The Rapidian

Rhiannon Giddens mesmerized sold out audience at St. Cecilia Music Center

Rhiannon Giddens played to a sold out audience at the St. Cecilia Music center Thursday evening, providing the audience with a very powerful performance focused on the black experience in America.
Rhiannon Giddens and Band at St. Cecilia

Rhiannon Giddens and Band at St. Cecilia /R Lemmon

Jake Blount and Tatiana Hargreaves

Jake Blount and Tatiana Hargreaves /R Lemmon

Rhiannon Giddens performed at the St. Cecilia Music Center’s Royce Auditorium, a concert venue that allows for an unusually personal experience with a performer.  A sold-out audience of 650 got up close and personal as she lit up the stage with her breathtaking voice, her impressive stage presence, and her award-winning fiddle and banjo playing. She was backed up by four seasoned musicians who brought her music to life.

One of the highlights of the concert was when Giddens went off-mic and sang a capella, taking full advantage of the stunning acoustics of Royce Auditorium.

Giddens, who was a founding member and lead singer of the Grammy-winning country, blues and old-time band Carolina Chocolate Drops, captivated the audience with a variety music drawn from the Black experience in America.

Giddens' songs, were mostly taken from her first solo album issued in 2013, Tomorrow Is My Turn, and from her second album released in 2017, Freedom Highway; she wrote or co-wrote nine of songs on the 2017 album. 

Giddens' music is interesting and memorable, and her voice is powerful yet like silk. Her songs are stories about love and life and experiences of generations of Black people. She weaves her love of blues, jazz, country, and gospel music into melodies that had the audience tapping their feet with no less than a half-dozen standing ovations throughout the concert.

While Rhiannon Giddens was clearly the main attraction, special guests Jake Blount and Tatiana Hargreaves led out the show with an unusual, but highly entertaining 30-minute set that incorporated the stories and music of Black and Native American people. Blount and Hargreaves, who started their collaboration in 2017, did not disappoint the audience. With unique songs drawn from early Black performers from the 1920’s and with incredible fiddle and banjo playing, they had the audience spellbound throughout their short set.

If you have a chance to see Rhiannon Giddens, make sure you take the opportunity to do so. You will not be disappointed. Take time to find music by Jake Blount and Tatiana Hargreaves; it is unique and interesting. Also, if you have not attended a concert in Royce Auditorium at St. Cecilia Music Center, 26 Ransom NE in downtown Grand Rapids, you need to make plans to do so. If you like getting up and close with a performer, this is the venue!

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