Director’s Choice 2014

For many people, the term “music festival” implies a large, outdoor gathering held over the course of a few days featuring numerous bands on multiple stages. Though there are several such festivals that I regularly visit (WOMAD and Festival International are two favorites), attending outdoor concerts is a very different experience, demanding important decisions related to weather, clothing, food/drink and the stamina of standing for hours on end.  

Such events are pretty much the opposite of our Festival, a 17-day endeavor designed to showcase a wide array of musical artistry in stand-alone concerts, offering first class production in intimate settings. Using our gorgeous and historic city as a backdrop, the chance to walk from one venue to the next through beautiful squares during the springtime makes our festival different from any other.

Because I’m charged with programming the festival, I’m always interested in seeing what has piqued the interest of music lovers, particularly as the concerts draw closer. While many events have been sold out for months, several of my favorite musical styles, artists and concerts still have excellent seats available, so I’ve selected some of them below. These will be extraordinary performances.


Rob Gibson
Executive & Artistic Director


Thursday, March 20 and Friday, March 21

Flamenco Festival

If you witnessed the late Paco de Lucia mesmerize the sold-out crowd at SMF 2012, you will not want to miss TOMATITO and his group, who some of us enjoy as much as Paco. The following night will feature the stunning singer ESTRELLA MORENTE, daughter of one of Spain’s great flamenco singers, who at age 33, is a major star. If you saw Pedro Almodovar’s Academy Award nominated film,Volver, the scene where Penelope Cruz sang (lip-synched) the title song, that was actually Estrella’s voice. Finally, SMF commissioned a project called FLAMENCO MEETS JAZZ, led by two of the most vibrant young artists from each tradition, pianist AARON DIEHL and guitarist Dani de Moron, along with the fabulous Spanish dancer, Rosario Toledo. Joined by a Spanish percussionist and a jazz rhythm section, this explosive program will be performed two times only.

Get your tickets:


Flamenco Meets Jazz
> Thurs, March 20 at 12:30pm
> Fri, March 21 at 12:30 pm


> Thurs, March 20 at 8pm


Estrella Morente
> Fri, March 21 at 8pm



Saturday, March 22

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra remains one of the nation’s best orchestras and they’ll make their ninth consecutive SMF appearance with another "only in Savannah" program featuring Robert Spano conducting two masterpieces: Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 featuring Jessica Rivera as soloist; and Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 featuring Daniel Hope. Definitely a festival highlight.

Get your tickets:


Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with
Daniel Hope and Jessica Rivera

> Sat, March 22 at 7pm


Sundays, March 23 & 30,
Wednesday, April 2 and Friday, April 4


2014 marks the 11th year that Daniel Hope, the Mr. & Mrs. Curtis G. Anderson Associate Artistic Director Chair, has been curating wonderful programs for SMF. Daniel’s talent and notoriety have grown exponentially, and just since last year’s festival he played concerts in China, Australia, Brazil, England, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Italy, Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria (where he lives) and the U.S. Among the many compelling things about working with Daniel is that he’s always striving to create different and exciting programs that make our festival unlike any other. This year’s Celebrating Vivaldi concert will feature two orchestral works–Vivaldi’s great A Minor Concerto for 2 violins and Max Richter’s acclaimed "Recomposed," based on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons"–featuring forces from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and hosted by APM’s Fred Child. As a Brit, Daniel knows all too well that two of the 20th century’s most beautiful piano quintets were written by Vaughan Williams and Elgar, which he will perform with friends on English Masterpieces along with lifelong pal Philip Dukes, who leads his own amazing concert celebrating the 80th birthday of his viola teacher, the great Michael Tree, with another chamber orchestra. Daniel had the idea for SMF and the Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Germany) to co-commission a work by British composer David Bruce called The Given Note, and the U.S. premiere will take place in a cross-genre program that brings together guitarist Julian Lage (AMS), bassist Rodney Jordan (Marcus Roberts Trio), cellist Mike Block (Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road project) and clarinetist Jose Franch-Ballester. Daniel closes out the festival with the Savannah debut of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, led by festival favorites David Finckel and Wu Han, in an all-American program that will play only in our festival and in New York City two days later.

