Stepping Out

Programme Note

Stepping Out is a short, ‘up-front’ kind of piece, commissioned specially for the Royal Northern College of Music String Orchestra’s premiere London concert at the Barbican Centre in November 1996.

The piece is based on a short repetitive pattern, heard at the outset, which dominates the music. A second idea, featuring solo strings, is more chromatic and contrapuntal although the basic rhythmic pattern still underpins it. The music gradually loses energy and stops. It starts again, this time a tri-tone away from the opening pitch of A, but then explodes into a wild fugue before the opening returns with a surprise addition to the ensemble.

The style is intentionally eclectic (Adams meets Shostakovich with Gregson thrown in!), but hopefully fits the brief to write a snappy concert opener for string orchestra.

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Audio Samples:


Gregson is no minimalist and the brief polyphonic second section shows how his compositional skills were honed and refined under Bush [his teacher], while he adds a spontaneous lyrical momentum all his own.

Ivan March, Gramophone

… overlays lyrical and ostinato elements. During its three-minute span there is a growing sense of optimism, and a percussive surprise.

Colin Anderson, International Record Review, November 2003

… is a short, dashing work of great energy which the composer rather jocularly describes as ‘John Adams meets Shostakovich, with a bit of Gregson thrown in’.

Hubert Culot, Musicweb International

Work Details

  • Date of Composition: 1996
  • Publisher: Novello
  • Genre:
  • Duration: 4'
  • Instrumentation: string orchestra
  • Commission Information:
    for the RNCM String Orchestra

First Performance

  • Date: 6 November 1996
  • Venue: Barbican Hall, Barbican Centre, London, UK
  • Performers:
    Royal Northern College of Music String Orchestra Malcolm Layfield (conductor)


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