REVIEW: The Rheingans Sisters; John Kirk Patrick and Martin Carthy at FolkWeek, Sidmouth

PUBLISHED: 12:00 19 August 2018

The Rheingans Sisters.

The Rheingans Sisters.


Rowan and Anna Rheingans gave a brilliant and all-too-short performance in the first half of a concert in the Ham, last Wednesday (August 8).

The Rheingans Sisters.The Rheingans Sisters.

This pair are exceptional musicians on a range of instruments - the fiddle in particular. They are musical explorers and arrangers of tunes from France, Scandinavia and beyond, gifted songwriters, composers and strong singers and they have the close and intuitive relationship of siblings who have grown up together.

Their set included several numbers from their latest album Bright Field, haunting songs by Rowan such as ‘Green Unstopping’ about the beauty of the natural world and how – we hope – it will renew itself, and edgy and inventive tunes by Anna such as ‘Glattugla’, inspired by the treacherous and icy streets of Trondheim. Anna also played freehold flute and tambourin a cordes, a wonderful combined instrument from the Bearn region of France – the percussive effect of this was to bring the rain pouring down on the roof of the marquee. This was an absolutely magical set.

In contrast to two young musicians who are establishing themselves as amongst the most original of the new wave of folk performers were old comrades and veterans John Kirkpatrick and Martin Carthy - their musical rapport and understanding echoed that of the Rheingans Sisters.

Their set included several songs and tunes from their recent Remembering Swarbrick tour and their Brass Monkey days, and others familiars from the Fairport back catalogue, such as Crazy Man Michael and Now Be Thankful. John’s fluent concertina and melodeon effectively took the part of Swarbrick’s fiddle.

The set also included songs from Martin’s repertoire such as the violent ballad Prince Heathen and Dominion of Swords, a 16th century pamphlet set to a Breton tune with a driving rhythm and tongue-twisting lyrics, showing Martin’s enduring skill and dexterity on guitar and ability to deliver a powerful song, although his voice did creak a bit on some other numbers. Their set was hugely enjoyable and a reminder of the early days of the folk revival.

Nicola King

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