Donna has worked as a singer and violist with Nick Cave, Tricky, Moby and Michael Nyman. She was a member of Miranda Sex Garden and worked for Derek Jarman on his final film, Blue. Derek gave Donna permission to continue, giving her access to his scripts and diaries. Donna went on to create a song-cycle for voices, viola and cello. The resulting album, Translucence, featuring counter tenor Michael Chance, was released on Warner Classics to widespread critical acclaim, performed around the world and here in London at The City of London Festival and at The Tate Britain.
In 2011, Donna was commissioned to write for the large scale dance work Compass which was performed at Sadler’s Wells. The following year she scored her first feature film, The Fold, for director John Jencks and The Electric Shadow Company. In 2015, she released the EPs Cut and This is what I wanted to give you... the setting of five poems by poet Jan Noble.
In 2016, she was commissioned by The Yorke Dance Company as part of The Cohan Collective to create a new work - ‘Self’- with choreographer Charlotte Edmonds, which was premiered at The Lillian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells. That year she wrote the score for a production of Strindberg’s Miss Julie broadcast on BBC Radio Four and was also awarded a residency at The Aldeburgh Festival.
Over the years Donna has contributed film scores and soundtracks for the fashion house Bodyamr, London and Paris Fashion Weeks, Jaeger, Vogue, Kate Spade, River Island and Orla Kiely. Her work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 1,2,3,4 and 6 Music, as well as WNYC in the US who also broadcast a retrospective of her work in 2012 which included a live session of her singing her settings of Maya Angelou’s poems with the late jazz trumpeter Lew Soloff and bassist Francois Moutin.
This year she completed the score for director Ken McMullen’s feature film Borders and produced and wrote the music for an art installation work inspired by Duchamp’s painting Nude Descending a Staircase. NUDE was premiered at The Mayfair Art Weekend and is touring the UK as a dance work by choreographer Phil Sanger.
Another 2018 highlight for Donna was winning first prize for the Stradella Festival in Rome, the resulting work Concentus is currently touring Italy.
A reflection on Rodrigo de Ceballos Hortus Conclusus
I was asked by ORA Singers to write a new setting of Amica Mea (My Love), which is a setting of the Hortus Conclusus from Song of Songs. I started by taking the perfect fifth from his original work, and experimented with this interval, seeing how much I could break the rules and write in parallel fifths. This influenced the style of the piece which begins with a simple plain chant theme sung by two solo sopranos. The idea was that the mezzo part would catch and latch onto a note from the soprano part’s theme and hold the note through the phrase to conclude with a major second. I wanted to create space and allow the soloists to feel the room and react to it. These ideas are developed, creating more complex harmonies in a more passionate middle section, which feels to me like it is informed by my work in film. In the final passage I have treated the choir as a string section, gently incanting the line Veni speciosa mea, gradually introducing another solo ’instrumental’ line for soprano which sits simply on top of this hypnotic ostinato passage. The piece ends with the original opening theme sung by mezzo-soprano.
Apart from the text and the borrowed fifth, I allowed myself to be sub-consciously influenced by Ceballos’s work. On this occasion I had the luxury of being able to take my time in finding an initial idea rather than running with the first or second. In a lot of my work in film and dance I have extremely short deadlines and not the luxury of experimenting with a fifth or sixth idea. So for me this was a wonderfully creative and peaceful experience. I set out to create a setting of King Solomon’s nuptial song to his bride that was both respectful to it’s place in Christian scripture but also one that reflected the passion of the moment.
WORLD PREMIERE: 16th March 2019, LSO St Luke's, Design Series #1- Desires.