After emerging as a composer in 2016, Helen MacKinnon has established a growing reputation for her sacred choral music in the UK, Europe and Asia. In 2020, Helen will be recording a new orchestral work, The Rinns of Islay, with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
Helen studied music at The University of Glasgow, Scotland specialising in composition with Scottish composer William Sweeney. Her most notable compositional work of that period was Crossing the Domain, a setting of Edwin Morgan's poem From the Domain of Arnheim for female voices and percussion. 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, Helen taught music independently alongside a professional career in marketing and management in the charity sector for 15 years. She continued to compose and arrange music for community choirs in 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 and the catalyst for a new career focus on composing.
Helen now has work developing and being performed across 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 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.
The work was recorded with Prague Mixed Chamber Choir and Czech conductor Jiří Petrdlík and released in 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 Gloria 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.
2018/19 brought new choral works, the completion of Helen's full Mass in Latin Mass for the Spirit and a new orchestral work. Recent choral work premieres included Credo (I believe) and Wings of the Morning in Scotland as well as the premiere of Ave Maris Stella with the Subotica Philharmonic Orchestra and soprano Alenka Ponjavić Vojnić in Serbia.
In 2020, Helen will be recording The Rinns of Islay with the RSNO and PARMA Recordings. New 2020 projects include a new work for Wind Ensemble commissioned by Caledonian Winds and an ambitious new sacred work, The Road to Calvary.