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Britt Festivals announces strong lineup of classical performances

The Britt Classical Festival in Jacksonville will mark its 50th anniversary this summer with acclaimed musicians Sarah Chung and André Watt, a world premiere by a Britt bassist, celebrations of Britt's history and the last concert by Conductor Peter Bay.

Britt Festivals unveiled its 2012 lineup for the Classical Festival Thursday during a party for donors and supporters at Bigham Knoll in Jacksonville.

This will be the 20th and last season for Bay, who announced his retirement last summer.

The 2012 Classical Festival comprises seven concerts under the stars. Rehearsals begin on July 31 and the festival opens Aug. 3. The gala opening night concert will feature acclaimed violinist Sarah Chang performing Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1.

Opening weekend also includes the return of pianist Anton Nel on Aug. 4. Nel's last performance at Britt was punctuated by a rainstorm, during which the audience sat on stage next to the orchestra. The Aug. 4 concert also will include a world premiere of a work by composer and Britt Principal Bassist David Anderson titled, "Celebration."

Pianist André Watts will perform Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2 on Aug. 10. That program also will spotlight four Britt Orchestra soloists on Haydn's Sinfonia concertante.

On Aug. 11, National Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Nurit Bar-Josef will solo with the orchestra in Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto.

On Aug. 12, the Calder Quartet, the new faculty-in-residence for Britt's String Quartet Academy, will perform a recital at the SOU Recital Hall in Ashland.

Closing weekend begins on Aug. 17 with a concert celebrating Britt's history. Titled "Music, Memories, Magic," it will include a new work of "photochoreography" by James Westwater. This 50th season commission will feature historical and modern photos that tell the story of Britt, displayed on three large screens above the orchestra and choreographed to Aaron Copland's "The Tender Land Suite."

On Aug. 18, the Britt Orchestra will perform a concert of "Symphony Pops," featuring music of stage, screen and ballet. In thanks to the community that supports Britt, all tickets for this concert are just $5.

Aug. 19 marks Bay's Farewell Concert. He has chosen a program that replicates the first concert he conducted at Britt in 1992. Cellist Alisa Weilerstein will be featured on Dvorák's Cello Concerto, and the 2012 Britt Festival will end with Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances.

Full program and guest artist information is available at brittfest.org.

Classical Festival tickets can be purchased in a special presale, beginning at 9 a.m. today and continuing through March 15.

In honor of the 50th season, tickets will be available to both members and non-members during this presale.

In addition to tickets for single concerts, the popular Classical Lawn Passport, a flexible package of three lawn tickets, is available. Call the box office at 1-800-882-7488 or 773-6077 or visit www.brittfest.org.

Britt's full 2012 season schedule will be announced April 4. The Britt Orchestra first performed in 1963, under the direction of founding conductor John Trudeau. Today it draws 90 musicians from top orchestras across the country. Orchestra members are housed in host families' homes throughout the valley for the three weeks of the festival.