Get your tickets:


Daniel Hope & Friends: Mozart, Brahms & Bartók
> Fri, March 21 at 12:30pm


Celebrating Vivaldi: Daniel Hope and Lorenza Borrani with members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
> Sun, March 23 at 3pm


Daniel Hope & Friends: Mozart and Dvorak
> Wed, March 26 at 11am


Daniel Hope & Friends: English Masterpieces
> Sun, March 30 at 6pm


The Given Note
Feat. Daniel Hope, Julian Lage, Mike Block, Jose Franch-Ballaster & Rodney Jordan
> Mon, March 31 at 7pm


Michael Tree at 80: Chamber Orchestra Conducted by Philip Dukes
> Wed, April 2 at 6pm


Destination America: Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
> Fri, April 4 at 6pm



Monday, March 24 through Wednesday, March 26

Ladies Sing the Blues

LADIES SING THE BLUES has been a title used for films, recordings and theater shows, but this special SMF production features two outstanding jazz and blues singers: veteran CATHERINE RUSSELL, daughter of the great bandleader Luis Russell; and the phenomenal rising star CHARENEE WADE, who has been taking audiences by storm at The Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center. Our only visual glimpses into the vocal styles of the great 1920’s blues divas such as Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Mamie Smith are the few rare videos that exist, but this special production will feature these ladies performing with an all-star 7-piece jazz group including remarkable soloists such as trumpeter WARREN VACHE and the show’s musical director MARK SHANE, who’ll also play a solo concert featuring stride and ragtime on March 26th.

Get your tickets:


Ladies Sing the Blues Feat. Catherine Russell and Charenee Wade
> Mon, March 24, 2014 5pm
> Mon, March 24, 2014 7:30pm
> Tues, March 25, 2014 5pm
> Tues, March 25, 2014 7:30pm
> Wed, March 26, 2014 5pm
> Wed, March 26, 2014 7:30pm


Classic Jazz Piano: Mark Shane
> Wed, March 26 at 12:30pm



Monday, March 24

From Europe to Hollywood

Several famous 20th century composers moved FROM EUROPE TO HOLLYWOOD, one of the premises behind this original program devised by Simon Crawford Phillips. Featuring the core of SMF’s phenomenal chamber players within a chamber orchestra including musicians from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, rarely performed German, French and Russian works spanning three centuries will be heard for the first time at SMF. The first half of the 20th century in a turbulent Europe redefined its musical culture, and the 1930’s saw IGOR STRAVINSKY and ARNOLD SCHOENBERG move to Hollywood. Stravinsky often conducted the L.A. Philharmonic while writing his Concerto in D, the first work he composed after becoming a U.S. citizen, along with four other unique works on this exciting evening.

Get your tickets:


From Europe to Hollywood: Simon Crawford-Phillips with Chamber Orchestra
> Mon, March 24 at 6pm


Thursday, March 27

"Best New Artist": Cécile McLorin Salvant

If you’re looking for the next great singer, 24-year old Cécile McLorin Salvant is this year’s winner of the JazzTimes Critics’ Poll as "Best New Artist" and "Best Female Vocalist." About her, The New York Times wrote that "if anyone can extend the lineage of the Big Three–Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, and Ella Fitzgerald–it is this 23-year-old virtuoso." Along with her trio led by Aaron Diehl, Cecile will make her Savannah debut in three different concerts this day, two of which are a double bill with the incredible Christian McBride Trio. This is another "only in Savannah" event that is incredible bargain for the price.

Get your tickets:


Cécile McLorin Salvant
> Thurs, March 27 at 12:30 pm


Christian McBride Trio/
Cécile McLorin Salvant

> Thurs, March 27 at 6pm
> Thurs, March 27 at 9pm


Christian McBride Trio
> Fri, March 28 at 12:30pm



Thursday, March 27 and Friday, March 28

Michael Schade, tenor

Opera and voice lovers will be in heaven on these two evening as one of the most amazing tenors, Canadian Michael Schade, performs two specially-conceived programs with Daniel Hope and Friends. Acclaimed as "the world’s greatest Mozart tenor," Schade recently sang at the Olympics with Renee Fleming and Anna Netrebko. Don’t miss your chance to hear Michael Schade and Daniel Hope & Friends at the 2014 Savannah Music Festival!

