New Chamber Festival
Chamber music originated as informal after-dinner entertainment, one reason why this weekend's New Chamber Festival Baltimore will be casual and intimate. Beginning tonight, over three days and seven concerts, three premier string quartets -- the St. Lawrence String Quartet (pictured), the Endellion String Quartet and the Flux Quartet -- will perform the best of 20th-century chamber music, including works by Thomas Ades, Leos Janacek and Dmitri Shosktakovich. The Evergreen House (4545 N. Charles St.), Peabody Conservatory's Friedberg Hall (1 E. Mount Vernon Place) and the Johns Hopkins University's Shriver Hall (3400 N. Charles St.) serve as venues. Festival passes are $99 for adults and $49 for students; single-performance tickets are $16 to $20. Call 410-516-7164, or go online to www.newchamberfestival.com.
Just an Average White Band
Quick pop-music quiz: Which 1970s funk / soul band has seen its hits sampled by such current entertainers as Janet Jackson, P. Diddy and even Chris Rock? If you answered the Average White Band, go to the head of the class. AWB, a collection of Scotsmen who took America by storm in the early '70s with hits like "Pick Up the Pieces" and "Cut the Cake" before disbanding in 1982, is back, led by original members Alan Gorrie and Onnie McIntyre. Sunday night at 7:30, they play the Rams Head Tavern, 33 West St. in Annapolis. Tickets are $25. Call 410-268-4545.
Jazz & Blues Festival
Get jazzed up or feel the blues in Federal Hill Sunday. The second annual Historic Federal Hill Jazz & Blues Festival, along South Charles Street in the heart of the Baltimore neighborhood, serves up music, art, antiques and wine from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Jazz lovers can gather near the stage at West Street, where performers include the Dunbar High School Jazz Ensemble, Ramir and the Freedom Messengers and Sin Miedo. Those preferring the blues should head to Hamburg Street, where Red Jones, Darrell Nulisch (pictured) and the Tom Larsen Band will perform. Admission is free. Call 410-528-8888.
Bark in the Park
At its 10th annual Bark in the Park Canine Games Saturday, the Humane Society of Baltimore County will celebrate all things canine in silly and solemn ways. Activities at the society's Reisterstown headquarters include a salute to Sept. 11 search-and-rescue dogs, a canine dance demonstration, and games and competitions for dogs. There's even a celebrity guest: Peyton List (Lucy Montgomery on television's As the World Turns) will sign autographs at 10:30 a.m. Registration begins at 10 a.m.; events run from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $10 for the first dog and $7 for each after that. Humans pay $5; kids 11 and under get in free with a donation of an animal toy, food or cat litter. The Humane Society is at 1601 Nicodemus Road. Call 410-833-2387.
Baltimore Playwrights Festival
Ten plays in 10 weeks on 10 different stages -- that's the ambitious schedule of the 21st Baltimore Playwrights Festival, which gets under way tonight at 8 at the Fell's Point Corner Theatre with Victoria Danos' The Blue Eye of Robert Oppenheimer. Director Barry Feinstein directs this compelling drama about the star-crossed scientist who led the U.S. development of the atomic bomb. Oppenheimer (featuring Cherie Weinart and Chris Graygill, right) runs through July 7. Show times at the theater (251 S. Ann St.) are 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 7 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $10-$12. Call 410-276-7837 (or 410-276-2153 for more information on the entire festival lineup).
'Wet and Wild' Gallagher
Mix cottage cheese with political commentary, add fruit salad, chocolate milk and a hefty dose of social analysis and blend on high for at least two hours -- so goes the recipe for Gallagher's "Wet and Wild Tour." The interactive comedian will cook up a sloppy show (raincoats are recommended) Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre, 25 Hopkins Plaza. A limited number of seats ($29 to $31) remain, so would-be "Gallavanters" should act fast. Call 410-752-1200 or 800-551-SEAT or go online at www.ticketmaster.com. Discounts are available for seniors, students and members of the military.
Bring a lawn chair, a picnic basket, maybe an umbrella, and sit back and enjoy an earful of folk, blues, pop, jazz, rock and soul originals by 43 members of the Baltimore Songwriters Association. On Saturday, the songwriters, in harmony with the Friends of Patterson Park, are holding the first annual Songwriters Festival near the East Baltimore park's recently renovated pagoda (East Lombard Street and South Patterson Park Avenue). The daylong festival begins at 11 a.m. (rain or shine). Admission is free, so leave your wallet behind, unless you want to buy a T-shirt or CD to support the BSA Scholarship Fund. Call 410-455-3822.
Toot, toot for Thomas
Kids usually find Thomas the Tank Engine in the popular books and videos about him and his friends. But this weekend, Thomas and friends Sir Topham Hatt and Devious Diesel will pull into the B&O Railroad Museum for a nine-day stay. Activities from Saturday through June 30 include caboose train rides, a Thomas theater, an imagination station and more. Gates open at 8 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays and at 8:30 a.m. during the week. The Thomas train will run every 45 minutes from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. on weekends, 9 a.m. until 3:45 p.m. on weekdays. Tickets are $7 for museum members, $14 for nonmembers. The B&O Museum is located at 901 W. Pratt St. Call 410-752-2446.