Elaine Agnew


Type of Work: Ensemble
Instrumentation: Oboe, violin, viola and cello
Length: 10 minutes
Premiere: 26 April 1991, RSAMD, Glasgow. Scottish Chamber Orchestra Oboe Quartet


Shall we dance?... was composed during my postgraduate composition year at the RSAMD and premiered by members of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.  The piece consists of a continuous suite of short dances which are referred to in an Irish fairy tale by Sinead De Valera The Power of Music.  The story concerns a beautiful princess whose life is ruled by her domineering parents.  One day a young prince appears and falls madly in love with her but they are never given the chance to be alone.  To solve this problem, a ball is organised with the prince as principal guest, for as such he cannot be refused the first dance with the princess...

The opening Fling is energetic with continuous play between simple and compound time signatures.  In the Geantraighe I use a traditional tune Haste to the Wedding which is messed up by the entry of the oboe!  The quiet Suantraighe is followed by the Weeping Song, featuring the oboe as a soloist.  The works ends looking back to earlier material.

It’s premiere by the SCO was recorded by BBC Scotland and featured in a discussion on The Late Show The Road to Hoy.  The piece has been performed by the RSAMD, QUB and Paragon Ensembles in Glasgow and Iceland and recently performed by the Degani Ensemble in St Ann's Church, Dublin.

Wilma Patterson, The Herald:

“..this attractive and entertaining suite of dances was given an effective performance by Paragon which demonstrated an individual personality.”

George Wilson, The Scotsman:

“At 25, Elaine Agnew has a distinctive voice and concise style: deft strokes give clear pictures from heavy booted bacchanalia to vaporous faerie.  Shall we dance?... successfully combined freedom with restraint.”

Michael Tumelty, the Herald:

“Elaine Agnew - an Irish lass and the newcomer - is a sprightly girl who skipped onstage to take a bow after the performance of her suite Shall we dance?... an engaging work for oboe and three strings.  Like Agnew herself, her composition  is a lively creature.  A rhapsodic creation, the music demonstrates a talent for melodic inventions (some lovely, long, pastoral roulades on the oboe), a neat handling of folk idioms, and an inclination towards wit.”