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Countdown to Savannah: A Musical Gumbo

Written by AppalAnnie

In early 2007, we started our official Countdown to Savannah. Each Sunday, we posted a different topic about this special city where we met for our first Great Slow Travel Gathering in Spring 2008.

With 63 posts over 14+ months, we learned a lot about the many facets of this historic, hospitable and intriguing American city. Our weekly posts touched on Savannah's history, famous people, architecture, food, culture, surrounding area and much more. We hope this information acquaints you with Savannah, entices you to visit this historic city, and prepares you for a very memorable trip.

Diverse Music Culture

Just as a rich mixture of cultures, races, and traditions has infused the history of Savannah for more than 300 years, so too does the music of the city reflect this diverse background. The musical name most associated with Savannah, of course, is Johnny Mercer, whose contributions Kaydee has honored previously. While cherishing Mercer, Savannans’ love of music extends in many directions.

Savannah Music Festival

Perhaps this is nowhere more evident than during the annual Savannah Music Festival in the Spring. This festival is distinguished not only by its length – 18 days, but also by the wide variety of musical genres it encompasses. It is Georgia’s largest musical arts event.

The 2007 festival included 109 events – many free - and 587 artists, who performed before a combined audience of 55,000 people! In the classical realm, it presented a wide array of symphonic, choral and chamber music concerts. Additional events featured blues, jazz, country, gospel, cajun, zydeco, and other varieties of “roots” music. Major competitions are also held, as are educational programs for children.

Savannah Folk Music Society

The BIG music festival isn’t the only one in Savannah, however. The Savannah Folk Music Society presents a free folk festival in the fall, featuring local, national, and international performers. The society boasts a membership of over 200 and offers a variety of music and dance events during the year.

Other Festivals and Venues

And that isn’t all! Each September, the Coastal Jazz Association of Savannah puts on the free, week-long Savannah Jazz Festival, highlighting outstanding jazz artists from near and far. Between – and during - festivals, blues and jazz can be heard at a number of Savannah musical venues.

You might, on occasion, get a chance to hear the McIntosh County Shouters from an area south of Savannah. These members of the Gullah or Geechee culture continue what the New Georgia Encyclopedia suggests, “is probably the oldest surviving African-American performance tradition on the North American continent” – the southeastern ring shout. The ring shout may well have served as a bridge between African traditions and later African-American spirituals.

Unfortunately, the Savannah Symphony disbanded for financial reasons early in 2003, though many of its former members perform around the area regularly. The pot continues to simmer, however. So, take your pick, step on out, and enjoy the sounds of Savannah.

Other resources:

Savannah Nightlife and the Arts - Fodor's
http://northbysouth.kenyon.edu/1998/music/religion/religion.htm (Gullah music)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6532403.stm (Gullah/Geechee)
http://www.geecheekunda.com (Geechee Kunda Cultural Arts Center & Museum)
http://www.libertytrail.com/kunda.html (Liberty County Tourism site)


All About Savannah: Links to many information pages about Savannah (where to eat, where to stay, places of interest, getting around town, and more)

Author: AppalAnnie is a retired college professor with interests in people, places, and public affairs; history; music of all kinds (with a few exceptions), especially "classic" folk, blues, bluegrass, and jazz; awesome vistas; Appalachian culture (e.g., folktales and music); and Judaica.

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