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Unplugged: Magical, unscripted moments at Savannah Music Festival

  • Leyla McCalla at Savannah Music Festival. (Photo courtesy SMF/Elizabeth Leitzell)
 

Unplugged: Magical, unscripted moments at Savannah Music Festival

04 Apr 2017

The second week of the Savannah Music Festival offered some extraordinary moments.

At the end of the “Haitian Roots” double bill at the Morris Center, Leyla McCalla, who had performed a glorious set to open the night, sat down with her cello in the middle of the audience. The amazingly energetic ensemble Chouk Bwa Libète, which had just wrapped up a dazzling 90-minute performance, gathered around her for extended improvisation.

It was one of those magical, unscripted moments that the SMF offers.

I was struck by many other moments during week two: Jason Isbell’s beautiful rendition of “Speed Trap Town” at Johnny Mercer Theatre; the sheer virtuosity displayed by Canadian singer-songwriter Patrick Watson during an improvised song at the Ships of the Sea; and the moving vocals during the encore by 25-year-old Sarah Jarosz, who performed at the Lucas Theatre on a double bill with Richard Thompson.

Thompson took center stage of the Lucas with just one acoustic guitar, and he proved how commanding one talented performer can be. He wrapped up the incredible set with a haunting performance of “Dimming of the Day,” which some of us remember from the 1975 album “Pour Down Like Silver.”

Of course, no one can see all the shows during the packed 17 days of the SMF, so every attendee will find different highlights — different moments that we will remember for years.

As we head into the festival’s final weekend, I’m most excited to see the Argentinian dance company Che Malambo, the double bill of Nikki Lane and Parker Millsap at Ships of the Sea, and “Stringband Spectacular,” the finale of the SMF’s Acoustic Music Seminar.

Yes, the Acoustic Music Seminar is one of the festival’s educational initiatives, but the final show is always of the highest caliber. The participants will include stellar young acoustic performers — some in college and some still in high school — who are poised for great careers.

As if the final days of the SMF weren’t enough, there are a number of other excellent shows this weekend, but one special performance stands out.

Hardy & The Hardknocks will perform at MusicFile Productions’ next Stopover in the Yard at The Grey from noon to 3 p.m. April 8. The lunch and concert proceeds will benefit the Savannah Bicycle Campaign. T. Hardy Morris is one of the most talented and interesting performers right now in the South — I know where I’ll be for lunch on Saturday.

Bill Dawers writes City Talk in Savannah Morning News and blogs at Savannah Unplugged (www.billdawers.com) and hissing lawns (www.hissinglawns.com). Email billdawers@comcast.net.

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