The first thing that one noticed at this concert in St Mary’s College, Durham, was the blend of ancient and modern – the use of high-tech seating and support for both harpist and harp and the use of old and new musical styles and idioms in creating the music.
Savourna Stevenson plays the Celtic harp or Clarsach – an understatement: she plays it supremely well, and also composes and arranges all the music that she plays.
The opening arrangement of a folk melody The Trip We Took Over The Mountains had a simplicity of form that was projected with playing as clear as a mountain stream. More complex musical forms followed as Scottish and African music was atmospherically combined in Dawn, Earth, Wind and Water, and a composite of Scottish, Irish and Breton harp music in Harplands.
Her music transcends easy classification. It covers folk, jazz, international influences and classical forms with great inventiveness and originality.
In Logan Water, she retains the essential simplicity of the folk air using tone colour to create an image in the listener’s mind. Later, in her own composition The Ballad of Grey Weather, the sound mixture is created in terms of impressionism of Debussy or Ravel – a haunting piece.
This was all a fascinating study of the past, present and future of the Celtic harp in the hands of a unique artist…