The Scotsman Sessions #140: Savourna Stevenson

Welcome to The Scotsman Sessions. With performing arts activity curtailed for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on, with introductions from our critics. Here, clarsach player and composer Savourna Stevenson performs a piece called Bookworm from her forthcoming album

Savourna Stevenson was about to embark on a new CD with Steve Kettley, for many years a saxophonist with Salsa Celtica, when lockdown happened. As the clarsach player and composer hadn’t recorded for some time, she decided to do it anyway.

"We just got cracking as it’s important to look ahead in the arts world, even though we don’t know how we’re going to promote the album yet. This is a more collaborative venture for me as in the past I’ve mostly recorded my own compositions, so it’s nice to work on Steve’s pieces too.”

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Bookworm, which Stevenson performs for her Scotsman Session, will be the first track on the new album, which is due to be finished around Christmas time. She says it started off as a “short snippet” which originally wrote for BBC’s Radio Scotland’s book programme decades ago.

"Like a lot of my music it’s very bluesy and quite Pink Pantherish,” she says. “It’s not what you’d expect from the Scottish harp, which is great for more tactile rhythmic playing, and my performance is quite acrobatic in places. To change key I have to move the levers one at a time, unlike the pedal harp where you use your feet.”

Stevenson started writing music aged four or five – her father Ronald was a composer – and the idea for Bookworm relates to music worms; she tells the children she teaches that this is what they’ll become once they can read music.

"Words are important to me too, they’re like incantations to get to know the spirit and I’ve worked with writer Stuart Paterson on shows at the Lyceum in the past. I spent a lot of time in my garden during lockdown as I find I can actually work in my head there. I usually have a session at the piano, put the notes into the computer, go out into the garden and then come back and change them. Composing is like feeling your way in the dark and letting the piece grow as it wants to organically.”

For more on Savourna Stevenson, visit

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