Elaine Agnew is one of Northern Ireland’s most successful and popular composers, and has an established relationship with the BMS, which made her the first choice for a commission in BMS’s 90th anniversary year.
BMS commissioned Elaine to write a new work for the internationally acclaimed Skampa Quartet, who gave the world premiere on Sunday 20 February during the 2011 International Festival of Chamber Music.
Mentoring young musicians
In October/November 2012, Elaine acted as Mentor to local cellist David Sloan, helping him develop repertoire ideas and techniques to use in a short concert tour for local primary schools. The tour was run in partnership with Moving on Music, and cooincided with BMS’s Northern Lights Mini-Fest, in which David and his quartet were performing.
Elaine undertook a similar project in November 2013 with young Derry cellist Kim Vaughan, helping Kim to devise a programme which she performed in a concert for elderly residents at Sydenham Court Nursing Home. Elaine and Kim also gave a workshop to residents in Clifton House Nursing Home. Afterwards, Kim told us what she thought of the experience:
“I really enjoyed working with Elaine and seeing how she communicated and connected with our audience. It was useful for me to learn some of the ice breaker exercises that she has developed over the years but particularly to observe how she judged the dynamic of each situation and pitched accordingly. It was interesting to note the development in her relationship with the people at Clifton House which she visits often, and how a level of trust had built up there which allowed her to challenge them more and in the end give them a richer and more personal experience. The experience has definitely inspired me and given me some confidence to undertake similar work myself.”
Making a difference
In 2011/12 Elaine led music workshops for BMS through a partnership with the Radisson Blu and Park Inn hotels in Belfast, with funding from the Arts & Business Investment programme. After an initial training workshop for hotel staff on 28 March, two further workshops took place on 20 May and 3 June with children and parents who are clients of the hotels.
As part of this project, Elaine also led three workshops for residents of Clifton House Residential Home in September 2012.
The project followed a similar initiative in 2011, when Elaine delivered workshops for BMS in partnership with Barclays Wealth (also with funding from Arts & Business) at Cregagh Primary School’s deaf unit and for children and staff at the Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children’s Narnia residential centre in Newcastle.
The next generation
in 2010-11 Elaine led an education project with 70 young string players, organised by BMS in partnership with the City of Belfast School of Music. Workshops were held on Saturday mornings as part of the CBSM Junior String Orchestra rehearsals. A final concert, including a new piece for the Orchestra by Elaine, took place on Saturday 19 February 2011 as part of the International Festival.