Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi
June 18, 2021
Acclaimed musician Rhiannon Giddens excavates the past and reveals bold truths about our present. The MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient collaborates with Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi and her band to forge exultant sounds from the lullabies, ballads, and folk songs of their native and adoptive countries of America, Italy, and Ireland. The duo most recently won a 2022 Grammy for Best Folk Album for their stirring work, They’re Calling Me Home.
Giddens and Turrisi recorded They’re Calling Me Home during the COVID-19 lockdown in Ireland, where they both live when they aren’t on tour. The two expats found themselves exploring the emotions brought up by the moment and decamped to Hellfire, a small studio on a working farm outside of Dublin, to record the 12-track album over six days. The work speaks of the longing for the comfort of home as well as the metaphorical “call home” of death, which has been a tragic reality for so many during the COVID-19 crisis. They’re Calling Me Home is the follow-up to Giddens’ 2019 album with Turrisi, there is no Other. The duo earned a Grammy nomination for the album, which is at once a condemnation of “othering” and a celebration of the spread of ideas, connectivity, and shared experience.
About Rhiannon Giddens
Cofounder of the Grammy Award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, Giddens’ lifelong mission is to lift up people whose contributions to American musical history have previously been erased and to work toward a more accurate understanding of the country’s musical origins. Pitchfork has said of her work, “few artists are so fearless and so ravenous in their exploration,” and Smithsonian Magazine calls her “an electrifying artist who brings alive the memories of forgotten predecessors, white and Black.”
Among her many diverse career highlights, Giddens has performed for the Obamas at the White House, served as a Carnegie Hall Perspectives curator, and received an inaugural Legacy of Americana Award from Nashville’s National Museum of African American History in partnership with the Americana Music Association. Her critical acclaim includes in-depth profiles by CBS Sunday Morning, the New York Times, the New Yorker, and NPR’s Fresh Air, among many others.
Giddens is featured in Ken Burns’ Country Music series, which aired on PBS in 2019, discussing the African American origins of country music. She is also a member of the band Our Native Daughters with three other Black female banjo players, Leyla McCalla, Allison Russell, and Amythyst Kiah (the Moss presented concerts by McCalla and Kiah in the 2020-2021 season), and co-produced their debut album Songs of Our Native Daughters (2019), which tells stories of historic Black womanhood and survival.
Named artistic director of Silkroad in 2020, Giddens is developing a number of new programs for the organization, including one inspired by the history of the American transcontinental railroad and the cultures and music of its builders. She recently wrote the music to an original ballet for Nashville Ballet, Lucy Negro Redux (premiered in 2019), and the libretto and music for an original opera, Omar, based on the autobiography of the enslaved man Omar Ibn Said for the Spoleto USA Festival (premieres in 2022). As an actor, Giddens had a featured role on the television series Nashville.
About Francesco Turrisi
Turrisi has been defined a “musical alchemist” and a “musical polyglot” by the press. He has released five critically acclaimed albums as a leader and two as co-leader (Tarab, a cross boundary innovative ensemble that blends Irish and Mediterranean traditional music, and Zahr, a project that looks at connections between southern Italian traditional music and Arabic music). His latest piano solo album, Northern Migrations, was described as “delicate, wistful, and wholly engrossing” by the Irish Times. Francesco is also a member of the celebrated early music ensemble L'Arpeggiata and has performed with the group in classical music festivals in Europe and around the world.
Francesco currently performs on piano, accordion, harpsichord, organ, various lutes, cello banjo, and frame and goblet drums, and is equally at home playing with jazz veterans Dave Liebman and Gianluigi Trovesi as he is with Irish traditional sean-nós singer Roisin El Safty and with tarantella specialist Lucilla Galeazzi. Turrisi has toured with Bobby McFerrin, interpreted the music of Steve Reich with Bang on a Can All-Stars, and accompanied flamenco star Pepe El Habichuela and Greek singer Savina Yannatou.
This is Giddens' and Turrisi's first performance at the Moss Arts Center.