For fans of Rhiannon Giddens, this Celtic Connections performance in conjunctions with the Celtic Connections Orchestra was something very special. Merging folk music with orchestral accompaniment may not seem like the most natural of partnerships, only a voice as uniquely soulful-but-strong as Rhiannon Giddens’ could stand up to the might of a full orchestra – and boy did she match it. Performing some of her best loved songs, like Waterboy, Giddens, the darling of the American roots and folk scene, was able to bring an interesting new twist to her performances thanks to the backing of the Celtic Connections Orchestra – becoming even more awe inspiring than usual. Giddens has a unique talent, wowing the audience not only with her vocal range and incredible ability to bring long forgotten or ancient songs back to the present, old tales and human experiences that remain universal, and of relevance to modern times.
Giddens’ concerts always include moving and important historiographies of the songs she performs. This Celtic Connections gig was no different, as she explained the basis of a number of the songs she sang like ‘At the Purchases Option’ and ‘Lullaby’ – both harrowing tales of black women’s experience of motherhood during enslavement, ‘Lullaby’ particularly poignant with it’s excruciatingly painful lyrics starkly juxtaposed to her angelic, gentle voice. The theme of sharing stories and histories continued in the packed Concert Hall, as the audience were also treated to a performance from Kaia Kater, another immensely talented folk singer, who like Giddens shared stories of oppression and displaced people, including her own Father’s journey as a refugee from Granada to Canada.
This performance was unique and incredibly special. Watching Rhiannon Giddens perform is always incredible, but when backed with an Orchestra, was breathtakingly powerful.