Savannah and Knoxville music festivals are back, with high hopes

Legend

Leyla McCalla, a Haitian-American, will perform at the Big Ears and Savannah music festivals. The Big Ears Festival, in Knoxville, Tennessee, includes several events dedicated to shared music from Haiti and New Orleans Photo: Greg Miles

Credit: Greg Miles

Leyla McCalla, a Haitian-American, will perform at the Big Ears and Savannah music festivals.  The Big Ears Festival, in Knoxville, Tennessee, includes several events dedicated to shared music from Haiti and New Orleans Photo: Greg Miles

Credit: Greg Miles

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Leyla McCalla, a Haitian-American, will perform at the Big Ears and Savannah music festivals. The Big Ears Festival, in Knoxville, Tennessee, includes several events dedicated to shared music from Haiti and New Orleans Photo: Greg Miles

Credit: Greg Miles

Credit: Greg Miles

At the same time, some artists were added to the late-game schedule, including gospel and R&B singer Mavis Staples and composer, pianist and Harvard professor Vijay Iyer.

The last-minute changes likely won’t bother Savannah ticket buyers, who often wait to pull the trigger, McMaken said. “Savannah is always described as a last-minute city, and now it’s even more so.”

In Knoxville, the Big Ears festival, founded in 2009, has come back stronger than ever, selling out all tickets for the four-day event since last month.

“We’ve never really sold out before,” said founder and executive director Ashley Capps, who is also co-founder of the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.

There will be approximately 200 performances during the festival, which takes place at a dozen venues and two outdoor venues in a pedestrian zone in downtown Knoxville.

This year’s festival features eight different sets from the work of eminent composer/saxophonist/bandleader John Zorn, including appearances by Zorn with jazz guitarist Bill Frisell and with Zorn’s ensemble, the New Masada Quartet.

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Singer Meredith Monk is among the performers at this year’s Big Ears music festival in Knoxville. Photo: Eli Johnson

Credit: © 2014 Eli Johnson Photography.

Singer Meredith Monk is among the performers at this year's Big Ears music festival in Knoxville.  Photo: Eli Johnson

Credit: © 2014 Eli Johnson Photography.

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Singer Meredith Monk is among the performers at this year’s Big Ears music festival in Knoxville. Photo: Eli Johnson

Credit: © 2014 Eli Johnson Photography.

Credit: © 2014 Eli Johnson Photography.

Capps said the Big Ears organization had conversations with Savannah during the lockdown, “sharing information, sharing perspectives, thinking about the future. We had a few conversations about co-booking, but none of they did not succeed. We may share certain acts, but independently.

There are a few groups that will perform at both festivals, including Lakou Mizik, a collective of Haitian musicians formed in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, created, according to Savannah’s website, “to communicate a message of pride, strength and hope. to their countrymen and to the world.

Haitian-American singer and cellist Layla McCalla will also perform in both cities, performing music from her latest project, “Breaking the Thermometer to Hide the Fever,” an exploration of Haiti’s first private Creole radio station, Radio Haiti-Inter, whose owner, Jean Dominique, was assassinated in 2000.

Big Ears expands on the Haitian theme with a Krewe du Kanaval street party and parade, a celebration of New Orleans and Haitian musical culture hosted by Ben Jaffe, creative director of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Capps and McMaken are thrilled to see their sister city festivals revived. “Generally, the more the merrier,” McMaken said.

Both festivals have made their mark by presenting a wide range of music – jazz, rock, experimental, folk, classical, international – to audiences who can appreciate many genres, although Big Ears has taken its selections further afield. avant-garde.

With eight shows devoted to the music of avant-garde John Zorn, is Big Ears stalling?

“I don’t really see it as being on a limb,” Capps said, “if anything, I’d say we’re deep.”


FESTIVAL OVERVIEW

The Savannah Music Festival, featuring 60 live performances from Mavis Staples, Lúnasa, Blind Boys of Alabama, Drive-By Truckers, Béla Fleck, CJ Chenier, Bruce Hornsby, the Wood Brothers and many more. March 24 through April 9 at 15 downtown Savannah locations. 912-525-5050, savannahmusicfestival.org.

Big ears, with Patti Smith, John Zorn, Sparks, Animal Collective, the Kronos Quartet, Lonnie Holley and many more. March 24-27. Exhausted. bigearsfestival.org

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