History/Heritage

Savannah - A Mecca of Music, History and Spanish Moss

Savannah is a city with a rich musical heritage. Back in 1859, Lord James Pierpont published his song, “Jingle Bells,” while working as organist and music director of the local Unitarian church. Johnny Mercer, the celebrated American composer and lyricist, grew up on Savannah’s Burnside Island, which overlooks Back River, and in honor of his Academy Award-winning song, “Moon River,” written with Henry Mancini, the Chatham County Commission renamed a stretch of the Back River “Moon River” in 1962. Several jazz greats have been associated with Savannah including hard bob drummer Ben Riley, bassist Ben Tucker, saxophonist Sahib Shihab and trombonist Trummy Young. Rapper Big Boi, one-half of hip-hop duo OutKast was born in Savannah, and Indie.Arie once lived there and attended SCAD.

Savannah is also home to year-round music festivals. Savannah Stopover began ago as a gig for East Coast bands who were heading to Austin, Texas for the annual SXSW gathering, but in just six short years, the festival has become a destination itself. Recognized for showcasing emerging indie acts, the festival exudes a youthful energy and passion for music discovery. Just two weeks after Savannah Stopover, the Savannah Music Festival, celebrating its 27th anniversary in 2016, kicks off. As Georgia’s largest musical arts event, SMF features more than 100 productions in a 17-day stretch. Classical Voice North America describes it as "...surely the broadest palette of any comparable festival in the world, ranging from country to folk to jazz to chamber...This can be a place to immerse yourself for a few days, with breaks to enjoy the glories of Savannah in peak azalea season."

In early September, Revival Fest, a day-long outdoor party with music, craft brew, bourbon and Southern fare, takes place at the Paint Shop and adjoining grove of the Coastal Heritage Society’s Georgia State Railroad. In September 2016, the Savannah Jazz Festival will celebrate its 35th anniversary with a week-long series of free events in historical locations, including the iconic Forsyth Park. While the Savannah Folk Society hosts events throughout the year, including concerts, contra dances and open jams, its annual festival is held each October.

In addition to the festivals, visitors vacationing among the Spanish-moss draped trees and historical buildings can find plenty of sounds to immerse themselves in from the buskers in the squares to the dueling pianos at Savannah Smiles to the eclectic live music menu at “watering hole” known as The Jinx.

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