Elaine Agnew


Type of Work: Orchestra
Instrumentation: String orchestra
Length: 9 minutes
Commissioned by: European Union Chamber Orchestra
Premiere: 23 November 2005, Elmwood Hall, Belfast.
European Union Chamber Orchestra


The word Blessed comes from the name of the Patron Saint of Europe, Saint Benedict.  Born in Italy in 480, he is the founder of the Benedictine Order of Monks.  At an early age he gave up his noble lifestyle and lived in a cave meditating upon God.  He established twelve monasteries and this was the beginning of the great monastic scheme which was to play a vital part in the regeneration of western civilization.  Saints are from different periods of history and from every walk of life – from farm labourers, beggars, mistresses and soldiers to housewives and poets.  This piece celebrates the richness and diversity of these men, women and children whose goodness and devotion have inspired the world.

Blessed, a single movement work for string orchestra, opens with a short reflective prologue, focused on a quartet of solo players.  The main sections of the piece for full ensemble explore struggle, conflict and reconciliation with angular sounds, chromatic lines and jerky rhythmic action.  A brief central prayer-like phrase focuses on a different quartet of soloists while the material in the final substantial slow section is transformed very gradually.  Its controlled gesture dominates a still atmosphere where slow, quiet chord progressions start to break up and create a world of thickening texture.

Blessed was commissioned by the European Union Chamber Orchestra to mark the 2005 UK Presidency of the European Union.