American Railroad: Silkroad Ensemble with Rhiannon Giddens
Co-presented with Philharmonic Society of Orange County (PSOC)
Rhiannon Giddens, Artistic Director, banjo, voice
Shawn Conley, bass
Pura Fé Crescioni, lap-steel guitar, voice
Sandeep Das, tabla
Haruka Fujii, percussion
Yazhi Guo, suona, Chinese percussion
Wu Man, pipa
Karen Ouzounian, cello, voice
Mazz Swift, violin, voice
Niwel Tsumbu, guitar
Francesco Turrisi, frame drums, accordion
Kaoru Watanabe, Japanese flutes, percussion
Michi Wiancko, violin, voice
Silkroad’s newest initiative, American Railroad, illuminates the impact of African American, Chinese, Irish, and Native American communities on the creation of the Transcontinental Railroad and America’s Westward Expansion. Exploring the dissemination of cultures across the United States, the railroad was to North America what the Silk Road was to China, the Far East and Europe.
These and other immigrant populations played a fundamental role in one of America’s most important technological and economic achievements of the 19th century – and shaped its cultural identity – yet their contributions have all too often been erased from history. This performance will amplify untold stories to paint a richer, more accurate picture of the origins of the American Empire which profoundly reverberate today, and the formation of our multifaceted American identities. As highlighted in the New York Times, Silkroad’s newest undertaking challenges modern perceptions of the American identity by highlighting stories untold and voices unheard.
Led by artistic director Rhiannon Giddens, each stop on the American Railroad tour will contextualize — or rather re-contextualize — the railroad through music. Chinese traditional music on the guzheng, pipa, erhu, and qinqin are contrasted with the fiddle, bones, tambo and banjo of Black musical traditions, or their Indigenous and Celtic counterparts. These cultural intersections reveal a thread of commonality despite their varied origins, and remind us of the intricately rich American story. The program will heavily feature new, original music written by Ensemble members and outside composers.