Clay Jenkinson with the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra, Bluegrass Champions and “Ajax in Iraq” opens this week.

Thanks to the Minnesota Bluegrass and Old Time Music Association, Bluegrass fans are in for a treat this coming Saturday (Feb. 18) with the winners of the RockyGrass Bluegrass Band competition and the Minnesota State Duet Singing Championships share the bill at the historic Chief Theater in downtown Bemidji in a 7:30 p.m. show. The “High 48’s” is an upper Midwest band relatively new to the bluegrass scene having played rock, alternative country, indie rock, punk and jazz and then to bluegrass in 2006. They are the first band from the upper Midwest to win recognition in the RockyGrass competition and also earn the respect of bluegrass groups and audiences across the country. Taking their name from the slang term for boxcars on freight cars, this hotshot and upwardly mobile group of singer/songwriters/musicians play their own tunes and familiar favorites. Band members are: Rich Casey on bass, Eric Christopher on fiddle and vocals, Chad Johnson on mandolin and vocals, Marty Marrone on guitar and lead vocals and Anthony Ihrig on banjo.

After winning the state duet championship this past summer and a stint on Prairie Home Companion, the Cactus Blossoms (Jack Torrey and Page Burkum) have gone on to perform songs of people in country and western styles. Their songs tell of true love and love gone wrong, songs of life and death and the great beyond, in their own words and style. The duet has expanded to a five piece band with Mike “Razz” Russel on fiddle, Liz Draper on upright bass and Randy Broughten on steel guitars. For more information on the sponsoring organization and these performers, click here for their website.

This concert is made possible in part by a grant provided by the Minnesota State Arts Board, though an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and local sponsors Berge Welding & Machine, Ken Berge Construction, 3D Repair, Raphael’s Bakery, Overbeek Electronics and Super 8 Bemidji.

Tickets are user friendly at $12 in advance now at Overbeek’s and Kelsey’s Jewelry and $15 at the door for general admission, $5 for teens and free for children age 12 and under.

Today at 3 p.m., Beverly Everett will lower the baton to begin the fourth concert of the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra’s 2011-12 season, “History meets music: Up close and Unplugged.” Historical re-enactor Clay Jenkinson will introduce the audience to J. Robert Oppenheimer, his times and his music with guest soloist tenor Brad Bradshaw, BSU student Matt Seiberg on the piano, and slides relating to work on the atomic bomb.

Bradshaw returns to the BSO to sing the Holy Sonnets of John Donne by Benjamin Britten which were a favorite of Oppenheimer. It is said that “Batter My Heart, Three Person’d God” is a source of the naming of the Los Alamos site, “Trinity.” Bradshaw will also sing some pop songs that Jenkinson will thread through the fabric of his talk.

One of Oppenheimer’s colleagues on the Manhattan Project was Tom Lehrer who was a mathematician and musician. Matt Seiberg, as Lehrer, will play some piano solos much as Lehrer frequently did to entertain the group.

All of the chamber music on the program relates in some way to Oppenheimer. His favorite composer was Stravinsky; the legend that Oppenheimer was the American Prometheus is presented by Beethoven’s “Prometheus Overture and other surprise pieces to complement and supplement Jenkinson’s interpretation of Oppenheimer, the man.

A post-concert talk back with Beverly Everett and Clay Jenkinson will be a chance for the audience to ask questions. Click here for the BSO website and google Clay Jenkinson “historian” for many sites regarding his work.

Tickets for the concert are $20 for adults, $15 senior citizens and $10 for college students with a valid ID. Children in grades K through 12 will be admitted free.

“Ajax in Iraq,” a play that juxtaposes the warriors of ancient Greek to the young people who are in the modern military, will open Saturday at the Wild Rose Theater, 501 Bemidji Ave. N with show times of 7 p.m. on Saturday, 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 19 and 7 p.m. on Feb. 20 with a $10 ticket price for general admission, Gulf and Iraq War vets will be admitted free. Tickets may be purchased now at the Wild Hare Bistro or at the door the day of performance. Please note that this play is rated PG-13 and for high school age and up. Google “Ajax in Iraq” to bring up sites relating to the play and its author Ellen McLaughlin.