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Savourna Stevenson - Calman the Dove

"Calman the Dove" is harpist Savourna Stevenson's celebration of the coming of Celtic Christianity to Iona, interestingly done, regarding her choice of instrumentation, and style of composition. Featuring on the album is master uilleann piper and whistle player, Davy Spillane, and also fiddle player Anne Wood, Savourna's regular musical partner.

The pieces release a sense of remoteness from their gentle texture, and from their connection with the evocative vision of the landscapes of the smaller islands of Mull and Iona on the west coast of Scotland, and their historical riches.

The first track 'Calman the Wolf' strikes with determined and detailed rhythms, contrasting with the peacefulness of the second and slower piece, 'The White Swan'. Davy Spillane, in both tracks, flutters smoothly across the notes, as expected, and although Anne Wood seems technically brilliant, especially in her simple accompaniment, the fiddle seems to stutter on the fast bits, interrupting the flow of the tune. Perhaps the combination of low whistle and fiddle doesn't work here, or it's just a clashing of styles with Spillane.

Solo harp astounds in 'An Buachille', which means 'The Herdsman'. Stevenson excels in her own inventive passion, with steady rhythm, and crystal clear notes.

Most of the compositions on the album are quite strange in arrangement, although the musicianship is of high quality. The pieces seem very personalised, and the statement on the sleeve that this writing "breathes new life into the Celtic tradition and speaks of these islands today" is surely a matter of opinion.

But as far as Savourna Stevenson's experimental writing goes, more than fair play to her, as this album, apart from the talent displayed on it, has a distinct sense of musical tone, purpose and direction.

Frances Morton

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This album was reviewed in Issue 26 of The Living Tradition magazine.