Based in Kilkenny, Ireland, James McDonald is a classical guitarist, music teacher and wedding performer. In 2013, he began studying a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music at Waterford Institute of Technology. A diverse, four-year course, the focus was on performance while genres included Irish traditional, classical, popular and jazz. During his studies at W.I.T., James benefited under the tutelage of Michael O’Toole, one of Ireland’s leading guitarists.
After graduating with distinction in 2017, James came first in two important events: the Bridget Doolan Award and the Feis Ceoil classical guitar competition. He received recognition for his quality of performance in both and went on to achieve another win the following year (2018), this time in the Feis Ceoil Bach guitar category.
Nowadays, James performs with Freddy Walsh, a fellow Feis Ceoil winner. The duo’s beginnings date back to when they noticed a dearth of guitar duos available when preparing for James’ final year performance exam. Accordingly, as well as performing works by international composers, they put themselves forward for new pieces by Irish composers. In 2018, they debuted through an innovative Emerging Artist Program at the Contemporary Music Centre in Tempe Bar, Dublin.
Notably, the accomplished duo’s varied influences assure a colourful programme of dissonant and tonal works, showing the guitar’s full range as a musical instrument. Currently, acclaimed Irish composer Marian Ingoldsby writes for James and Freddy. Equally impressively, the solo and chamber venues where they have performed include:
- The National Concert Hall, Rathfarnham Castle, The Octagonal Room of the Irish Georgian Society in Dublin.
- Black Abbey Church, Watergate Theatre and St.
John’s Cathedral in Kilkenny.
- St Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick.
- Uisneach Bealtaine Fire Festival, Westmeath
Additionally, James has performed in masterclasses for the L.A. Guitar Quartet, Xuefei Yang and Nicholas Goluses.