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Savannah Folk Music Society preparing for its annual festival
Jesse Winchester
Jesse Winchester - photo by Photo provided

The Savannah Folk Music Society announces the events and highlights of the 19th Annual Savannah Folk Music Festival, to be held Oct. 10-12.

The festival’s signature event, the Sunday concert from 1-7 p.m. on Oct. 12, will be at historic, renovated Grayson Stadium and stars internationally acclaimed folksingers Jesse Winchester and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. The three-day, four-event festival is presented by the Savannah Folk Music Society and the City of Savannah’s Cultural Affairs Department, Bureau of Leisure Services. The entire festival is free to the public.

The festival begins with its traditional “Folkfest in City Market” from 7-11 p.m. on Oct. 10. The Folkfest features a variety of Savannah’s top folk performers making joyful sounds in a number of folk music styles and genre. The evening also features part one of the “Noteworthy Art” silent auction, the sale of several Gretsch guitars, some signed by celebrities and others transformed into unique art objects by leading Savannah artists.

On Oct. 11, there are two big events. At 2 p.m. will be the finals of the “Youth Song Writing Competition.”  This is the culmination of a contest between Savannah-Chatham County youth (under 20 years old) for the best original song in the acoustic folk tradition. Winners divide $1,000 in prizes from event sponsor, Annie’s Guitars and Drums. 

Contestants must submit their entries by Sept. 1.

The second event on Saturday is the “Old Time Country Dance” from 8-11 p.m. at Notre Dame Academy gymnasium. The dance features music from Charleston, S.C., string band, The Hungry Monks and the assistance of a guest caller. Beginners and contra dance veterans are welcome to have a great time. Not a dancer? The music alone is worth the visit.

The “Concert at Grayson Stadium” features Jesse Winchester, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Mad Agnes and The Hungry Monks as well as the winner of the Youth Songwriting Competition. The Oct. 12 concert also includes the second half of the “Noteworthy Art” silent auction. Each of the performers will present two sets, one in an early and one in a later rotation.

Jesse Winchester is the ultimate Southern gentleman. Born in Louisiana, raised in Mississippi and Tennessee, he was steeped in Southern gentility, the church and the sounds of R&B, Gospel and country music. After studying philosophy in Germany, he settled in Memphis, but the Vietnam War critic chose to relocate to Montreal rather than be drafted. There he was discovered by The Band’s Robbie Robertson and he released his first album which included the classic “Yankee Lady.” He became a highly regarded songwriter, turning out hits like “Third Rate Romance” (The Amazing Rhythm Aces) and “Candida” (Tony Orlando). Some of the many to record his songs are Joan Baez, Tim Hardin, Emmylou Harris, Jimmy Buffet, Reba McIntyre, Wilson Pickett, Nicolette Larsen and the Everly Brothers. Perhaps his best known composition is “The Brand New Tennessee Waltz.” Amnesty granted in 1977 enabled Winchester to make appearances in the United States and after 30 years in Canada, he settled back in Tennessee and the South he dearly loves. In 2006, Jesse was recognized by ASCA for his career contribution to folk music.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops are a group of young African-American string band musicians who have taken the world of folk music by storm. They play the rich traditional banjo and fiddle music of Carolina’s Piedmont. Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson both hail from the green hills of North Carolina, while Don Flemons is from Arizona. Under the tutelage of old-time veteran Joe Thompson, the group carries on the long-standing traditions of old-time Carolina string band music and its African roots.

Mad Agnes is the inventive trio of Margo Hennebach, Adrienne Jones and Mark Saunders. This Connecticut-based group stirs up elements of classical and folk, crosses singer/songwriter poignancy with street-theater smarts, and infuses it all with courageous harmonies, complex counterpoint and rich storytelling. From the great festivals like Kerrville and the Birchmere to the great listening rooms like The Bitter End and The Ark, Mad Agnes’ performances have been called “captivating” (Sing Out!), “contemporary and timeless” (The Star Gazette) and “brims with experience and sophisticated musical gifts…funny showmanship” (Boston Herald).

The Hungry Monks are centered on the creative talents of Hazel Ketchum and John Holenko. Plying together for more than 20 years, the Charleston, S.C., group features guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, whistle, bohdran and vocals. They play traditional, contemporary and original music, drawing on Celtic, medieval, Renaissance, folk, blues, classical and jazz influences. The Hungry Monks have been featured on TV and radio throughout the U.S. and performed all over in clubs, contra dances, festivals and concert series. They are also music educators.

For more information, call (912) 786-6953 visit