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Music Feature



North Carolina Wins Big at the Grammys

April 4, 2022 - Wilmington, NC:


The Grammy awards aired Sunday night, with several awards going to North Carolina artists. The Tar-Heel State had representation in a wide range of categories. With so many wins, and even more nominations, this year's Grammy's showed the world that North Carolina is an invaluable cultural hub. 

Rhiannon Giddens and her husband Francesco Turrisi won the award for Best Folk Album for They're Calling Me Home. This work, born out of COVID-19 quarantine, was produced by the Greensboro native and her Italian husband while living in their home in Ireland. If that sounds complex, just wait until you hear the album! It's a fantastic blend of folk songs, imbued with flavors of Italy, Ireland, and the North Carolina country-side; it almost defies explanation, taking the listener on a wondrous ride and questioning what it means to create folk music in the modern, globalized world. Whether singing about the water "way down in North Carolina" in the song "Waterbound," or during "Nenna Nenna," the a capella Italian lullaby that Francesco sang to the duo's young daughter, Giddens and Turrisi reimagine familiar melodies. They accomplished such a feat so thoroughly and effortlessly, it's no wonder why they took home the trophy.

Another inspiring win came from Caroline Shaw and her work "Narrow Sea," which won the award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. Shaw, already a Pulitzer Prize winner, based her composition off of the 19th century folk and hymn collection known as "The Sacred Harp." She worked with a talented group of musicians, Sō Percussion Ensemble, vocalist Dawn Upshaw, and pianist Gilbert Kalish, to create an evocative, unconventional piece of music. Like Giddens and Turrisi, Shaw's piece reconceptualizes our understanding of traditional songs, making us think anew about tunes we've sung for generations.

The category for Best Children's Music Album was almost completely dominated by North Carolina artists. The winning album, Actívate, from the Latin group 123 Andrés, featured a plethora of artists, including Durham singer Rissi Palmer on the song "I Just Can't Sit Down." Palmer was also featured on the nominated album All One Tribe, along with fellow-Durham musician Pierce Freelon. Freelon, aside from his guest-spot on that album was nominated for his own child-centric project, Black to the Future, which takes the whole family on a musical journey through the history of Afro-futurism, hip-hop, soul, and more.

And finally, the award for Best Opera Recording went to Phillip Glass's Akhnaten, an enormous work that confronts the idea of monotheism through music. Durham-born Anthony Roth Costanzo sang the part of the titular Egyptian pharaoh, and his shared accomplishment with the rest of that team is a major point of pride for North Carolina.

While these are just a few of the winners, North Carolina had several other nominees in many other categories, which you can read about here. Maybe it's the Blue Ridge Mountains, the diverse cultural exchanges, or maybe just something in the water – North Carolina continues to be a major nexus for the development of American arts and culture.