Savannah Music Festival organizers plan springtime comeback with big changes

Long-awaited 2021 concert series is now scheduled for May 18-30 at Trustees’ Garden

click to enlarge St. Paul and the Broken Bones, one of several acts set to play during the 2021 Savannah Music Festival. - COURTESY OF THE SAVANNAH MUSIC FESTIVAL
Courtesy of the Savannah Music Festival
St. Paul and the Broken Bones, one of several acts set to play during the 2021 Savannah Music Festival.
Like an assortment of fare that synchronizes the polarity of the previous year’s live-music cravings, Savannah’s most audibly ambrosial and culturally rich music festival is planning a comeback for its 31st annual season. After its 2020 cancellation, the Savannah Music Festival is set to at last take place again during May 18-30 at the Trustees’ Garden.

With the complete lineup of acts to be announced on Feb. 23, the re-envisioned music festival will look a little different to patrons this year as it attempts to move away from small, intimate venues in light of the ongoing global pandemic.

“As with most organizations and businesses, the Savannah Music Festival has had to adapt due to COVID, and we will continue to do so as needed,” explained SMF Artistic Director Ryan McMaken.

Being designed to account for necessary safety measures and protocols, social distancing, and controlled capacities, this year’s 12-day slate of events will take place largely outdoors. Though the Trustees’ Garden is a familiar setting for the festival, as it was a featured venue for the festival finale in 2018, this year’s alfresco approach is a drastic shift away from their signature propinquity. However, McMaken doesn’t think this new approach will temper reputation nor experience.

“I believe that music lovers are hungry for safe opportunities to re-engage with artists,” said McMaken.

In addition to the festival’s main stage at Trustees’ Garden, chamber music performances with socially distanced, limited-capacity seating will be held at the Trinity United Methodist Church. All events will take place rain or shine, and the festival is also exploring additional off-season concerts to take place at outdoor venues, such as the North Garden at the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum.

“We all just have to be as adaptable and flexible as possible,” said McMaken.

This flexibility to expectation also includes livestream viewing options, contact-free event entry, and heightened safety measures. According to the festival, these decisions - like the postponement from its typical March/April time frame - was made with the following considerations: to minimize the chances of cancellations and potential rescheduling, to address the concerns of many artists about possible travel restrictions, and to allow patrons to plan their attendance with more information about festival safety protocols.

“Since March 11th of 2020, when it became clear that our season needed to be canceled, our team began working on various scenarios and ‘what if’ plans,” said McMaken. “Due to that work, a strong team and incredible support from our board and patrons, we’re confident that the organization will emerge from this challenging experience as strong as ever.”

click to enlarge The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, one of several acts set to play during the 2021 Savannah Music Festival. - COURTESY OF THE SAVANNAH MUSIC FESTIVAL
Courtesy of the Savannah Music Festival
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, one of several acts set to play during the 2021 Savannah Music Festival.
What will be familiar to festivalgoers is the usual assortment of classical, American/roots/acoustic, and jazz music. Featured artists announced so far include Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Béla Fleck & The Flecktones, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. Additionally, the festival will include other exemplary jazz artists including Christian McBride & Inside Straight, as well as classical duo David Finckel & Wu Han and Associate Artistic Director Mike Marshall in a special Stringband Spectacular performance.

Those on the edge of their seats for the announcement of the full lineup can anticipate rock ’n’ roll acts and a variety of world music, as in years past when musicians have visited Savannah from 19 countries and five continents.

Ticket pre-sales for the 2021 Savannah Music Festival for donors, sponsors, and SMF In Unison members will start on Feb. 24 and run through Wednesday, March 3. Ticket sales to the general public will begin on Thursday, March 4.

Visit savannahmusicfestival.org or call 912-525-5050 for more information, or stop by the Savannah Box Office at 216 E. Broughton Street.

About The Author

Brittany Herren

Brittany Herren is assistant executive director of Savannah-Chatham County Crime Stoppers.
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