David Fennessy (b. 1976 Maynooth) began his musical life as guitarist in a school rock band but had no formal musical training until the age of fifteen when he decided to study classical guitar. He became interested in composition whilst studying for his undergraduate degree at the Dublin College of Music. In 1998 Fennessy moved to Glasgow to study for his Masters Degree at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama with James MacMillan. He was later invited to join the composition faculty and has held a teaching post there since 2005.
Fennessy was shortlisted for the Gaudeamus Music Prize in Amsterdam in both 2000 and 2006 and was a finalist for the Philharmonia’s composition prize in 2004. His music has been chosen to represent Ireland at the International Rostrum of Composers.
In 2006/2007 Ensemble Modern awarded Fennessy a scholarship to study at their prestigious International Academy in Frankfurt. A Dewar Arts Award (Scotland) enabled him to live in Germany for 12 months where he created several works in close collaboration with the musicians of the Academy.
In 2010, he composed BODIES, written for the RTE National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, and La Rejouissance – La Paix commissioned by Ensemble Modern for their 30th Anniversary celebrations, and also received a prestigious Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award. This British award, providing significant support over three years, aims to give artists the freedom to develop their creative ideas and contribute towards their personal and professional growth. In 2010/2011 he was a Fellow of the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart.
Fennessy’s music theatre work Pass the Spoon – a collaboration with director Nick Bone and visual artist David Shrigley – was premièred in Glasgow in November 2011. The creation of the work was made possible by a Vital Sparks Award from Creative Scotland.
Following a first contract with Universal Edition for his orchestral work This is How it Feels (Another Bolero), David Fennessy signed a major agreement in 2011 for his main catalogue of works.
Recent significant works include 5 Hofer Photographs for solo violoncello and Haupstimme, a work for solo viola and ensemble premiered by Garth Knox with Rednote Ensemble at last year’s Huddersfield Festival. Since 2012 he has been working on a trilogy of large scale works based on the diaries of the German film director Werner Herzog written during the production of the 1982 movie Fitzcarraldo. In May 2016, Sweat of the Sun was premièred at the Münchener Biennale.
Fennessy’s music has been performed nationally and internationally by many groups including the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Modern, Hebrides Ensemble, London Sinfonietta, RTE National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland and the RTE Concert Orchestra.
Some further reading:
An essay by Fennessy for the RTE
David Fennessy in conversation with Jonathan Grimes from the Irish Contemporary Music Centre
Ensemble Modern’s into … project, for which he composed 13 Factories