Savannah Music Festival announces 22nd Season with mix of Classical, Jazz, World and Americana Music

The Savannah Music Festival (SMF) has announced the lineup for its 2011 season.  The festival, which has a rich tradition in showcasing wide variety of internationally acclaimed artists that perform from different music genres, will take place March 24 to April 9, 2011. The city-wide event will feature over one hundred performances in multiple venues.

Held annually in historic downtown Savannah, this 22nd season of Georgia’s largest festival – described by The Times of London as “one of the best events around the world”– features two premieres, numerous festival debuts, and the return of several audience favorites from the realms of classical, jazz, Americana and world music. In addition to a wealth of concert programming, SMF gives attendees a chance to hit the dance floor with four dance parties – Cuban, Cajun, Funk, and Zydeco music – scheduled throughout the festival.

“We invite you to experience our acclaimed blend of the finest jazz, classical and international music traditions alongside indigenous southern genres,” remarks SMF Executive & Artistic Director Rob Gibson. “This unparalleled array of performances, combined with the wealth of culture and history that is unique to Savannah, make for an experience never to be forgotten.”

The following are the programs broken down by genre.  A digital edition of the program is also available at this link.


The classical music programs of the 2011 season feature internationally renowned artists performing an array of works; from early music and the baroque, to piano sonatas of the romantic era, to 21st century chamber music. A major classical highlight of the season is the world premiere of Death Cell Memoirs of An Extraterrestrial – a chamber work by Marc Neikrug for violins, viola, clarinet, piano, and actor. This premiere is presented as part of the festival’s five-part chamber series curated by Associate Artistic Director Daniel Hope, which also features an early music program entitled “Sex, Violins & Tales of the Baroque” and works by Schumann, Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Vivaldi, Shostakovich and Joachim.

Grammy® Award-winning soprano Christine Brewer makes her first appearance at the festival in an intimate recital of songs by Gluck, Wagner, Strauss, Britten, Carter, and Horner, and the equally legendary bass virtuoso Edgar Meyer presents “The Face of Bass” – a recital program featuring works by a diverse array of composers, including a new composition of his own. David Finckel and Wu Han, the superstar power couple of the classical world, return to SMF for the fifth straight year to perform Beethoven’s complete Sonatas for Cello & Piano. Louis Lortie’s Savannah debut celebrates the bicentennial of Franz Liszt’s birth in a performance of the epic “Années de pélerinage” (Years of pilgrimage). The esteemed British early music vocal ensemble Stile Antico chronicles the glorious legacy of English Tudor composers, works of the Flemish and Spanish schools, and music of the early Baroque. The Ebéne Quartet celebrates the music of its native France with a performance of Ravel, Debussy & Fauré, a program that earned them “Recording of the Year” and “Chamber Music Record of the Year” awards in Gramophone Magazine. Award-winning Russian pianist Nikolai Lugansky presents his celebrated interpretations of Rachmaninoff and Chopin, Kristian Bezuidenhout gives an all-Mozart recital on the fortepiano, and Simone Dinnerstein makes her Savannah debut performing Schumann, Bach and Schubert.

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s annual appearance at the Savannah Music Festival is always met with anticipation, and this year’s concert features Brahms’ first symphony, Haydn’s Symphony No. 89 and SMF Associate Artistic Director Daniel Hope as violin soloist on the Bruch Violin Concerto.

A new series – Music at 11 – provides intimate classical performances in the historic Unitarian Church on Troup Square that will feature the complete cycle of Beethoven’s violin sonatas and a wonderful array of recitals. Additional featured classical artists of the festival include: the Synergy Brass Quintet; pianist Sebastian Knauer; Irish violinist Catherine Leonard; cellist Eric Kim; clarinetist Patrick Messina; violinist Benny Kim; and cellist Keith Robinson.

