The Scotsman Sessions #3: Esther Swift

Welcome to The Scotsman Sessions. With the performing arts world shutting down for the foreseeable future, we will be commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on, introduced by our critics. Here harpist Esther Swift shares a brand new song called This Space from her living room in Edinburgh.

Having just returned from a five-week solo tour in New Zealand, harpist and composer Esther Swift has been “self-isolating with almost immediate effect”.

“My brother is in a wheelchair and my grandad is 99 and living with my parents and so I am keen to make sure they’re as safe as possible,” she says. “I am really sad that all of my projects have been cancelled for the next few months but understand the necessity for this.”

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While many artists have lost all their future income in a matter of days, Swift can at least continue to earn some money through writing commissions. “I am writing a bassoon and harp piece on the theme of Alice In Wonderland, and a flute, viola and harp trio. I intend to seek other commissions, perhaps for soloist wishing to perform in their living rooms!” She also plans to continue her teaching work via Skype.

Esther SwiftEsther Swift
Esther Swift

Still, Coronavirus has put some worthwhile projects on hold. “I was due to be working with Chamber Music Scotland on a project called Coorie Doon which saw me going into a children’s hospice and neo-natal unit and writing songs with residents there,” says Swift. “I am hoping that there is still something we could do remotely with it.” She was also about to tour with her duo Twelfth Day, play a big band piece at the Dutch Harp Festival, perform at the John O Groats Book Festival and the East Neuk Festival, and play Debussy with Edinburgh University Orchestra.

Instead she is at home, “trying to build my online presence” by performing a new cover version every day via her Facebook page. “I’m keen to take requests from as many people as possible, including any elderly or lonely people who may need the most support through this time.” And on Monday 23 March at 7.30pm you can watch her perform a solo 40-minute concert on Chamber Music Scotland’s YouTube channel. “They are running a short series of living room concerts with artists who have worked with them regularly for a number of years.”

For the Scotsman, she has created an exclusive recording of a brand new song called This Space. As she says in her introduction, “please don’t be perturbed by the melancholic opening verse, it does get more optimistic.” Hopefully this is also true of the situation we are all currently in.