Virtuoso harp and guitar duo team up with Traquair Choir

Gerald Barlow

Friday, 12th August, 2016,

Peeblesshire News


On Saturday 27th August, the Traquair Community Choir is performing a concert at the Eastgate Theatre in Peebles, writes Gerald Barlow.

This concert is a big event in the musical life of our part of Peeblesshire. First, it marks the launch of the new Creative Peebles Festival (the successor to the former Peebles Arts Festival).

Secondly, it will feature a programme of music by Savourna Stevenson, the renowned Scottish harpist and composer, joined by her son Miles Norris on the guitar.

Thirdly, it marks a milestone in the development of the Traquair Community Choir, making its first appearance in a major concert on a public stage.

Savourna Stevenson is described as a Scottish ‘national treasure’ (The Herald), known nationally and internationally for her playing of the clarsach and pedal harp, who has been at the forefront of the harp revival for many years.

She is also a renowned composer of music for theatre, dance and concerts, and has received commissions from many orchestras and choirs, most recently from Cappella Nova.

Savourna began playing the piano and composing from the age of 5 with her father, the late Scottish composer Ronald Stevenson.

Although her music strongly reflects her Scottish roots, it also reflects her urge to break through stylistic barriers between folk, world music and jazz. A performance of Savourna’s new work ‘The Dream’ can be heard during a programme at St Giles on 21st August by the Scottish Vocal Ensemble, in which coincidently the musical director of our Traquair Choir, Julie Leavett, sings soprano. Links within links!

The Eastgate concert will begin with The Traquair Choir performing a short programme of contemporary and traditional folk songs, including two of Savourna’s compositions commissioned by the National Youth Choirs of Scotland – ‘The Finn Woman’ and ‘Waiting for the Silver Sailed Moon’.

The latter was described by critics as “the loveliest tune to have been created by the choral organisation’s commissioning work”.These will be accompanied by Savourna on the pedal harp.

For the ‘Headline’ event of the evening, Savourna Stevenson (clarsach) and Miles Norris (guitar) will perform music from around the world, from African-inspired to South American flavoured, an Irish waltz and music from mediaeval England and beyond.

The Traquair Choir has in the two years since its beginning in 2014, grown rapidly in numbers from an initial 20 to 50. It is still very much a community choir open to singers of all abilities and all ages: the youngest is 12 and the oldest 84. Its success is due to the exceptional skills of its musical director Julie Leavett, in making even those who have never sung or read music before to feel welcomed, enabled to find real enjoyment and their skills growing.

The choir performs a mixed repertoire, rehearsing and performing a range of genres each term.

Appreciation is due to Elaine Heron, the founder of the Traquair Choir and moving spirit behind this new and exciting collaborative concert at the Eastgate.

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