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Britt Classical Festival 2009

When Friday, July 31, comes around this summer the Britt Orchestra will take the stage at the Britt Pavilion in Jacksonville for the start of the 47th annual Classical Festival. Peter Bay returns for his 17th season as music director and conductor.

Maestro Bay will assemble his 90-piece orchestra from some of the nation's best musicians for the three weeks of music-making under the stars.

Internationally renowned guest artists such as Pinchas Zukerman, Midori, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Christopher Parkening, Lynn Harrell, Samuel Ramey and Frederica von Stade have joined the orchestra each August to present a series of classical music concerts.

This year's season begins with American composer Michael Torke's ("TOR-key") Bright Blue Music. Other highlights of opening weekend include the Opening Night Champagne Picnic, cellist Alisa Weilerstein performing "Schelomo" by Ernest Bloch, and pianist Anton Nel in two performances — an orchestral performance with the Britt Orchestra on Saturday, Aug. 1, and a chamber recital with the Arianna String Quartet on Sunday, Aug. 2.

Throughout the Classical Festival, the orchestra will perform three overtures by Felix Mendelssohn to mark the 200th anniversary of the composer's birth. In the middle weekend of the festival, two guest artists return to Britt. Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers performs Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1 on Friday, Aug. 7, and pianist Benedetto Lupo performs Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 4 on Saturday, Aug. 8.

The final weekend of the Classical Festival includes three concerts with beloved orchestral works by Tchaikovsky, Grieg and Stravinsky. Violinist Philippe Quint performs Glazunov's Violin Concerto on Friday, Aug. 14.

Each season, a Britt family event is offered during the Classical Festival. The 2009 Family Concert will feature Platypus Theatre with the orchestra and a host of special pre-concert activities.

On Saturday, Aug. 15, Platypus Theatre returns to Britt for the annual Family Concert, using mime and unique storytelling to create a fun-filled concert experience.

Closing night features the return of pianist André Watts performing Grieg's Piano Concerto in A.

Before each concert, there are informal pre-concert talks in the lower garden area at 7 p.m. for those who want to learn a little more about the music and composers. Short musical excerpts and lively commentary give the listener a little something extra to listen for in the concert.

Some evenings feature additional special events on the Britt hill such as a catered champagne picnic accompanied by live music.

Tickets for the 2009 Classical Festival went on sale to Britt members Dec. 1 with "Early Bird" discounts of $2 off most tickets until Feb. 16. Tickets go on sale to the general public on May 26.

Britt's full 2009 season schedule, which runs from early June to mid-September, will be announced March 31. The summer-long series features a variety of artists in pop, country, folk, blues, jazz and dance.

Britt Festivals is a non-profit organization that presents and sponsors performing arts and supports those activities through cooperation with educational, civic, cultural and governmental organizations in Southern Oregon.

In addition to presenting concerts, Britt Festivals maintains a formal education program through the Britt Institute. Established in 1985, the Britt Institute hosts a wide variety of learning opportunities through a multi-faceted approach of summer camps, workshops, grade school programs, lectures and adult learning opportunities.

Tickets are available online. They also may be ordered by phone with a VISA or MasterCard, by mail, by fax or in person at Britt's main box office, 216 W. Main St., Medford. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

See brittfest.org for a complete listing of concerts, guest artist information and details on ordering tickets.

Call the box office at 1-800-882-7488 or 773-6077.

The Arianna String Quartet will return to Britt as part of the 2009 Classical Festival. - Photo courtesy of Britt Festivals