In summer, music moves into the countryside, and this is as true in the mountains west of Washington as it is in much of the rest of America. Weekenders seeking a cool escape can blend fine scenery, cozy lodgings and classical concerts at three annual music festivals within a few hours' drive of the city.

Each festival programs sophisticated music, but it is offered in an easygoing style compatible with a lazy summer day.

The Shenandoah Valley Music Festival in Orkney Springs, Va., precedes each concert with an old-fashioned ice cream social. The Garth Newel Music Center in Hot Springs, Va., welcomes preconcert picnickers to its mountainside setting. And at the Bedford Springs Music Festival in Bedford, Pa., performances are held beneath a 1,000-seat yellow and white tent on the lawn of the historic old Bedford Springs Hotel.

Bedford Springs, the most ambitious of the three festivals, has chosen the "Spirit of America" as its theme for this year's six-week season. Concerts will highlight the music of such noted American composers as George Gershwin, Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein.

Now in its second week, the festival is offering a performance of Copland's "Appalachian Spring" this afternoon at 2 p.m. On the four following weekends, programs are scheduled each Friday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. The exception is the Saturday, Aug. 1, concert by the U.S. Navy Jazz Band, which begins at 5:30 p.m. In addition to classical and jazz concerts, the festival features dance, visual arts exhibits, lectures and masters classes, as well as some midweek chamber concert performances.

This is the sixth season for the festival, which is set in the thickly forested foothills outside Bedford in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Once vacationers flocked to the 167-year-old Bedford Springs Hotel for the mineral water. The springs still flow, but today guests at the rambling, 235-room, white frame hotel are more interested in its recreational facilities.

On the 2,400-acre grounds are an 18-hole golf course, six tennis courts, an outdoor swimming pool and hiking trails into the surrounding woods.

The core of the music festival is its 80-member symphony orchestra, made up of professional musicians from throughout this country and abroad. The conductor is Jacques Brourman, who inaugurated the festival in 1982.

The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will perform again this year, as it has each year from the beginning. The company is scheduled to appear July 17 at 8:30 p.m. and July 19 at 2 p.m.

The festival also presents guest performers, which this summer include pianist Ruth Laredo on July 12 at 2 p.m. and, in the concluding concert Aug. 2, at 2 p.m., the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh and the Vocal Arts Ensemble of Cincinnati joining for Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.

Ticket prices range from $10 for orchestra seating to $5 for a place on the lawn. A $22 pass is good for all performances for one weekend. For information: Bedford Springs Music Festival, (814) 623-9001.

The Bedford Springs Hotel, in the process of refurbishing, is offering a two-night package for two people for $272, which includes lodging, breakfast, dinner and festival weekend passes.

For reservations: (814) 623-6121. For other lodging information, contact the Bedford Tourist and Resort Bureau, (814) 623-1771.

Celebrating its 25th season, the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival in Orkney Springs, Va., continues to give the classics a homespun country flavor. Don't let the name fool you -- the location is up over a mountain ridge from the valley and back down again into a tiny wooded pocket of the Shenandoah Mountains.

Two series of weekend concerts this month will be presented by the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra under the direction of William Hudson. Seating is in an open-air pavilion or on the lawn.

The first series is Friday and Saturday, July 24 and 25. Friday's concert is pops, featuring Tchaikovsky's "1812" Overture with real cannons blasting at the finale, a tradition at the festival. Saturday's program is operatic arias. The second series is July 31 and Aug. 1. The program is Broadway hits on Friday and Brahms' First Symphony on Saturday. Also, television reporter Roger Mudd will narrate Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait" on Saturday. All four performances begin at 8 p.m.

Pavilion seating is $12.50 and $10. Lawn seating is $8.

In a special afternoon performance, the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra will present "Peter and the Wolf" Saturday, July 25, at 2 p.m. It is designed for children, and they are admitted free. An adult ticket is $3.

Many concert-goers pack a picnic dinner and enjoy it on the lawn before the music begins. In addition to the ice cream socials, the festival puts on a small arts and crafts show.

For information and reservations, contact the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival, P.O. Box 12, Woodstock, Va. 22664, (703) 459-3396. Phone Monday through Thursday and concert days.

The old Orkney Springs hotel, a resort hotel from an earlier day, has undergone restoration in recent years and is taking guests. The hotel operates on the American plan. The rate runs from $42 to $45 a day per person with the price including three meals. An Irish-flavored brunch concert is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 16, as part of the festival. The cost is $17.50 for music and meal. For information about lodgings and the brunch: (703) 856-2198.

Orkney Springs is just a few miles down the road from Bryce Mountain Resort in Bayse, an attractive recreational complex with lake and pool swimming, golf and tennis. For information: the direct line from Washington, 385-0171, or (703) 856-8150.

A word first about the Garth Newel Music Center's name. It does not honor an obscure musician or even an Allegheny Mountain man. It is Welsh for "new home" or "new hearth," a name given in decades past to the estate where the summer chamber music programs are presented.

The music center, which offers a variety of musical training programs year-round, presents each summer a series of 10 Sunday afternoon concerts in Hot Springs, Va. The first is today at 3 p.m., and they are scheduled for the next nine weeks at the same hour, concluding on Sept. 6. There are three additional Saturday concerts -- Aug. 1, Aug. 8 and Sept. 5 -- each of which begins at 5 p.m.

The concerts are given in an enclosed structure that once was the training ring for Arabian horses, but wide windows bring the outside in. Shaded tables are available for preconcert picnic lunches. The pretty view is west across the valley through Dunn's Gap.

The concerts feature the Garth Newel Trio -- cello, violin and piano -- and, from Aug. 1, the Chester Quartet from the University of Indiana in South Bend. The series has been presented since 1980. Guest performers often are invited to play.

The Garth Newel estate, on a wooded hillside, is about midway in the short drive south from Warm Springs, famous for its still-operating warm-water baths, to Hot Springs, home of the famous Homestead Resort hotel. The countryside is beautiful, and the accommodations -- whether at the prestigious Homestead or the several inns nearby -- are sophisticated. For Homestead reservations, (703) 839-5500. For the Inn at Gristmill Square in Warm Springs, one of the inn possibilities, (703) 839-2231. For other accommodations: Bath County Chamber of Commerce, (703) 839-5409.

Tickets for a single concert are $8 for adults and $4 for students under 18. Reservations can be made by contacting the center at (703) 839-5018.

FRENCH VISAS: The French consulate in Washington reminds U.S. travelers to France that they must obtain a visa before they arrive in that country. Visas are issued at the consulate at 4101 Reservoir Rd. NW Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

You must fill out an application and pay the fee. A three-day transit visa (if you are passing through France) is $3. A three-month visa is $9, and a one-year to three-year visa is $15. Cash, money order or certified check only.

AIR FARES: It pays to keep watch on airline ads, as one Washington traveler discovered recently. Weeks earlier he had purchased a round-trip ticket from Baltimore to Boston for $220. Then he spotted a notice that the airline was offering a one-month sale on fares for the very period he planned to travel. He exchanged his $220 ticket for one that cost only $150 for travel on the same days as originally planned. The airline didn't notify him of the sale and neither did his travel agent.