Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and the uncertainty for live events for the foreseeable future, the Savannah VOICE Festival (SVF) will be moving to a completely online format for the 2020 edition of the festival while also continuing a partnership with the city of Savannah and Mayor Van Johnson, according to a press release from the organization.
The online format was installed in early May with the VOICE Festival’s “Virtually Live” series, according to a release. The decision to have the entire festival online was taken to protect the health of artists, audiences and everybody connected to the production, housing and feeding of close to 200 singers and faculty members who usually make Savannah their home every August and throughout the year. A recent presentation on behalf of an expert panel, assembled by the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), concluded that, “there is no safe way for singers to sing together until there is a COVID-19 vaccine and a 95% effective treatment in place.”
The new initiative with the city of Savannah will be called “Art Matters: We have a VOICE” and brings a focus to artists and cultural arts institutions in Savannah that have been hard hit by the pandemic, and communicates the ongoing importance, validity and contribution of art to the economy, culture and heart of our community.
“This August, we will continue to provide great programming of opera, musical theater and song with singers from all around the globe,” Savannah VOICE Festival co-founder and Executive Director Maria Zouves said in the release. “However, due to the important and ongoing need for social distancing, especially in our field, our educational programs and outreach as well as professional events, will be creatively reconstructed to continue the successful, new online formatting, which has led to SVF reaching global audiences. We have introduced the initiative of ’Art Matters: We have a VOICE,’ to give a voice to the importance of nurturing art, artists and audiences, as well as protecting the future of artists and the vocal arts. We need to adapt to a new normal during these challenging times. Our organization remains committed to offering the highest quality performances, intensives and outreach online while we all remain safe."
Slated for Aug. 8-22
The Savannah VOICE Festival will take place Aug. 8-22 and will be preceded by a two-week-long online studio where artists, who normally relocate to Savannah for a training program, will still receive the highest quality online classes and coaching from the Milnes VOICE Studio, including VOICE Festival co-founder Sherrill Milnes. He will be joined by faculty from the Metropolitan Opera, Julliard and Manhattan School of Music, among others. Community outreach will continue with online workshops and study guides.
The Stay-at-Home Season — the VOICE Festival's eighth — will include 11 virtual events in a variety show format, each lasting 45-50 minutes. It will still offer the Festival's known and beloved fare; including artist recitals, evenings with a range of composers’ work, an international song night, a virtual celebratory gala and more. Festival favorites such as “Death By Aria,” Broadway concert and “Shooting Stars” have been reformatted for online audiences. Each night will introduce fun segments, including “Postcards from Savannah” — where community leaders join in from iconic Savannah locations.
Events will be free with the option to donate to support the mission of the Savannah VOICE Festival, which is committed to giving the arts a voice. The eighth season demonstrates how “art matters” to society as it focuses its uplifting ability, making a case to keep art relevant and at the forefront of the conversation and in our community, now and forever.
Savannah Mayor Van Johnson will kick off the stay-at-home season with his personal message for lovers of the vocal arts from around the world and, as a musician, is scheduled to make a cameo during the festival.
“I am delighted that the city is partnering with the Savannah VOICE Festival, which is clearly on board with our ‘Savannah Safe’ initiative,” Johnson said. “The founders, artists and board of the VOICE Festival are putting safety first for their singers by celebrating the vocal arts through a digital platform, while putting Savannah in the spotlight across the world. We are looking forward to showcasing the beauty and strength of our community as a home for the arts, and through this online festival we can reach global audiences as we await the warm welcome we will give in person when it is safe to come back to the Hostess City. ’Art Matters,’ is a great theme ... because people matter and we need art right now in our communities. Savannah celebrates that as it safely finds a way through this new normal.”
With over 10,000 classical singers out of work, artists are thankful to the Savannah VOICE Festival for the opportunity to perform online and earn some income during these difficult times, the release stated.
“Art really does matter — economically as well as emotionally. Shared experiences — in person or virtually — keep it vital,” SVF co-founder Sherrill Milnes said in the release. "Had this happened in my time of singing, watching theaters go dark would have been difficult for me artistically, but also economically. I can't imagine what our artists are feeling right now and how our industry will be impacted. Whatever power we have to 'speak' and share music, all of us in our industry is yielding it at this time.
“We are committed to being here for our singers and their health now and in the future as they have committed their talents and hearts to the Savannah VOICE Festival.”
The Savannah VOICE Festival is collaborating with other leading cultural arts organizations in Savannah to promote the new “Art Matters” initiative as the Milnes VOICE Programs celebrate 20 years. Legendary baritone and co-founder Milnes also celebrates his 85th birthday this year, after more than four decades of singing on the greatest stages of the world.
For more information and to support the festival, go to savannahvoicefestival.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 855-766-7273.
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