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Britt's new lineup features Bonnie Raitt

Now in its 46th year, the non-profit Britt Festivals remains the Pacific Northwest's oldest outdoor music and performing arts festival.

The hillside estate of gold rush era pioneer Peter Britt forms a natural amphitheater where internationally renowned artists perform every summer.

The season kicks off this year with a first-time event, "Celebrate Britt's 46th Season and Jacksonville" from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 31, in downtown Jacksonville, complete with artisan food, local wine and musicians.

Currently comprised of 39 performances running June 1 through Sept. 7, Britt's 2008 season features artists in jazz, blues, pop, dance, folk, country and classical music.

So far, the Britt Festivals has two performances scheduled at the 5900-seat Lithia Motors Amphitheater at the Jackson County Expo in Central Point: Willie Nelson and a special guest; Joe Cocker and Steve Miller; with more to come.

Among the highlights of the 2008 season are artists who have never performed at Britt, including The Average White Band, Wailin' Jennys, Kelly Joe Phelps and Krista Detor as part of the Under the Radar Festival.

Also scheduled are Crosby, Stills and Nash; Judy Collins; Keb' Mo' and Taj Mahal; Bob Weir & RatDog; Three Dog Night; The Devil Makes Three; Billy Bob Thornton and the Box Masters; George Thorogood and the Destroyers, The Avett Brothers; G. Love & Special Sauce; John Butler Trio, Bill Evans and Soulgrass; and The Black Crowes.

Although most of the jazz superstars in the Return to Forever tour have performed at Britt as individuals, this will be the first time collectively — Chick Correa, Stanley Clarke, Al DiMeola, and Lenny White. Chris Thile has performed with the band Nickel Creek but returns with his new band Punch Brothers.

Returning perfromers include Bonnie Raitt, Joe Cocker, Mark Knopfler, LeAnn Rimes and The Neville Brothers, among others.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago will perform works by world-renowned choreographers. The Flying Karamozov Brothers will bring its blend of comedy, theatre, music and juggling for the whole family.

Britt's Classical Festival runs for three weeks (August 1-17), featuring the Britt Festival Orchestra under the direction of Peter Bay. More than 90 musicians journey to Southern Oregon for three weeks to form the orchestra. Bay is returning for his 16th season as music director and conductor.

The season will feature music from Chopin to Shostakovich, guest artists from around the world, ballet music, classic film scores and music that captures the American spirit.

Highlights of opening weekend include: pianist Ingrid Fliter performing Chopin, excerpts from Prokofiev's ballet "Romeo and Juliet," British trumpet player, Alison Balsom, Tchaikovsky's "Serenade for Strings," the Britt horn section playing Schumann's Concertstück, and a chance to hear the percussion players in an exotic piece based on sensuous Haitian rhythms.

For the middle weekend there will be a tribute to the music of The Golden Age of the Silver Screen. Violinist Midori will perform with the orchestra. The Magic Circle Mime Company returns to Britt with a new family program, "The Orchestra from Planet X."

Tickets for Britt's 2008 season go on sale April 1 to Britt Members and on May 12 to the general public.

See brittfest.org or call 773-6077 or 1-800-882-7488. Britt's box office is open 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday thru Friday at 216 West Main St., Medford.

Guitarist and singer Bonnie Raitt is one of the performers who will be highlighting the 2008 Britt season. - Britt Festivals