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Soraya Stories

Director Selects: Pulitzer Prize-winning Rhiannon Giddens joins Soraya for her next project

By Thor Steingraber

While we’re in the earliest days of our summer hiatus, 2023-24 tickets are selling quickly during the Member presale. There are few things I enjoy more than introducing you to an artist or a program via our weekly Director Selects. This takes many forms – interviews, videos, links to stories in the press. Today’s starts with a little personal recollection.

This past weekend I attended the Ojai Music Festival, inarguably one of the most important new music festivals in the United States for more than seven decades. Each year the festival appoints a different Music Director to curate, perform, and compose. This year, that was Rhiannon Giddens, the composer, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist. At her Saturday performance, she sang a role in the excerpted version of her Pulitzer prize-winning opera Omar and played a fierce banjo in a segment of traditional music from her home state. That’s a wowing combination of talents.

I have admired Ms. Giddens for more than a decade ago when The Music Center presented her in downtown LA. She combines her down-to-earth musical sensibilities, instilled by her Carolina roots, with some of the most far-reaching and sophisticated musical ambitions. This radio interview with Terry Gross will give you a fuller picture of the remarkable person she is. This is a great listen on your next drive around town. I promise you’ll be enthralled.

When Ms. Giddens and Silkroad Ensemble come to The Soraya, they bring a new piece American Railroad. The transcontinental railroad was one of the greatest technological achievements of the 19th century, and also an immeasurable abuse of the people whose labor built it – the Chinese, Irish, Black Americans, and Native Americans. As she steps into the shoes once held by Yo-Yo Ma leading Silkroad, this is a project of major consequence.


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