Elaine Agnew


Type of Work: Orchestra/voice
Instrumentation: String orchestra and choir (single line)
Length: 12 minutes
Text: Charlotte Cory
Commissioned by: Irish Chamber Orchestra
Premiere: 23 November 2000, University Concert Hall Limerick
Irish Chamber Orchestra, Laurel Hill school choir, conductor Rachel Worby


When I was commissioned by the Irish Chamber Orchestra to write a work for them and a children’s choir I was excited by the combination of beautiful young voices with the flair and energy of the Irish Chamber Orchestra.  My first task was to select a text that would appeal to both performers and listeners and this allowed me to work again with the writer Charlotte Cory who I earlier collaborated with on a BBC Education Project.  Based on the theme of Time this BBC project involved the 5 BBC orchestras, the Ulster Orchestra and over 1000 people aged 8 to 80 who were given the opportunity to compose and perform with professional musicians.  Mercy Primary School in Belfast was involved in the Ulster Orchestra’s The First Time and provided the text and voices for the choral section.  In Charlotte’s writing workshops the girls explored ideas of memory and time and from this a text was created.  In Wait and See I specifically wanted to write a piece for children using words by children.  For this commission Charlotte created another text from their unused material.

Consisting of 3 vocal sections, the first recollects early photographs and memories as the piece entices the listener into the children’s intimate thoughts.  These memories bring excitement and joy to their voices as they think back to unforgettable times.  The central vocal section concerns the world of growing up, now thinking ahead to the future.  The third section reflects back to the opening and in the final few seconds the listener is drawn in as the choir and orchestra comes to a quiet end.

Wait and See was performed by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and RTÉ Cór na nÓg at the National Concert Hall in 2010 as part of the RTÉ Horizons Series.  Later this year a CD of all Elaine’s orchestral works will be released on the RTÉ lyric fm label featuring the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and conductor Gavin Maloney as part of the Composers of Ireland series.

Andrew Johnstone, Irish Times:

“The third of this year’s RTÉ Horizons concerts generated a memorably bright and upbeat atmosphere. The selection of contemporary works by featured composer Elaine Agnew took in some challenging enough listening but what made it especially engaging was the range of colour and the zestful delivery.

Two further pieces of Agnew’s both dated from 2000, yet offered such stylistic contrasts that each might have been taken for the work of a different composer. Owing its origins to an educational project with Charlotte Cory at Mercy Primary School, Belfast, the pervasively diatonic Wait and See proved a tour de force of memorisation and sustained accuracy for the buoyant young voices of RTÉ Cór na nÓg.”


Performed by:
Irish Chamber Orchestra, Headford School Choir