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USA: Savannah Music Festival Moves Up and Outside with Meyer Sound LEO Family

The 17-day Savannah Music Festival is moving up in the world of cross-genre musical celebrations, easily ranking as the largest music-oriented arts event in Georgia and drawing audiences from all 50 states and many European countries. The 2018 edition wrapped up in mid-April, and for the fourth consecutive year all amplified music venues — featuring a varied mix of jazz, world ethnic and American roots styles — were equipped with systems from Meyer Sound. Also, for the first time, the festival was capped with a gala outdoor finale, this year headlining three of the biggest draws in Americana music: The Tedeschi Trucks Band, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, and Gillian Welch.

”Once we started working with Meyer Sound, everybody got completely spoiled by the quality of what they heard,” says Rob Gibson, the festival’s executive and artistic director. ”And, because of all the different styles of music we present, we needed versatile systems that work for any musical genre.”

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit performs at the Savannah Music Festival Finale at Trustees’ Garden

A cross-section of artists heard through the various Meyer Sound systems installed this year at the six stages includes Rhiannon Giddens, the North Mississippi Allstars, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal, Pat Martino, and Bill Frisell. As with the three previous festivals, all sound systems were supplied by Rock-N-Road Audio of Atlanta under the supervision of Roy Drukenmiller.

”To me, the main benefit of Meyer Sound is the transparency,” explains Chief Sound Engineer Chris Evans. ”What we put in is what we get out, with no coloration from the boxes. That’s particularly true of the LEO Family, which for me has been a real game-changer. It’s a huge step forward. You can try to explain the difference, but you really have to hear it, and when you do you’ll notice the difference immediately.”

For the outdoor finale in Savannah’s hillside Trustees Garden, the main stage was flanked by main arrays of 12-each LYON line array loudspeakers with bass support from nine 1100-LFC low frequency control elements deployed as three cardioid arrays. UPJ-1P loudspeakers served as front fills and artist foldback was supplied by MJF-212A stage monitors.

LEO Family also was at work indoors throughout the festival, with the system in the Lucas Theater anchored by 16 LEOPARD line array loudspeakers with lows augmented by four 900-LFC elements. A system of M’elodie line arrays graced the Trustees Theater, point-source systems based around UPQ-1P served up sounds at Ships of the Sea and Morris Center, and JM-1P loudspeakers amplified all acts performing at the outdoor second stage.

”The great thing about working with Meyer Sound is that artists and engineers all love the systems,” summarizes Rob Gibson. ”Sound is of paramount importance for an artistic festival like ours, and Meyer Sound connects people through music in a holistic and meaningful way.”

Classical music concerts, normally not amplified, are another key attraction of the Savannah Music Festival. This year’s featured performers, selected under the direction of noted violinist Daniel Hope, included Murray Perahia, Robert McDuffie, Pinchas Zukerman and the Zurich Chamber Orchestra.

Launched in 1989 as the Savannah OnStage International Arts Festival, the annual springtime event has grown to become a distinctive, 17-day musical celebration with a particular focus on American and acoustic styles. More than 100 performances are scheduled for each festival, and the annual operating budget has grown to more than $3.4 million.

Photo credits to Elizabeth Leitzell.