BSO Pulse with Rhiannon Giddens

I’m kind of cheating today and combining my New Music Friday post with a write-up of the concert I went to last night. I think it’s fair to say that it’s not that much of a cheat though because her newest album with Francesco Turrisi, there is no Other, came out only a week ago. Add on to that that she also released a collaborative album, Songs of Our Native Daughters with Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell earlier this year and I think it’s fully legit to say she is all over the new music. Though it’s actually a little funny to say that because one of her main goals with her music is to revive the folk music of the past and bring back the history of black string folk music that like much other culture has been co-opted and white-washed. There is a recent New Yorker article about her and black folk music that she said the author researched for 4 years. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I’m very much looking forward to digging into it.

As per usual the BSO Pulse concert started off with a set by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. This time it was a pared down 9 person string section only. They played four movements: Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik, Puccini’s Chrysanthemums, Jessie Montgomery’s Starburst and Bartok’s Divertimento for Strings.

Rhiannon Giddens then had her own set in which she performed with her long-time collaborator Dirk Powell. They switched off between the bango, fiddle, and guitar and played a variety of music off of her albums as well as him singing a couple of his songs. During one of the songs he was singing she got into some knee slapping rhythms and wound up doing some barefoot clogging after which she had a hard time catching her breath after which she said she once spent 6 hours a day tap dancing preparing for a show, obviously not no more. Because I know things I knew she had to be referring to the fact that she was cast to replace Audra McDonald in Shuffle Along when Audra had to leave the show after getting pregnant. Apparently people only wanted to see the show for Audra because the ticket sales tanked and they closed the show before Rhiannon Giddens ever took the stage. It made me a little sad remembering that because I thought her casting was an excellent choice.

Anyway, it was a wonderful night of music. Rhinnon’s songs are very much story songs, and she very much has a way of taking traditional songs and updating them to speak to today. I really adore her. Her set at the Newport Folk Festival a couple years ago was my favorite of that year’s festival, and I’m very excited to see her this summer with Our Native Daughters.

The final part of the evening was the collaboration between Rhiannon Giddens and the BSO. At all the other BSO Pulse concerts I’ve been to there have only been 3 songs where they’ve played together, but last night they did 5 which was a pleasant surprise. They ended the show with a literally breathtaking (you could hear her gasping for breath between long spates of lyrics that I have no idea how she got through) rendition of “Mouth Music” which had everyone in the crowd leaping to their feet and cheering loudly at the end. It was another wonderful collaboration and I very much hope they keep this concert series going again next year.

And now as promised because it is Friday here is the song “I’m On My Way” off of Rhiannon Giddens most recent album.


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