Elaine Agnew


Type of Work: Vocal/Choral
Instrumentation: Mezzo-soprano and piano
Length: 6 minutes
Text: John Hewitt
Commissioned by: Belfast Music Society
Premiere: 17 April 2004, Great Hall, Queen’s University.
Catherine Dobbin and Angela Hewitt


The three poems that I selected for this song cycle portray both John Hewitt’s and my love of the Glens of Antrim, with its dramatic landscape, endless sea and rich variety of texture and colour.  His references to nature in the two outer brief songs Mid-April and April Awake are clearly inspired by the senses: you can practically smell the ‘sunlight on the whin’ and the ‘leafing hedge and willow’, and admire the colours of ‘the blossoms white of blackthorn’, ‘the gold galore’ and the ‘purple-shadowed furrow’.  The central song The Hill Farm brought back fond memories as a child saying the family evening rosary.  I can imagine the poems evening caller being intrigued by the mother’s ‘rise and fall of rhythmic word’, while the voices of the family respond ‘with, now and then, a smothered yawn!’

April Awake was commissioned by the Belfast Music Society for performance by the Canadian soprano Catherine Robbin and pianist Angela Hewitt at the Great Hall at Queen’s University, Belfast in April 2004.  It was subsequently performed by Aylish Kerrigan and Dearbhla Collins in Dublin and China in 2009.  The piece is dedicated to Elizabeth Bicker, Chair of the Belfast Music Society.