Get your tickets:


Daniel Hope & Friends with Michael Schade, Program I
>Thurs, March 27 at 6pm


Daniel Hope & Friends with Michael Schade, Program II
> Fri, March 28 at 6pm



Saturdays, March 29 and April 5


Saturday afternoons have always been one of my favorite times to attend jazz concerts, creating a great state of mind to close out the week. Over the past dozen years, one of our most talked about productions has been Piano Showdown, this year featuring veterans Marcus Roberts and Cyrus Chestnut with the fiery young up-and-comers Aaron Diehl and Christian Sands. All four pianists will play alone and together in a carefully rehearsed but very spontaneous matinee program. Jazz music’s most famous family name is Marsalis, and while Wynton has been a regular and Jason visits annually, eldest brother Branford Marsalis makes his SMF debut with his fabulous, longstanding quartet, a group I always enjoy hearing live for their original interpretations and incessant creativity.

Get your tickets:


Piano Showdown
Feat. Christian Sands, Marcus Roberts, Aaron Diehl and Cyrus Chestnut
> Sat, March 29 at 3pm


An Afternoon with Branford Marsalis
> Sat, April 5 at 3pm



Saturday & Sunday, March 29 & 30

Another only-in-Savannah double bill!

If you want to meet a guy whose passion for his music is contagious, look no further Pokey Lafarge, who blends his rootsy Americana twang and warble with ragtime, country, jazz, swing and a crowd-pleasing energy. In yet another only at SMF double bill, Pokey’s band will be paired with Savannah native Kristina Train and her newest project featuring some of Nashville and Atlanta’s finest musicians, including Mike Mattison and Tyler Greenwell (both of the Tedeschi Trucks Band).

Get your tickets:


Pokey LaFarge/Kristina Train
> Sat, March 29 at 5:30pm
> Sat, March 29 at 8:30pm
> Sun, March 30 at 4pm
> Sun, March 30 at 7pm



Tuesday, April 1


If you saw the virtuosic Martin Taylor last year on a double bill with Julian Lage, imagine that concert on steroids and played twice. Julian returns with friend and fellow guitarist Chris Eldridge from the Punch Brothers, and they’ll be paired with the astounding duo of Frank Vignola and Vinny Rainiolo in a never before program called Guitar Heaven. If you like the guitar, you’ll get acoustic and electric, serenity and velocity, and creativity and showmanship in a program that guarantees to sizzle. If you prefer your music in the daytime, Frank and Vinny will play a longer set in their Noon30 concert.

Get your tickets:


Frank Vignola & Vinny Raniolo
> Tues, April 1 at 12:30pm


Guitar Heaven: Julian Lage & Chris Eldridge/Frank Vignola & Vinny Raniolo
> Tues, April 1 at 6pm
> Tues, April 1 at 8:30pm



Friday, April 4

Africa in Savannah

It’s been 30 years since King Sunny Ade and Fela Kuti bowled over American audiences with their electric African music, and two of the most renowned young African stars in our time will share the same bill at SMF. I first heard the Tuareg rocker Bombino, from Niger, in 2011, when he got 3,000 people up dancing on their feet for an hour. That same year, I saw the dynamic singer and guitarist Fatoumata Diawara give stellar performances to large crowds in Copenhagen and London. They both make their Savannah debut at these two concerts.

Get your tickets:


Fatoumata Diawara/Bombino
> Fri, April 4 at 5pm
> Fri, April 4 at 8pm



Saturday, April 5

Stringband Spectacular

Concluding the festival for the third consecutive year, SMF’s Stringband Spectacular is the culminating concert of a weeklong teaching/playing event featuring 16 of the finest young (ages 14-20) improvising acoustic musicians called the Acoustic Music Seminar. For the past two years, Lucas Theatre audiences have been blown away by this event under the direction of Mike Marshall and Julian Lage. This year’s special guest performers will be the incredible duo of Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott, who’ll play their own complete concert earlier in the afternoon.

Get your tickets:


Tim O’Brien & Darrell Scott
> Sat, April 5 at 12:30pm


Acoustic Music Seminar Finale: Stringband Spectacular
Feat. Mike Marshall, Julian Lage, Casey Driessen, Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott

> Sat, April 5 at 7pm