TURNING the last pages of Scottish classics like Treasure Island into songs has resulted in an album for award-winning musician Gareth Williams.

Normally, Williams – a former composer for Scottish Opera – is sent scripts and texts to work from but during lockdown the shows dried up.

Instead, looking for ideas, Williams turned to his bookshelves and began writing songs based on the last pages of some of his favourite novels.

“Weirdly, this became a bit of a fixation and by the time I had done about 10, I decided to put something together,” he told the Sunday National.

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In the beginning, Williams did not have any particular project in mind but this changed when he read At The Loch Of The Green Corrie by Andrew Greig.

“I started with some classics like James Joyce and Dickens but the book that made it all work for me was Greig’s because on the last page he says something along the lines of it being time to put away the fishing rod and close the book – but I didn’t want the book to end,” said Williams. “I wanted to hang on to it by making a song and that was my prototype.”

He has ended up with 11 songs on the album taken from the last pages of some of Scotland’s best-loved books and this will be launched at performances during the Edinburgh Festivals this week.

“With this project I want to evoke and celebrate the spell that every reader knows – that feeling as you finish the last line of a book – and hold on to it for just a few more minutes,” said Williams. “From The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes (below) to Duck Feet, this is all about celebrating the best of our historic and modern storytellers.

The National: A decision must be taken on whether to move the statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place. Photograph: Stewart Attwood

“I call it literary chamber pop which is a genre of one – one nobody knew they wanted,” he jokes. “There is a bit of a classical feel to it and the storytelling makes it like a little bit of theatre. I’ve tried to mix things up.”

Last year, as part of Scotland’s Year of Stories, Williams toured book festivals and added new songs from last pages until he had a collection of nearly 40 songs.

As well as Robert Louis Stevenson, James Barrie and Conan Doyle, authors that have inspired him include modern Scottish writers such as Ali Smith and Alasdair Gray.

Lanark is in fact one of Williams’s favourite books, having read it when he first arrived in Scotland from County Armagh 22 years ago.

“It was the first book I read when I arrived in an attempt to understand Scots – I’m still none the wiser,” he said.

He has already tried out some of the songs on audiences, asking them if there was any way he could make them better.

“Someone in Paisley said you could read happier books – which made me wonder if Scottish literature has a propensity towards tragedy,” said Williams. “I’d probably have to check out the literature of other countries to see if that is the case though.”

Along with the songs from books that inspired the album, Williams may “throw in” a few others at this week’s performance such as one inspired by Sunset Song.

“That’s as epic as you can get and so tied to the landscape,” he said. “There’s a pipe tune mentioned on the second-last page. It’s iconic and very atmospheric so I do love singing that one. It’s really special.

“I feel it’s important to try and tell a story about a spectrum of Scottish literature including living writers. The likes of Ely Percy and James Robertson have all been so generous and allowed me to do this so that has been really kind, as was the Alasdair Gray archive.

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“And in terms of lyrics, I ended up with the best collaborators in the world, like Stevenson and Robertson and people like that. I love a good narrative – maybe because of many years of writing operas, I like a good story. Mind you, I keep reading last pages to see if they could make a song. It’s destroyed reading for me.”

After Edinburgh, Williams will head to Dundee and Aberdeen with the performance and aims to tour further round Scotland in the coming months.

Songs from The Last Page is at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh from tomorrow until Friday.