Savourna Stevenson

1961 –

Clàrsach Player and Composer

Savourna Stevenson, “a composer who is a national treasure” (The Herald), began playing the piano and composing from the age of 5 with her father, the composer Ronald Stevenson, and made her concert debut with the harp at the age of 15 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London.

Although her music strongly reflects her Scottish roots, it also reveals her uniquely eclectic and innovative urge to break through stylistic barriers between classical, folk, world music and jazz.

She championed the clarsach from an early age and has written prolifically for the instrument, collaborating with many traditional artists. Alongside international touring commitments as both a harp and clarsach virtuoso in the 1980s and 1990s, Savourna was commissioned to write for dance, theatre, TV/film and live concert performances.   The diversity of commissioning organisations, from the BBC to Iona Abbey, and her equally diverse audiences, from concert hall patrons to viewers of HBO, are a measure of the breadth and scope of her output.

Major compositions from these years, many of which have been recorded, include the acclaimed seven movement suite, Tweed Journey  …  Moorsong, a setting of John Buchan’s short story  … Cutting the Chord, celebrating the 1792 Belfast Harp Gathering  …  Tusitala, music for BBC TV Omnibus on the life & travels of Robert Louis Stevenson  … Singing the Storm, a song cycle of new Border Ballads for singer June Tabor … Calman the Dove, a celebration of St. Columba for Iona Abbey  …. and her Harp Quintet, premiered at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in 2000 before finding new audiences via the popular American TV series ‘Sex and the City‘ and ‘Ugly Betty’.

In 2001 Savourna returned to her classical roots when a Creative Scotland Award to honour her existing contribution to Scottish music allowed her to fulfil a long-held aspiration to write for symphony orchestra. The resulting children’s orchestral work, Misterstourworm and the Kelpie’s Gift, was premiered by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and narrated by Scottish actor Billy Boyd (of Lord of the Rings fame) for the Children’s Classic Concerts series in 2003.

Following the outstanding success of this work, which received standing ovations from capacity audiences and universally positive reviews,  Children’s Classic Concerts commissioned a second orchestral adventure for family audiences, Hansel and Gretel, which premiered in 2005 and toured throughout Scotland, performed by the Orchestra of Scottish Opera, to equally enthusiastic critical and popular acclaim. 

In June 2012 Stevenson’s Concerto for Pedal Harp was premiered & toured by international harp soloist Catrin Finch and the Scottish Ensemble.

In December 2013 her work for percussion & orchestra, ‘The Snow Queen’, featuring percussionists Owen Gunnell & Oliver Cox was premiered by the RSNO with narrator Siobhan Redmond at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall and Edinburgh’s Usher Hall.

Current commissions include works for choir, for pedal harp and, perhaps her largest piece to date, a work for piano & orchestra entitled ‘The Secret Life of a Piano’.

To make your own nomination download the nomination form here