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Silkroad Ensemble Partners with the Ireland’s University of Limerick

The GRAMMY Award-winning ensemble founded by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, will host masterclasses, performances, and artistic retreats with the university’s students


Silkroad is a global musical ensemble founded by cellist and cultural ambassador, Yo-Yo Ma, in 1998. The group name was inspired by and recognizes the historical Silk Road — an ancient trade route linking the West with the Middle East and Asia — as a model for cultural collaboration.

Their new partnership with Ireland's University of Limerick (UL) will see UL students participate in the creation of a theater work exploring the history, cultures, and music of the immigrant communities who constructed the American Transcontinental Railroad — a focus in Silkroad’s upcoming concerts.

The final work will form part of Silkroad’s The American Railroad multi-year concert, educational, and commissioning series led by artistic director Rhiannon Giddens. Marking the launch of the partnership, Silkroad has begun workshops exploring the stories and songs of Irish railroad workers and given performances also featuring UL’s students. 

Among the initiative’s educational activities, Silkroad and UL artists will unite in Ireland to uncover the Irish community’s impact and legacy on the American railroads by focusing on widely shared and reinterpreted musical traditions since the 19th century. 

“Having worked with [UL] as their artist-in-residence over the last year, I've been dreaming up a collaboration between them and our artists at Silkroad for some time,” Giddens said in the press release.

“Members of our team visited UL’s campus in March — just down the street from my home in Ireland — to begin exploring the intersections of Irish traditions and Irish American music within the context of the American Railroad,” she added. “It’s a joy to continue that journey now in Silkroad’s neck of the woods, and I can’t wait to see what we create together.”

“UL is delighted to forge this partnership with the prestigious Silkroad Ensemble, particularly through…Rhiannon Giddens,” said UL Interim Executive Dean of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Sandra Joyce. “Silkroad’s The American Railroad is a very appropriate focus for the building of our connections. We are delighted to be in Boston and at Harvard to celebrate the partnership and to plan for the future!”

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