Savannah Music Festival to make long awaited, modified return

The Savannah Music Festival announces lineup for spring series

Rodney Crowell will play live music during the Savannah Music Festival.
Rodney Crowell will play live music during the Savannah Music Festival.
The choice to get out and enjoy live music again is being presented to Savannah locals in the form of smaller “boutique” performances this year as part of the Savannah Music Festival.

The typical 17-day, 80-some concert series that is the Savannah Music Festival is bringing back their performances in a vigilant way, presenting nine concerts in two venues as a means of getting 100 or so people per concert back to gathering for live entertainment.

“These are – for the most part – really acclaimed artists that are playing for very small audiences, so they’re going to be unique experiences for people,” said Ryan McMaken, Artistic Director, Savannah Music Festival.

The spring season of SMF will be a mix of classical, jazz and American and international roots concerts running May 23 through May 30, held in the Metal Building at Trustees’ Garden and the Trinity United Methodist Church on Telfair Square. Tickets go on sale to the public April 20.

Both the venues are opening with precautions and will have limited capacity seating – approximately 100 festivalgoers for each concert. McMaken said there is an algorithm in place following each set of tickets purchased to create distancing between groups.

“The seating will be spaced out and we have a whole bunch of policies around that try to make people feel safe coming back and making sure we’re not creating any sort of risky environment,” he said.

Additionally, the organizers are working now on plans to live stream many of the concerts in this season, to provide access to those who might not get tickets. More information on that schedule will be going out soon.

The festival starts with two concerts Sunday, May 23 at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Septet with Wynton Marsalis. - COURTESY OF SAVANNAH MUSIC FESTIVAL
Courtesy of Savannah Music Festival
The festival starts with two concerts Sunday, May 23 at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Septet with Wynton Marsalis.
McMaken said the festival starts with two concerts Sunday, May 23 at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Septet with Wynton Marsalis.

Then, following will be:

Tuesday, May 25: Performance Today’s “Piano Puzzler” with Bruce Adolphe and Fred Child, at 6 p.m.,

Wednesday, May 26: Ulysses Owens Jr.’s Generation Y and Camille Thurman & the Darrell Green Quartet, at 7:30 p.m.,

Thursday, May 27: David Finkel, cello & Wu Han, piano at Trinity United Methodist Church, at 5:30 p.m., and Rodney Crowell at the Metal Building, at 8 p.m.,

Friday, May 28: Amythyst Kiah and Jontavious Willis at the Metal Building, at 8 p.m.,

Saturday, May 29: Paul Huang, violin & Anne-Marie McDermott, piano, in Trinity Untied Methodist Church, at 3 p.m., and

Sunday, May 30: Jeremy Denk, piano, in Trinity United Methodist church, at 3 p.m.

“I think it’ll be a great couple of concerts and I’m really excited that they’re willing to play for a hundred people in Savannah,” McMaken said.

Since they can’t do a full festival season right now, he said they’re coming back with this as a start and then planning some concerts in the fall – probably mid-October to late October – at indoor and outdoor venues across town.

“We’ll be able to get back – geez, hopefully 50% capacity levels by that point, if not more,” McMaken said. “We’ve already moved St. Paul and the Broken Bones to that timeframe at the Mercer Theater and we’re working on some other programs for that.”

McMaken said this finalization of the festival was their third shot at scheduling after the defeat from last year’s shutdown just 10 days before the festival was supposed to begin. This year they planned out a ’21 festival and a bigger event for this May, but instead they’re back to small specialty concerts with social distancing.

“We try to mix it up and I think we’ll be doing more and more year-round programming because just the way things are going right now in this industry,” McMaken said. “A lot of people are having to shift what they do; we’re one of them.” The full festival will be back March 24 to April 9 of 2022 with the full season with 80-plus concerts over 17 days, McMaken said.

“I really do hope and believe that we’ll be back to standard programming in the spring of ’22,” he said. “The goal really is to kind of reemerge as COVID will allow us, you know? We were trying to be ready to do as much as we can at this time, and this is it.”

The website went live Monday and audio and video samples are available on every performance page. Visit savannahmusicfestival.org for details.

About The Author

Noelle Wiehe

Noelle Wiehe is a dream-chasing journalist from Ohio. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts with a focus in journalism from the University of Cincinnati and attended the United States Army's Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Maryland. A U.S. Army veteran, Wiehe has a passion for sharing stories of local heroes,...
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