Bluegrass and Country

Maintaining its deep commitment to presenting a perfect balance of iconic artists and new forces on the scene, Savannah Music Festival presents long-celebrated luminaries such as Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver in tandem with artists that are transforming and re-interpreting the traditions of bluegrass, country and folk music. The Punch Brothers, featuring virtuoso mandolinist Chris Thile—renowned for his incredible spontaneity and restless imagination—is one of today’s hottest acoustic groups combining bluegrass, pop and classical influences. A double-bill entitled “Giants of Texas Country” pairs the distinguished West Texas country band The Flatlanders with lap steel guitarist Junior Brown’s fusion of the soul of country and the spirit of rock n’ roll. Famed vocalist and songwriter Tim O’Brien leads his band – a collection of Nashville’s finest bluegrass musicians – on a program with prolific instrumentalists The Infamous Stringdusters. The McIntosh County Shouters, a national treasure from the coast of Georgia, present slave shout songs, a preservation of one of the oldest forms of African American cultural and religious expression.

Jazz, Blues and The American Songbook

For the first time ever, jazz pianist Marcus Roberts and his trio – which features Jason Marsalis on drums and Rodney Jordan – team up with the phenomenal cross-genre banjo player Béla Fleck for another “only-in-Savannah” collaboration. Master musicians/educators The Clayton Brothers showcase intricate arrangements, cohesive grooves and engaging, inventive solos on a unique double-bill with Ike Stubblefield’s Organ Trio joined by trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and trumpeter Marcus Printup. Grammy Award-winning vocalist Dianne Reeves and Brazilian guitarist Chico Pinheiro set capture the sheer breadth of global influences in jazz with the only-in-Savannah production “Jazz Meets Brazil”.

Authentic New Orleans R&B and blue-eyed soul come together in the pairing of Rock n’ Roll Hall-of-Famer Allen Toussaint with British R&B singer and guitarist James Hunter, and a one-of-a-kind gathering of three powerful bluesmen takes place when Michael Burks, Lucky Peterson and Sherman Robertson converge to form the Delta Guitar Slingers. Steeped within the gilded and gritty sounds of gospel, soul and funk, the nine-piece Brooklyn collective Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – veterans of such renowned venues as the Apollo Theater, Beacon Theater, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo – will electrify concertgoers on opening night with their authentic, heart-felt sound. Maceo Parker and his acclaimed funk orchestra close out the festival on April 9th with two shows in the 300-seat Charles H. Morris Center.

A powerhouse double-bill featuring two of the great harp masters in the blues idiom, James “Superharp” Cotton and Jerry Portnoy, closes out the 2011 Savannah Music Festival. 75-year old Grammy®-winning Cotton is the only musician alive who played with Sonny Boy, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters; Chicago native Jerry Portnoy is a former member of Eric Clapton’s All-Star Blues Band.

Singer/guitarist John Pizzarelli and his wife Jessica Molaskey, will offer five performances of “The Heart of a Saturday Night”, a rich and refined cabaret program. The music of Sondheim, Gershwin, Berlin, Ellington and Basie are woven together with works by songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits.

Open to the public in Savannah and webcast live for viewers from across the country, the 2011 Swing Central Competition Rounds feature twelve of the most hard-swinging high school jazz bands from around the country. The Finale of the competition will be celebrated with a SMF original production devoted to Duke Ellington’s small band music, featuring some of the world’s finest stewards of swing. Additional jazz artists featured in the SMF lineup are: pianists Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes; saxophonist Houston Person; and percussionists Jason Marsalis, Hans-Kristian Sørenson and Joe Craven.

Going Global

The festival also showcases various musical traditions from across the world. “African Interplay” – a one-time only double-bill of two distinct acts blending African music with western instruments – features great kora master Ballaké Sissoko performing with French cellist Vincent Segal, followed by acclaimed Afropop/jazz guitarist/singer Lionel Loueke’s blend of the traditional sounds of West Africa with elements of jazz and contemporary world music. “Masters of Indian Music & Dance” showcases the talents of two of the world’s greatest Indian musicians – Amjad Ali Khan and Zakir Hussain – on a double bill with the South Indian dance virtuoso, Vijayalakshmi. Hussain, a classical tabla virtuoso of the highest order, will also collaborate with Béla Fleck and Edgar Meyer on a concert program in which the three masterful genre-benders will move with ease among the worlds of classical, bluegrass and world music.

Afro-pop superstar Salif Keita makes his Savannah debut with his bold, electric sound that blends together the traditional griot music of his Malian childhood with other West African influences from Guinea, the Ivory Coast, and Senegal, along with influences from Cuba, Spain, and Portugal. Los Muñequitos de Matanzas and Tiempo Libre channel the rumba of Havana with an Old & New World Cuban Dance Party.

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