After emerging as a professional composer in 2016, Scottish composer Helen MacKinnon has quickly established a growing reputation for her sacred choral music in the UK, Europe and Asia.
Helen studied music at The University of Glasgow, Scotland specialising in composition with Scottish composer William Sweeney. Her most notable compositional work during her studies was Crossing the Domain, a setting of Edwin Morgan's poem From the Domain of Arnheim for female voices and percussion. A second portfolio work Fata Morgana, a duet for clarinet and violin, was selected for performance at GoMA in Glasgow. During her studies, Helen played first violin with The Kelvin Ensemble and sang with Glasgow University Choral Society.
After gaining her First Class Honours Bachelor of Music degree in 2002, Helen taught music independently whilst pursuing a professional career in marketing and management in the charity sector. She continued to compose and arrange music for community choirs and ensembles in the east of Scotland, while singing with Perth City Operatic Group and Perth Amateur Operatic Society.
Determined to one day pursue her passion for composing professionally, in 2015, Helen entered her first composing competition and was awarded at the 2nd International Competition of Choral Composition Ennio Morricone during the Florence International Choir Festival for her setting of Gloria in excelsis Deo. The award was a life-changing moment and the catalyst for a renewed focus on composing.
Helen currently has work developing and being performed in the UK and internationally. Working with The University of Oxford as a female composer, Helen wrote My Voice for female voices as part of a Women and the Canon International Conference. The choral work premiered in Christ Church in 2016. A new commission as part of Perth Festival of the Arts saw Helen's modern setting of psalm 96 Sing to the Lord a new Song premiere in May 2016 in Perth City and receive national promotion on BBC Radio Scotland's Janice Forsyth Show.
Helen is working with Italian bass-baritone and Artistic Director Leonardo Sagliocca, in support of Florence Choral Festivals and is one of the Festival's Emerging Composers. Helen's Gloria in excelsis Deo premiered at the first Leonardo da Vinci International Choral Festival in 2017, performed by Kammerchor Manila who took home the Festival Grand Prix for their performances. The work was performed again by the University of the Philippines Singing Ambassadors in the 2nd Andrea del Vercocchio International Choral Festival 2018. The choir won best performance of a contemporary composer's piece.
Helen has spent the 2018/19 writing new choral works, including a full Mass in Latin Mass for the Spirit, ballads for solo voice and piano, and an orchestral work The Rinns of Islay. Helen premiered a full programme of her new sacred choral music in Perthshire last year, to a sell-out crowd and standing ovation. Helen also works as an arranger of music for choirs.
2017/18 saw Helen partner with PARMA Recordings to record her Gloria in excelsis Deo with Prague Mixed Chamber Choir and Czech conductor Jiří Petrdlík. The work was released on 26 April 2019 on Navona Records' Voices of Earth and Air Vol. II. Featuring on radio show 'Music of our Mothers' broadcast in the USA, which features exclusively the music of female composers, Helen's piece was described as 'spectacular writing for voices'. The work has also featured on WCNY's Classic FM and Feminine Fusion radio shows in the state of New York.
Current projects including progressing a recording of a new work, Ave Maris Stella, for string orchestra and Soprano, and several choral work premieres towards the end of 2019. Helen lives in the city of Perth, Scotland.