Savannah Music Festival announces acts for 31st season

Entertainment News

SAVANNAH, Ga (WSAV) – Wednesday the Savannah Music Festival (SMF) announced several performers and performances scheduled to entertain the crowds for the festival’s 31st season.

According to SMF, noteworthy performances include: orchestral and chamber concerts commemorating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth; a first-time trio showcase of fiddlers; a bluegrass concert honoring Doc Watson; a celebration of fado, flamenco and their offshoots; and an evening of Afro-Cuban sounds.

The 2020 festival runs March 26 through April 11, including performances in venues throughout Savannah’s historic district.

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Below you will find details about the visiting artists and performance dates:

Classical and Dance

In his first season as Artistic Advisor, Philip Dukes builds on the incredible legacy of his predecessor and colleague, violinist Daniel Hope, to curate SMF’s core chamber music series. The first three explore themes of fantasy and drama (“Tales of the Unexpected,” March 30), love and romance (“From Prussia with Love,” April 1), and loss and tragedy (“Futility of Conflict,” April 3). Closing this four-concert series is an all-Beethoven extravaganza, showcasing some of the revered composer’s most celebrated works for piano and strings (April 5). The artist roster for this year’s chamber music series includes: violinists Giovanni Guzzo and Benny Kim; violists Robin Ashwell and Philip Dukes; cellists Eric Kim and Keith Robinson; harpist Bridget Kibbey; pianists Sebastian Knauer, Ana-Maria Vera, and Anna Tilbrook; flutist Tara Helen O’Connor; tenor Benjamin Hulett; and narrator Mervon Mehta.

The Beethoven celebration spreads to two other major classical programs in 2020. In its 15th consecutive season at SMF, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Robert Spano perform Beethoven’s Concerto for Piano No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (“The Emperor”) with soloist André Watts, alongside his Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92 (March 28). Prolific mandolinists Mike Marshall and Caterina Lichtenberg offer a duet program in which they spotlight the lesser-known Beethoven Sonatinas for mandolin and pianoforte (April 3).

The Dover Quartet – comprised of violinists Joel Link and Byan Lee, violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, and cellist Camden Shaw – holds an SMF residency this season, playing three concerts on opening weekend. The first is an all-Bach program with harpist Bridget Kibbey (March 26); the second a recital that features works by Mozart, Bartók and Mendelssohn (March 27); and the third a side-by-side collaboration with the New York City-based Escher String Quartet, highlighting octet pieces of Shostakovich, Enescu and Mendelssohn (March 29).

Classical artists giving solo, duo, or vocal recitals at SMF in the 2020 season include: flutist Tara Helen O’Connor, who is an Avery Fisher Career Grant winner and a season artist at The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (March 31); Dutch-Bolivian-American pianist Ana-Maria Vera (April 2) and Puerto Rican soprano Meechot Marrero (April 4); Venezuelan-born violinist Giovanni Guzzo, accompanied by Ana-Maria Vera at the piano (April 4); festival regular and pianist Sebastian Knauer (April 6); violinist Robert McDuffie and pianist/conductor Robert Spano, who are commemorating more than 20 years of musical collaboration (April 9); 2017 American Pianists Awards winner pianist Drew Petersen (April 10); and Franco-Belgian cellist Camille Thomas, who is the first cellist to be signed by the prestigious Deutsche Grammophon label in over 40 years, with pianist Julien Brocal (April 11).

On the dance front, SMF welcomes back Troy Schumacher’s BalletCollective after its celebrated debut in 2017. This year’s program explores the rapid evolution of communication in our day and age (March 31). The work features three ballets, one of which was choreographed by Savannah native Gabrielle Lamb and the other two by Schumacher (an Atlanta native). Members of the Dover and Escher Quartets perform two of the ballets’ original scores live along with pianist David Fung, and Eliza Bagg performs Julianna Barwick’s score for the featured ballet, Translation.

