Elaine Agnew


1994/revised 1998
Type of Work: Orchestra
Instrumentation: String orchestra
Length: 12 minutes
Commissioned by: Irish Chamber Orchestra
Premiere: 22 October 1994, The Guildhall, Derry.
Irish Chamber Orchestra
Recording: Irish Chamber Orchestra, strings a-stray (Black Box Music)


Each of the four continuous movements of Strings A-stray has its own strong dance characteristic.  In the opening Mr Mani, four pitches, comprising of a specific intervallic shape, are juggled with irregular rhythmic combinations associated with South Indian percussion music.  This slowly melts into the next section Sway, whose expansive phrases allows the music to quietly breathe.  In the following Mazurka familiar rhythmic and phrasal shapes play around with the placing of accents and the juxtaposition of previously heard material. The final dance Bouree provides contrast with its smooth and pulsating manner and restricts itself to the earlier four-note mode.  This pulse travels through varying textures, solo lines and noticeable quotes before building up energy prior to an abrupt end.

Strings A-stray was commissioned by the Irish Chamber Orchestra for performance at the Two Cathedrals Festival in Derry in 1994.  Since then it has enjoyed numerous performances by the Irish Chamber Orchestra around the world, most recently at the Konzerthaus Berlin in 2013 where they opened the concert with Strings A-stray to celebrate the German launch of Ireland's Presidency of the Council of the European Union and broadcast live throughout the EBU.  It was also performed by the Ulster Orchestra with conductor Ken Montgomery during the BBC Radio 3 Invitation Series at the Ulster Hall in Belfast and by the Ivernia Orchestra in Manchester Cathedral in 2012.  Strings A-stray was originally recorded by the Irish Chamber Orchestra by Black Box Music and is due for release on the RTÉ lyric fm label, performed by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra as part of the Composers of Ireland series, promoting the orchestral works of Irish composers.

Performed by:
Irish Chamber Orchestra