Elaine Agnew

(b. 1967)
Elaine Agnew
John Byrne

I like to write music which is direct: sudden disruptive jolts contrasting with ritualistic still textures and whispers. The gestures of the performers as they play give direction to my work.

In 2012 Elaine Agnew’s BBC Proms Commission ‘Dark Hedges’ was premiered by the Ulster Youth Orchestra, the Ulster Orchestra and flautist Sir James Galway in London’s Royal Albert Hall, one reviewer describing it as ‘compelling from beginning to end’.

Her many works have been performed and commissioned worldwide by artists such as the Škampa and Vogler Quartets, RTÉ National Symphony and Concert Orchestras, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Scottish and Irish Chamber Orchestras and pianist Angela Hewitt. They have featured at major festivals including the BBC London Proms, London BMIC Cutting Edge and Spitalfields and the Slovenian Unicum Festival, and in many worldclass venues: the Carnegie, Wigmore and Royal Albert Halls and the Konzerthaus Berlin.

Current commissions include a new work for the Boston Children’s Chorus commissioned by Terezín Music Foundation for performance in Europe in 2015, a solo piano piece for the 2014 New Ross Piano Festival and an RTÉ commission ‘Everyone Sang’ to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the RTÉ Philharmonic Choir to be premiered in January 2015 by the RTÉ Philharmonic Choir and the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra. Working on the Aftermath project last year, Elaine met with victims, survivors and displaced families effected by conflict and recorded their voices in a piece ‘I want to tell you’ with violin and cello accompanying a pre-recorded voice track.

Many works have been commercially released: ‘Twilight’ and ‘The Moon’ by the Irish Chamber Orchestra and ‘Seagull’ by pianist Isabelle O’Connell. Elaine was appointed as the first RTÉ lyric fm Composer-in-Residence in 2008 and her two commissioned Christmas carols have been released on Lyric fm’s Choirs for Christmas CD.

As a renowned facilitator, she is highly experienced in enthusing participation of all ages in collective music-making and is much in demand for her innovative work. She has directed many major education and community projects throughout Ireland and the UK. She was the Artistic Advisor of Music Network's CPD Programme providing training for musicians to work in outreach settings and is currently their Learning and Participation Adviser.

She studied composition at Queen’s University Belfast with Kevin Volans and at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with James MacMillan. Awards include a Major Individual Arts Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and residencies at the Banff Centre of Creative Arts, the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre.