The 29th Annual Savannah Music Festival presents 17 days of concerts, recitals, dance parties, film, theatrical and multi-disciplinary productions from March 29th through April 14th, 2018, in venues throughout Savannah’s Historic District.
The first 16 days of the festival feature ambitious classical music programming, extensive world music offerings and a hard-hitting week of jazz and acclaimed Americana and folk music artists, in addition to theatrical productions and films. On April 14th, the final day of SMF 2018, an all-day multi-stage event is scheduled for the newly-renovated event spaces at Trustees’ Garden featuring Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gillian Welch, Marc Broussard, Brent Cobb, Brett Dennen, Septeto Santiaguero, Mipso, Sammy Miller & the Congregation, Betsayda Machado y Parranda El Clavo, Velvet Caravan with special guest Jessica Ann Best and the Acoustic Music Seminar finale, Stringband Spectacular. Block I General Admission tickets for SMF at Trustees’ Garden are $99.50 and VIP Access are $249.50. When Block I allotments are gone, prices will go up to Block II levels.
Americana and Global Roots Music
Bluegrass divas Rhonda Vincent & The Rage and Claire Lynch Band share the stage on opening night, followed the next day by the Mission Temple Fireworks Revival with Paul Thorn Band and the Blind Boys of Alabama. Songwriter-guitarist Margaret Glaspy performs on a double bill with Argentinian composer-singer-guitarist Juana Molina, and Tulsa’s John Moreland shares an alt-country bill with Nashville songwriter-guitarist Aaron Lee Tasjan. New acoustic music projects include Hawktail and the SMF debut of Kittel & Co., guitarist Tommy Emmanuel plays on a co-bill with Jayme Stone’s Folklife and the original production The Voice is a Traveler features Moira Smiley and Anna & Elizabeth.
Rosanne Cash & John Leventhal return to the Lucas stage as a duo and Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives play Ships of the Sea, as do the North Mississippi Allstars. Recent MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient Rhiannon Giddens plays her first theater show at SMF, and Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn return with music from their new project, Echo in the Valley. The music of Mali is well-represented with Trio Da Kali sharing a bill with South African guitarist Derek Gripper (a kora music practitioner), and kora master Toumani Diabaté performing with his son Sidiki Diabaté in A World of Strings, an original production also including Brazilian music played by SMF Associate Artistic Director and mandolinist Mike Marshall and pianist Jovino Santos Neto (who also plays a solo show).
Iberian sounds include the great flamenco singer Diego El Cigala and Portuguese fado singer António Zambujo, cellist Mike Block performs with fellow Silk Road Ensemble music on tabla, and this season’s Latin Dance Party features the incomparable Cuban son ensemble, Septeto Santiaguero. Festival favorites Lúnasa and Tim O’Brien team up for a concert of Irish and Appalachian-influenced music, and Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas play on a double bill with an exciting new all-female acoustic music quartet called The Goodbye Girls.
Chamber, Symphonic, Vocal Music and Recitals
Entering his 15th season as SMF Associate Artistic Director, violinist Daniel Hope welcomes his friends from across North America and Europe for SMF’s annual chamber music series, including a three-concert residency for the Zurich Chamber Orchestra at the start of the festival with soloists Hope, Sebastian Knauer, Kristian Bezuidenhout, Benny Kim, Daria Zappa Matesic, Simos Papanas and SMF Associate Artistic Director Marcus Roberts and his trio. Internationally-renowned violinist Pinchas Zukerman, a musical hero of Hope’s, will perform with his Zukerman Trio alone and in a concert including Hope (their first time playing together). Also for the chamber music series, Daniel Hope & Friends play Alan Fletcher’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, which was co-commissioned by SMF, the Zurich Chamber Orchestra and the New Century Chamber Orchestra.
Recitalists include luminary pianists Murray Perahia and Marc-André Hamelin, 2017 Van Cliburn Gold winner Yekwon Sunwoo and fortepiano virtuoso Kristian Bezuidenhout. Renaissance polyphony devotees Stile Antico return following their stunning SMF 2011 concert, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra makes its 13th consecutive appearance featuring Georgia native violinist Robert McDuffie and maestro Robert Spano. The renowned brass ensemble the American Brass Quintet plays two concerts at the Charles H. Morris Center. Classics from the American Songbook and musical theatre are featured in the return performance of diva Audra McDonald, and in the Savannah VOICE Festival co-production Classical Broadway.
Jazz, Blues and R&B
SMF celebrates the 50th anniversary of Savannah’s Benedetto Guitars with a one-time-only concert featuring Pat Martino, Howard Alden, Chico Pinheiro, Romero Lubambo and “King” Solomon Hicks. Up-and-coming jazz pianists Sullivan Fortner and Chris Pattishall perform in a variety of projects, including the original production entitled Trumpet Masters: Celebrating Louis Armstrong & Lee Morgan with Alphonso Horne and Terell Stafford. Jazz organist Dr. Lonnie Smith makes his SMF debut. Other original jazz productions include the premiere of a commissioned work by Trinidadian trumpet player Etienne Charles for his septet in Gullah Roots, a co-bill with Charleston’s Ranky Tanky. The annual Swing Central Jazz workshop and competition culminates in an all-star concert called Stomping the Blues and the annual Late Night Jazz Jam. Guitarists Bill Frisell and Julian Lage share a bill with their respective trios, and the Maria Schneider Orchestra makes its SMF debut. Lee Fields & The Expressions return to SMF for a special co-bill of throwback soul and R&B with The James Hunter Six.
Theatrical and Film Presentations
In Death of A King, Tavis Smiley delves into the final year of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life in a multi-media presentation with an original score by SMF Associate Artistic Director Marcus Roberts. Performance collective Manual Cinema performs their original work, Lula del Ray, a mythic reinvention of a classic coming-of-age story, and PIAF! The Show features Anne Carrere as Edith Piaf in a production directed by Nice-based theater maverick Gil Marsalla. Films at SMF 2018 include two with original live scores: BiRDMAN LiVE is a screening of the Academy Award-winning “Birdman or (the Unxpected Virtue of Ignorance)” scored by jazz drummer Antonio Sanchez, and “The Goddess,” a 1934 Chinese silent film with original score by Juana Molina. “Terezín: Refuge in Music” featuring Daniel Hope and Anne Sofie von Otter is a documentary about music composed by victims and survivors of the Nazi concentration camp.
About the Savannah Music Festival
A non-profit performing arts organization, the Savannah Music Festival (SMF) is dedicated to presenting world-class celebrations of the musical arts by creating timeless and adventurous productions that stimulate arts education, foster economic growth and unite artists and audiences in Savannah. In addition to year-round music education and broadcast initiatives, SMF produces one of the most distinctive cross-genre music festivals in the world. Tickets for all performances are available online at savannahmusicfestival.org, by phone at 912.525.5050 and in person at 216 E. Broughton Street.