Rowan Rheingans is a fiddle player, banjoist and songwriter widely regarded as one of the foremost innovators in folk music today. Best known for her work with acclaimed bands Lady Maisery, The Rheingans Sisters and Songs of Separation. Rowan has won two BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (‘Best Original Track’ in 2016 & ‘Best Album’ in 2017) and is a six-times nominee. Her duo The Rheingans Sisters were nominees in the prestigious ‘Best Duo/Group’ category at the the 2019 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
In what will prove to be a career-shifting year, Rowan premiered her new solo show ‘Dispatches on the Red Dress’ in a two week run at the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. This Autumn, Rowan takes this ambitious and deeply personal one-woman show on a national tour.
An intimate and adventurous exploration of memory, identity, joy, sorrow, trauma-recovery, war and waltzes, Dispatches on the Red Dress tells the true story of Rowan’s German grandmother’s youth in 1940’s Germany. With genre-melding fluidity, Rowan weaves immersive storytelling around ten new songs (Rowan won ‘Best Original Track’ at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2016 for her song Mackerel) performed live with fiddle, banjo, guitar and subtly inventive use of pre-recorded sounds.
In the current time of deeply felt political tensions, with the rise of racism in our communities and a new nationalistic fervour gaining pace across Europe, Dispatches on the Red Dress is a highly resonant and much needed historic provocation for our current political and social climate. Slowly revealing what is at once a warm family story and a troubling elegy on the modern human condition, Rowan explores how hope for the future may be found in the very darkest pockets of our history…
As well as being a heartfelt yet unflinching anti-war and anti-fascist statement, the show is also an uplifting celebration of small acts of every-day resistance, speaking directly to the human capabilities of transformation and change. It is Rowan’s most courageous, most political and most personal work to date.
Having taken over two years to write it, Rowan describes how : “For me, this is a show about horror and beauty. It is also about trauma recovery, birdsong, war and waltzes. Hidden in the folds of my own grandmother’s story, there is a profound darkness alongside, I think, a deeply hopeful message about humanity’s capacity for transformation. It feels important, in our current social and political climate of half-truths and fake news, fueling a collective inertia that sometimes feels akin to a dangerous forgetting or mis-remembering of history, to share this story. I hope it will spur conversations about how we can resist the rise of the far right in constructive, supportive, creative ways. It is about the peace-making potential of telling different kinds of stories…“
Already celebrated by music critics as “an excellent songwriter with a fine grasp of the delicate balance of joy and pain that makes us human”(Folk Radio UK), Dispatches on the Red Dress takes Rowan’s songwriting and gift as a mesmerising performer to another level; this is adventurous and necessary new writing that asks fundamental and troubling questions with her characteristically ‘deep emotional charge’ (Louder Than War).
Developed in collaboration with Liam Hurley (Karine Polwart’s Wind Resistance) the live show brings the intimacy of a folk concert to meet the ancient traditions of storytelling and textures of contemporary theatre in a troubling, tender and powerful performance.
Rowan’s debut solo album, The Lines We Draw Together, is a companion to the live show and was released 23rd August 2019, fast garnering critical acclaim from the folk and world music press. Songlines gave it 5 stars at the much coveted ‘Top of the World’ award while Folk Radio UK hailed it as “the pinnacle of her musical journey to date”.
As testimony to her reputation as a folk artist truly carving new and innovative paths, the album was granted unconditional funding from both PRS Women Make Music and Arts Council England.
Not one to simply repeat but choosing instead to always innovate and challenge herself and her listeners, the album is best thought of as a companion to the live show. Produced by Andy Bell (Jon Boden, Karine Polwart) it is an experimental and daring debut that characteristically pushes the boundaries of genre. Featuring Rowan in cathartic collaborations with indy, jazz, classical and electronic musicians, including bassist Michele Stoddart (The Magic Numbers) and clarinettist Jack McNeill (Propellor), it once again cements Rowan’s reputation as a relentlessly creative and seemingly unstoppable polymath.
Rowan Rheingans: Dispatches on the Red Dress 2021 UK tour dates:
- FRI 5 NOVEMBER – Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds – tickets
- SAT 6 NOVEMBER – Pound Arts Centre, Corsham – tickets
- SUN 7 NOVEMBER – The Wardrobe Theatre @ The Assembly, Bristol – tickets
- >>> MON 8 NOVEMBER – Cambridge Junction 2, Cambridge – tickets
- TUE 9 NOVEMBER – Camden People’s Theatre, London – tickets
- WED 10 NOVEMBER – Camden People’s Theatre, London – tickets
- FRI 12 NOVEMBER – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford – tickets
- SAT 13 NOVEMBER – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford – tickets
- SUN 14 NOVEMBER – Bridport Arts Centre, Bridport – tickets
- MON 15 NOVEMBER – Exeter Phoenix, Exeter – tickets
- WED 17 NOVEMBER – South Street Arts Centre, Reading – tickets
- >>> THU 18 NOVEMBER – Norwich Arts Centre, Norwich – tickets
- SUN 21 NOVEMBER – The Met, Bury – tickets
For more information visit rowanrheingans.co.uk.