches classes in performance in the music department of Queen’s University Belfast.
Donal was for six years, 2005 – 2011, head of music in St Malachy's College, Belfast - Northern Ireland's first specialist music school, whose students he led in concert tours to Washington DC, Philadelphia, England and Rome.
A qualified British and International Federation of Festivals adjudicator, Donal has adjudicated festivals throughout Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and the UK. In 2004 he visited Hungary to study at the renowned Kodaly School in Nyiregyaza under the tutelage of Denes Szabo. He founded the Cavehill Community Choir in February 2013, a non-audition choir which currently numbers 160. CCC is in great demand locally to sing at concerts and has featured in the Belfast Festival at Queens and broadcast on Radio Ulster.
Donal was the choral director and repetiteur for the exciting Belfast Opera project which culminated in performances in June 2016. For his work with this project he was awarded the Classic FM/ Musicians Union Inspiration Award and the whole project was nominated for the best Classical Music Education Initiative Award.
In 2020, Donal was awarded the OBE for services to music, education and cross-community relations.
Donal will retire from the choir in 2021 after 21 very successful years.