Virginia Arts Festival Highlights

Victoria Melody: Major Tom

April 14–19, 8 p.m.

Robin Hixon Theater, Norfolk

The road to beauty queen is no cakewalk. The road to champion show dog is a grind, too. Ask Victoria Melody and Major Tom, her basset hound.

Major Tom was a stud on the amateur circuit, but kept finishing last when he went pro. It seemed the judges weren’t keen on what counted, like his personality. He was docked for his ears and ribcage. Melody, a performance artist and filmmaker, started entering beauty pageants to get a feel for his struggles, and created a one-woman, and her dog, show that pricks the hydra-headed cult of beauty, celebrity and competition.

A hit in their native England and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the show sounds like one for underdogs of every stripe. It also has “don’t miss” written all over it.

Plus: Join us for Coastal Virginia Magazine Night on April 16 for an opportunity to get your picture superimposed on a magazine cover to be downloaded at a later date and a chance to appear in an upcoming issue! Plus, from 7-8 p.m. we'll be giving away swag from our prize wheel.


virginia international tattooVirginia International Tattoo

April 23–25, 7:30 p.m.; April 26, 2:30 p.m.

Scope, Norfolk

Looking for a big show? One with esprit de corps to spare?  

With more than 900 participants—military bands, color guards and drill teams, plus Celtic dancers, choirs and massed pipes and drums—the festival’s signature event, the largest tattoo in the U.S. of A., promises to deliver again. Its theme, “A Tribute to Military Families,” will especially resonate in Coastal Virginia.

Eight nations will be represented, with Finland joining the ranks for the first time. Established in 1819, the 48-piece Guards Band of the Finnish Defence Services is the oldest professional orchestra in Finland.

Another first-timer won’t have to travel nearly as far. After years of scheduling conflicts, the Virginia Tech Regimental Band—the “Highty-Tighties”—will finally assemble at Scope. The band has been around since 1893, marched in its first presidential inauguration parade in 1917 (for Woodrow Wilson) and opened the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. That’s on the record. How the band came to be called the “Highty-Tighties” is still debated.

At any rate, get there early. The free “Tattoo Hullabaloo,” with music, dancing and historic displays, sets up on Scope Plaza three hours before each performance.


cyrille aimee​Cyrille Aimée

May 12, 7:30 p.m.

Robin Hixon Theater, Norfolk

First impressions can be heady stuff.

When she was a kid in France, Aimée would sneak out her bedroom window and wander the gypsy encampments to listen to the guitarists who were in Samois-sur-Seine for the Django Reinhardt Festival. She was later taken by the Brazilian guitar, too. Those influences eventually led to the 2007 Montreaux Jazz Festival, where she won the top vocal prize. In 2010, she was a finalist at the Thelonious Monk Jazz Vocals Competition.

For 2014’s “It’s a Good Day,” she was backed by three guitarists (jazz, gypsy, Brazilian) for covers of Rodgers and Hart (“Where or When”), Duke Ellington (“Caravan”), Michael Jackson (“Off the Wall”) and a handful of bouncy originals.

How did it go over? JazzTimes wrote, “It’s impossible to not be charmed by ... her infectious joie de vivre.”

festival williamsburg

Festival Williamsburg

May 21–24

Dubbed “A Baroque Celebration,” its programs and places could hardly be better suited: music of the 17th and 18th centuries at historic Bruton Parish, pastoral Williamsburg Winery and the Williamsburg Lodge.

The festival has put together a like-minded lineup, too. The lauded Quicksilver Ensemble reaches back to the 1500s. The Handel and Haydn Society, founded 200 years ago in Boston, still keeps it real, performing on period instruments. Cantus, a nine-man vocal ensemble, ranges from the Renaissance to this century. Ireland’s Eileen Ivers, called “the Jimi Hendrix of the violin,” knows no bounds—she’s fiddled with the London Symphony and Sting. Pianist André-Michel Schub, a festival fave, joins the VAF Chamber Players.

The icing: Nicholas McGegan, one of the world’s great Baroque conductors, makes his first festival appearance, leading the Virginia Symphony in an all-Handel finale featuring Music for the Royal Fireworks and Water Music.

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