Ragadawn | More information

Caroline Bergvall has devised a powerful and moving performance combining music, text and voices in ritualised outdoor locations to reconnect audiences to time, place and each other. Ragadawn also brings together conversations recorded in the UK and Europe with writers and singers of multiple minoritarian or pressured languages, including Gaelic. The vocal composition at the heart of the work is composed by the British Composer Gavin Bryars and performed by soprano Peyee Chen. Working with Bryars has ensured the presence of a cross-historical vocal strand that combines his long-standing interest in early vocal music and ancient European languages. Live electronic musician Verity Susman has created the Dawn Chorus of languages: a multilingual layering of voices as well as conversational snippets and outbursts that inhabit the performance. Live sound engineer Sam Grant has devised the site-specific listening set-up.

Close up of microphone with fuzzy noise-reduction cover

Ragadawn (An t-Eilean Sgitheanach 57.5˚T). Photograph by Sophie Gerrard.

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In its detail and narrative, Ragadawn is a piece attuned to the depth and ambiguity present with the rising of day. The change from dark to dusk to light, the transformation of shadows into outlines into shapes, all this brings about a complex range of experience which can release a spirit of connectedness and collective openness and recalls the large rhythmic patterns that connect all beings to nature and society, and the awakening of mind and body. It releases serenity and a spirit of hope and collective openness. It celebrates love and the amorous and erotic embrace between lovers and with nature. The structure of ancient sunrise rituals, such as Vedic hymns and yogic mantras are embedded in the work, the spoken lines for instance, are articulated around explicit and vocalised breath patterns. Breath and breathing in this sense function as a physical and surrounding connective element between performers and the audience.

However dawn can also bring about an imminent experience of separation, a dreaded return to the realities of one’s life, and as such it can also be a time of despair and intense loneliness, especially in contemporary society or when exposed to very unstable situations (asylum seeking, depression and suicidal thoughts, homelessness…). These dimensions of loss are intimately at work in the piece.

Aerial shot of Caroline Bergvall performing in London with audience seated on green chairs.

Ragadawn, Estuary Festival (Southend). Photograph by Thierry Bal, 2016

A collective and interactive breakfast is hosted immediately following the sunrise performance, to encourage the sharing of this event and meeting the day together with friends and strangers. The sharing of the food is a way for the audience to connect with each other and to engage with the local community, including businesses. This is a natural extension of getting up to experience the work and of renewing one’s knowledge of and connection to one’s own area. The post-performance breakfast is integral to the performance. In very simple but concerted ways it will be designed to deepen the audience’s ownership of the shared collective space achieved by the work.