Rowen was born and grew up in Barmera, along the River Murray in regional South Australia. Completing his Bachelor of Music Composition at the Elder Conservatorium in Adelaide in 2001, he studied composition and Chinese ethnomusicology with Peter Brideoake, and conducting with Carl Crossin OAM. During this time he also studied voice with Florin Radulescu at the State Opera of South Australia.
Rowen’s love of the theatre developed at a young age. He was a member of the professional children’s cast of the 1994 touring production of The Wizard of Oz at the Adelaide Festival Centre, starring Tamsin West and Bert Newton. In his teenage and early adult years he gained experience as an actor, director and musical director in amateur and semi-professional theatre, including with the Adelaide Theatre Guild, The Bakehouse Theatre and This Rough Magic Theatre Co. He began to write music for the stage and created incidental music for the Bakehouse Theatre’s The Tempest (2002) and This Rough Magic Theatre Co’s As You Like It (2008). He composed the music for the short film Still Life (This Rough Magic, 2003), which was nominated for Best Soundtrack in the Adelaide Short Film Awards in 2004. In 2008, Rowen wrote and produced the short one-act cabaret Six by S*uss for the inaugural Adelaide Cabaret Fringe Festival at La Boheme. Billed as a classical suite for vocalists and chamber ensemble, and staged as a devised music-theatre piece, this work was critically acclaimed as “a remarkable achievement in local classical music and opera”.
Rowen’s experience writing for the stage, and for voice in particular, has culminated in his first full-length chamber opera, Chang’E and the Moon, which premiered in Wentworth Falls, NSW, in April 2016. Chang’E and the Moon has grown out of Rowen’s deep regard for Chinese classical literature and music, and is an inspired retelling of the myth of the Chinese Goddess of the Moon, Chang’E. The opera is also a poem to the physical moon as a part of our landscape, and a meditation on nature’s cycles, reflecting Rowen’s interest in philosophical Taoism.
As a composer, Rowen is most inspired by the natural world and landscape, and many of his compositions are direct depictions of animals, plants, places and scenes from literature or from his direct travel experience. On completing his studies in 2002, Rowen travelled and worked overseas for five years in many beautiful and remote regions, including the Canadian Northwest Territories, Sweden, Scotland, Greenland, Iceland, Germany and Greece. Compositions influenced by this period include his Song for Buffalo, Elegy, Sonata for Viola and Piano and Troll’s Winter. The Australian landscape currently inspires Rowen’s writing, in particular that of his home in the Blue Mountains.
Rowen is passionate about making music for and with his local community. Since relocating to the mountains in 2011, he has expanded his work as a choral conductor. He has conducted the Phoenix Choir in Blackheath since 2012, which has grown under his direction to become the Blue Mountains’ largest non-auditioned SATB voice choir, regularly performing the large-scale standards of the classical choral repertoire. He recently formed the Lithgow Community choir and has worked with other local community choirs including the Heathens, the Leura Singers and the Glenbrook Community Choir. He regularly runs choral and vocal workshops locally and regionally in NSW. He conducted the massed-voice Combined Choir event for the 2014 Blackheath Choir Festival. Rowen also enjoys performing intermittently as a tenor soloist and as a member of local vocal quartet Canon Fodder.
Rowen was a composer in residence for the Sydney Youth Orchestra’s 2014 composer in residence string ensemble program. He enjoys the discipline of composing music for different musical levels and abilities and hopes to expand upon his body of composition for school-age and educational ensembles in the near future.
Rowen is available to be commissioned to write original music or arrangements for any ensemble. His body of work also includes choral and instrumental arrangements and orchestral transcriptions and reductions. Contact Rowen to discuss your performance requirements via the icon at the top right corner of this page.
David O’Brien, dB Magazine, issue #442