Jazz, Blues and More

As the largest musical arts event in the state of Georgia, SMF’s springtime offerings extend beyond classical music and dance. Jazz is off to an outstanding start this season with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, led by Artistic Director and virtuoso trumpeter Wynton Marsalis (March 27). Pianist Christian Sands brings his new project, the Three Piano Erroll Garner Summit, in which he leads and is joined on stage by pianists Helen Sung and Tadataka Unno on three Steinway Ds, and is accompanied by bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Terreon Gully (March 29). To complete his three-part residency, the Dr. Billy Taylor protégé performs a solo show and then headlines a set with his trio and Wycliffe Gordon & His International All-Stars (March 30). 2019 American Pianists Awards winner Emmet Cohen performs with his trio (March 31). Chilean-born saxophonist Melissa Aldana appears with the André Mehmari Trio presenting Visions, a program that explores the relationship between her own experiences as a saxophone player and those of Frida Kahlo as a visual artist – both women working in realms dominated by men (March 31). The supremely talented André Mehmari presents a solo piano set, and one of the top jazz and bebop singers on the scene today, Veronica Swift, collaborates with the Emmet Cohen Trio and composer/performer Vilray (April 1).

Other jazz highlights this season include: a tour stop by pianist and NEA Jazz Masters Kenny Barron and bassist Dave Holland, with drummer Jonathan Blake (April 2); the annual Late Night Jazz Jam, with a band led by Emmet Cohen (April 3); the ever-popular Swing Central Jazz Finale, celebrating the origins of jazz in New Orleans (April 3); John Jorgenson Quintet’s gypsy jazz, enhanced by guitarist Frank Vignola and gypsy swing band Velvet Caravan (April 9); and a co-bill by Trinidadian trumpeter-composer Etienne Charles and Cuban artist Brenda Navarrete (April 10).

Blues and funk are peppered into SMF’s new season: singer-guitarist and 2007 MacArthur Fellow Corey Harris, fiddler-accordionist Cedric Watson, guitarist Alvin Youngblood Hart, and guitarist/banjo player Amythyst Kiah share music and conversation during True Blues (March 26); funk pioneer George Porter, Jr. performs with his Runnin’ Pardners and the Grammy-winning Rebirth Brass Band (March 27); and singer-songwriters Ruthie Foster and Marcia Ball co-bill a concert (March 28).

American Roots and World Music

In its 31st season, SMF continues to spotlight the great music of our country alongside that of other cultures. The festival opens with Americana musician Amythyst Kiah in an eclectic acoustic show and a return appearance by the southern rock band Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (March 26). The gospel/bluegrass sounds of Foghorn Stringband are showcased in a headlining show and a co-bill with the fiddle and banjo duo of  Allison de Groot and Tatiana Hargreaves (March 27). De Groot and Hargeaves also headline their own concert (March 28).

Bluegrass and folk offerings abound throughout the 2020 festival. Grammy-winning troubadour Rodney Crowell brings his electric band Ships of the Sea (April 1) and the Mandolin Orange duo performs beautiful, downhome music (April 1). Two of bluegrass music’s most decorated ensembles, Balsam Range and Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, share the stage (April 3), Hawktail plays neo-stringband music in four parts (April 4), and the renowned band Béla Fleck & The Flecktones makes a highly anticipated appearance (April 4). Beloved singer-songwriter Aoife O’Donovan returns with a new collaborative project, “Songs and Strings,” on a co-bill with the Martin Hayes Quartet (April 5). Musical partners Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley impart their mutual love of bluegrass, blues, and country music, while the Darrell Scott Band plays the music of Hank Williams alongside Kaia Kater & Andrew Ryan (April 7).

In a closing weekend that is jam-packed with multiple shows each day, the headliners include: Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe (April 9); Junior Brown and Hot Club of Cowtown, and St. Paul & The Broken Bones (April 10); acoustic guitarist Leo Kottke, and singer-songwriters Sarah Jarosz and Madison Cunningham (April 11).

Other in-demand events include: a live taping of American Public Media’s Piano Puzzler with Bruce Adolphe and Fred Child (March 31); a Cajun Dance Party featuring Steve Riley & Racines and The Revelers (April 4); Stringband Spectacular, a showcase of music written, arranged, and performed by participants in this year’s Acoustic Music Seminar (April 10); and a Zydeco Dance Party with Jeffery Broussard & The Creole Cowboys (April 11).

The festival’s schedule is rounded out by a gamut of musical styles and international performers. In the spring of 2020, SMF holds the following world music shows: a Latin Dance Party with the Grammy-winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra (April 4); a showcase of Irish music by solo violinist Martin Hayes (April 6); a concert of Indian classical music featuring famed tabla player Zakir Hussain, violinist Kala Ramnath, and veena player Jayanthi Kumaresh (April 6); and the Swedish folk band Väsen in two concerts, one of which is a co-bill with Kittel & Co. (April 8).

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