David's picks on spring performing arts

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The Jamestown 2007 celebration and the 11th annual Virginia Arts Festival provide plenty of artistic highs in the coming months. They add to the other colorful spring palette of performances we've got going on around here. Here are five things I'm looking forward to.

Gil Shaham

One of our country's most talented violinists makes two stops in Hampton Roads this month. He'll appear with the conductor-less Orpheus Chamber Orchestra on Wednesday at the Ferguson Center for the Arts in Newport News. On that program is the popular Beethoven Violin Concerto, the same piece Shaham and the ensemble will be playing in New York's Carnegie Hall three days later.

Shaham returns on April 19 with some of chamber music's brightest stars in an all-Brahms program at Ohef Sholom Temple in Norfolk. The unusual program includes a horn trio; two songs for alto, viola and piano; and a clarinet quintet. His sister, pianist Orli Shaham, along with violinist Adele Anthony and violist Paul Neubauer, will be part of the ensemble.

Aquila Theatre Company

Clever and inventive, The Aquila Theatre Company brings two productions, "The Canterbury Tales" and "Romeo and Juliet," to The American Theatre in Hampton later this month. Made up of British and American actors, the troupe was founded in London and 1991 and now makes its home in New York City.

The company's works has been praised for their slapstick humor, pared down theatrics and ingenious staging. Choose the saucy "The Canterbury Tales" on April 24 or the romantic "Romeo and Juliet" on April 25.

Ella Fitzgerald Music Festival

Newport News and Christopher Newport University are pulling out all the stops for this year's 10th season of the Ella Fitzgerald Music Festival. The most unusual performer on the roster will be vocalist Bobby McFerrin, appearing on April 19. McFerrin will be bringing his vocal group called Voicestra, made up of 12 amazing singers whose voices dip into jazz, R&B, Indian and classical opera genres. The fine acoustics in the Concert Hall of the Ferguson Center for the Arts should make McFerrin and his backup singers shine.

Birmingham Royal Ballet

The Jamestown tributes continue when the Birmingham Royal Ballet brings its lavish production of "The Sleeping Beauty" to town for three performances in May. Britain's leading ballet company will be making its only North American stop at the Virginia Arts Festival. The Virginia Symphony will be in the pit playing Tchaikovsky's enchanting score. As big story ballets go, it doesn't get any better this. Performances May 4-6 in Norfolk's Chrysler Hall.

Jamestown 2007

Instead of looking to the past, the Virginia Arts Festival decided on music for the future when it was asked to program a special symphony concert for the Jamestown 2007 festivities.

The May 11 outdoor event in Anniversary Park near Jamestown will feature the premiere of four fanfares, or short works, written by distinguished composers in this region and beyond. The list includes Adolphus Hailstork, John Duffy, John Corigliano and Jennifer Higdon.

The works will be played by the combined Virginia Symphony and Richmond Symphony orchestras. Also on that historic outdoor program will be Dvorak's Ninth Symphony, subtitled "From the New World."

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