The Carolina Chocolate Drops performing at BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House. A performance which would include a premiere of Cornbread Duet choreographed by Twyla Tharp and danced by real-life couple New York City Ballet principal dancers Robert Fairchild and Tiler Peck. Whew.
This was happening the same evening as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Awards at Barclays Center so I got off the subway one stop before Atlantic Center but you could still feel the excitement coming off the Center. One young girl, born after Kurt Cobain died, wearing a Nirvana t-shirt was running ahead of her mother towards Barclays. But there was plenty of buzz and excitement at the Peter Jay Sharp Building also. Waiting outside enjoying one of the first spring evenings I took photos of two murals that BAM had sponsored. There would be no photo taking inside the Opera House.
It was so warm that someone across the street had opened her window and was running the fan.
rtb and I had seats in the mezzanine and they were excellent.
First CCD came out and did a few songs while sitting in a line. There was banjo, guitar, cello, and percussion. The latest version of CCD is Rhiannon Giddens (vocals, fiddle, guitar, banjo), Hubby Jenkins (vocals, banjo, guitar, bones, bass drum), Rowan Corbett (guitar, bones, cajon, bodhrán, vocals), and Malcom Parson (cello, vocals). They did a Hank Williams cover, which was slow and easy, about heartbreak (what else?) that suddenly sped up and then slowed down again. One woman emitted a hyena laugh from the orchestra section and Giddens encouraged all of us to make some noise – except when the dancing was happening.
For the Cornbread Duet, the four musicians played upstage while Fairchild and Peck danced together and soloed. The dance was free and easy and so were their black and white (almost Doppler-like) body suits. I immediately thought of Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo (music by Aaron Copland) because of the pure Americana of the music and the dancers’ moves. The audience gave the musicians, dancers, and Tharp a five-minute standing ovation.
When CCD came back out it was in front of huge backdrop with their name on it and a big bass drum behind them (that Jenkins played for one song). This time the band stood and someone backstage came out to dance a few times and Giddens joined her at one point – when she started untying her shoes I got a little thrill of anticipation and then she threw them off and was stomping and flying with joy.
Giddens did the now famous from the concert film Another Day, Another Time Gaelic songs about a wedding and about dancing. Her voice rose and sped up and filled the auditorium with such joy. Giddens is truly a one-of-a-kind. T Bone Burnett approached after the Another Day, Another Time concert and she recorded a solo album with Burnett producing. High praise indeed. As the other musicians move on and spread the traditional music and history, Giddens remains as the heart and soul of CCD.
One of her originals is a song called “Julie,” taken from an actual conversation between a slave and her mistress as the Union Army approaches. It is heartbreaking.
Giddens also performed her version of Odetta’s “Waterboy” again filling the auditorium with her voice. Jenkins sang “Moses Don’t Get Lost,” which he introduced in tone that sounded like Moses, for the love of God, please don’t get lost. Jenkin’s version of “Wild Frisco Blues” was another highlight.
By Carene Lydia Lopez