Elaine Agnew


Type of Work: Orchestra/voice
Instrumentation: Strings, harp, perc. (vib, cym, bongos), choir (single line), school percussion groups, pre-recorded tracks, 2 narrators.
Length: 43 minutes
Text: Kate Newmann
Commissioned by: Wexford County Council Public Art Commission
Premiere: 27 May 2004, Theatre Royal Wexford.
Irish Chamber Orchestra, school choirs, conductor David Brophy


The Whisper of Ghosts alternates four pre-recorded voice tracks with four songs and is knit together with spoken narrative strands and music interludes.  Kate Newmann’s creative writing workshops with the pupils generated text that fed directly into the songs, narratives and voice tracks, the latter highlighting the thoughts and dreams of younger pupils alongside stories and memories from older voices.  In November 2003 I first visited the schools where we explored initial themes and ideas in order to gain a sense of place and tradition.  With Kate, the children wrote about the Great Irish Elk, Johnstown Castle, The Dead Hunt, Kildavin Church alongside associations with memory and family relations.  From improvisation music workshops, the pupils then set the text to music and created percussion accompaniments.  My job was to then knit these ideas together into a stream-less musical journey from start to end.

The Whisper of Ghosts has involved a high level of community input in both its creation and performance.  Intrinsically connected with the history and social life of the area, it is a celebration of Wexford’s spirit and energy and is deeply rooted in the traditions of the community.