Gregory Grene, leader and founding member of Celtic powerhouse The Prodigals, kicks off the 20th annual Cape May Music Festival with his acoustic mix at 8 p.m. Sunday, May 17.

The four-week festival celebrates world-class orchestral and chamber-music performances, plus the popular world-traditions series, and runs through Thursday, June 11. The lineup features the return of the Bay-Atlantic Symphony, Cape May Music Festival's orchestra-in-residence, as well as the New York Chamber Ensemble, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players, the Atlantic Brass Band, George Mesterhazy and Friends and newcomers Grene and the Fabulous Shpielkehs.

Grene, opening a week of Irish and chamber music, performs at the Paul W. Schmidtchen Theatre in Lower Cape May Regional High School, 687 Route 9. General admission is $25, seniors $20 and students $10. Grene, who grew up between Cavan, Ireland, and Chicago, showcases acoustic music with traditional Irish melodic roots and influences ranging from jazz to Cajun.

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"His original songs stay true to the style and tone of old, yet speak to modern life, in some of the most well-crafted and poetic verses I have seen," wrote a critic in Punchline.

The New York Chamber Ensemble is next up. Under the artistic direction of Alan R. Kay, the ensemble promises to thrill audiences with its 10th "jazzical" program, the Jazz Element: "Jazzing Up the Classics" with pianist Ted Rosenthal, at 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 19, at Episcopal Church of the Advent, Washington and Franklin Streets.

Jazz enthusiasts will love Villa-Lobos: Choro No. 2 for Flute and Clarinet; Gershwin's Selected Songs, Ted Rosenthal's Excursions and Impressions (2008), plus jazzed-up versionsof Chopin, Schubert and more. General admission is $20, seniors $15 and students $5. In addition to the concert series, the festival features Bach's Lunches with members of the Bay-Atlantic Symphony at the Carriage House Tearoom & Cafè, 1048 Washington Street, at 12:30 p.m. Wednesdays May 27, June 3 and 10. Tickets are $25.

Here's an overview of the festival:

• The 35-piece Atlantic Brass Band celebrates Memorial Day with a rousing performance of patriotic favorites, at 8 p.m. Sunday, May 24, at the Schmidtchen Theater at LCMR High School. Tickets are $25, $20 for seniors and $10 for students.

• The New York Chamber Ensemble performs "Sun and Clouds" at 8 p.m. Tuesday May 26, at the Episcopal Church of the Advent. Admission is $20, $15 seniors and $5 students.

• The Bay-Atlantic Symphony returns under the baton of Principal Conductor Jed Gaylin, at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 28, with "Maritime Mistral" at First Presbyterian Church, 500 Hughes Street. Admission is $25, $20 for seniors and $10 for students.

• The Fabulous Shpielkehs make their festival debut with an exciting show at 8 p.m. Sunday, May 31, at the Schmidtchen Theatre in LCMR High School. Elaine Hoffman Watts, a third generation batteur, and her daughter, Susan Watts, a klezmer trumpeter and vocalist, head up a crew of klezmer greats. Admission is $25, $20 for seniors and $10 for students.

• Premier chamber players from the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra return to the festival with a program of classics at 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 2, at Episcopal Church of the Advent. Admission is $20, $15 for seniors and $5 for students.

• Internationally acclaimed violinist Christina Castelli performs as a soloist at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 4, at First Presbyterian Church. Admission is $25, $20 seniors and $10 students.

• George Mesterhazy and Friends, Cape May's favorite jazz pianist and Grammy nominee, take the stage at 8 p.m. Sunday, June 7, at the Schmidtchen Theatre in LCMR High School. Admission is $25, $20 for seniors and $10 students.

• New York Chamber Ensemble presents "Songs America Loves to Play" at 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 9, at the Episcopal Church of the Advent. Admission is $20, $15 seniors and $5 students.

• Violin soloist and New Jersey native Sharon Roffman joins Bay-Atlantic Symphony to finish out the festival at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 11, at First Presbyterian Church. Admission is $25, $20 seniors and $10 students.

Cape May Music Festival

WHEN: Sunday, May 17, through Thursday, June 11

WHERE: Various locations in Cape May and Lower Township

HOW MUCH: Admission ranges from $5 to $25. Buy tickets at the venues or by calling 609-884-5404 or 800-275-4278.

MORE INFO: Complete schedule at

Kids cook fundraiser

"Kids in the Kitchen," an annual fund raiser for the Galloway Community Charter School, allows kids from kindergarten through eighth grade to prepare a several-course gourmet meal under the direction of professional staff, at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 20, at Ram's Head Inn, 9 W. White Horse Pike, Galloway. In preparation for the event, students participated in a month-long workshop learning about kitchen safety, nutrition, dinner etiquette and more. Proceeds benefit educational programs at the school. Tickets are $50 and may be purchased by calling the school, 609-652-7118. Donations may be made to the GCCS Education Foundation and mailed to GCCS, 112 South New York Road, Galloway Township, 08205. Go to

Elvis back in the building

Jamie Aaron Kelley, star of the wildly popular "Elvis Story" in Atlantic City in 2005, returns to the region with "A Celebration of Rock 'n' Roll" at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 16, at the Cumberland County College, 3322 College Drive, Vineland. Fans claim they can hardly tell the difference between Kelley's voice and that of the King of Rock and Roll. Kelley won many fans during his run in Atlantic City, one of the more ardent of whom must be Barbara Garton of Millville, who maintains an East Coast branch of his fan club. For information, email her at Kelley's new CD is available at Bogart's Book Exchange and Steelman Photographic, both in Millville, and on the Internet at Show tickets are $40. Call 856-692-8499.

Ahoy, calling all pirates

Young seafarers, grab your eye patch and pirate hat: Sunday, May 17, is a day for you to enjoy the Absecon Lighthouse, 31 S. Rhode Island Ave., Atlantic City. You'll be awed by the exciting swordplay and comedy of "The Quest for the Golden Albatross" by the Philadelphia Fight Ensemble; showtime is 1 p.m. You'll even learn about history while trading quips with notorious buccaneers. There's more - and games, treasure hunt, goodie bag snacks, and a thrilling climb to the top of the lighthouse to look for ghosts of shipwrecks. Admission is $10 and includes the show, climb and other activities. Lighthouse hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 609-449-1360 or check out

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