Rhiannon Giddens & Silkroad Announce Debut Tour of ‘American Railroad’

By Afton Wooten

Photo credit: Adam Gurczak

Silkroad announced its debut tour of “American Railroad.”

Beginning Nov. 5, Grammy Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning Rhiannon Giddens and the Grammy Award-winning Silkroad Ensemble will embark on a multi-city U.S. tour. The program includes three new commissions by Cécile McLorin Salvant, Suzanne Kite, and Silkroad artist Wu Man, as well as re-envisioned arrangements by Giddens and fellow Silkroad artists Haruka Fujii and Maeve Gilchrist. Giddens’s new arrangement is broken into vignettes interspersed throughout the program. It is inspired by “Swannanoa Tunnel,” a work song from the African Americans forced to labor on the North Carolina railroad — a tune long associated with bluegrass and folk artists.

This next phase of the multi-year “American Railroad” initiative will combine live performances with educational and community-based activities while on tour. Select stops along the tour are complemented by residencies at local universities featuring guest lectures, panel discussions, master classes, and open rehearsals. Highlighted in the Los Angeles area is Silkroad artist Mazz Swift’s Project MUSIC (Music Uniting Strangers Into Community), workshop, which partners with the justice system to bring shared musical experiences to carceral communities across the country.

Preparation for these events took place in the form of artist retreats, site visits, and workshops across the nation. Participants engaged in historical and cultural research, which informs the overall storytelling and the commissions specifically. All additional research and commissions on the “American Railroad” tour come from female-identifying or non-binary artists.

The first tour takes place Nov. 5-18 with most concert dates in California. A second tour is planned for the fall of 2024, with dates up and down the East Coast and in the Midwest of the United States.