Sound Advice: Rhiannon Giddens' Musical Alchemy is Headed to Cincinnati's Memorial Hall

In concert, the folk musician and her partner, Francesco Turrisi, perform standards and originals in their spare, understated style.

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click to enlarge Rhiannon Giddens plays Memorial Hall on Jan. 18. - Photo: David McClister
Photo: David McClister
Rhiannon Giddens plays Memorial Hall on Jan. 18.

While many people learned how to relax and catch up on naps during the COVID-19 shutdown, others endured in different, more productive ways. Folk musician Rhiannon Giddens opted for the latter option and in a creative flurry recorded They’re Calling Me Home, a Grammy award-winning record of traditional songs. She also published Build a House, her first children’s book.

The North Carolina musician began her career by co-founding the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a popular old-time string trio in which she flourished in songwriting and playing the fiddle and banjo. She also released several solo records, moved to Ireland and since 2019 has partnered with the Italian musician Francesco Turrisi to release two collaborative gems. The breadth of Gidden’s musical interests ranges from studying opera at a university conservatory, composing scores for various orchestral productions and even receiving the MacArthur Fellows Program grant for music in 2017.

They’re Calling Me Home and its haunting eloquence touches on many aspects of Gidden’s career, from her operatic rendition of Monteverdi’s “Si Dolce e’l Tormento” to the old-fashioned grace of the folk standard “Black as Crow” in which Gidden plays the banjo, her main accompaniment. This is an artist who recorded slave narratives on her previous record, researched the history of the banjo and traced how African Americans invented the instrument in West Africa and the Caribbean before it became a primary Appalachian bluegrass instrument.

In concert, Giddens and Turrisi perform standards and originals in their spare, understated style. Turrisi’s voice and skills on the piano, lute and accordion complement Giddens’ arrangements, as the pair collaborate and inspire with their musical alchemy.

Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi play Memorial Hall at 8 p.m. Jan. 18. Info: memorialhallotr.com.


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