Local theater groups and area musicians, returning to community centers and stages after a summer break, will be bringing the music of Handel, a well known Irish band, Shakespeare, children's theater and a variety of other offerings to Northern Virginia.

A bit of Ireland will surface Friday and Saturday at the McLean Community Center. "Irish Weekend" at the center marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Irish tenor John McCormack. On view will be images of Ireland photographed by Washington Post photographer James M. Thresher. The Irish Embassy will give a reception beginning at 7 p.m. Friday. The following evening, De Danann, a traditional Irish band, will come from Ireland to perform. De Danann, a four-member group, combines vocals with true Irish sound made with instruments called the bodhran, an Irish drum; the tin whistle; the bouzouki, a string instrument, and the accordian.

Americana will be the focus the following weekend, Sept. 21 and 22, at the McLean center. Interact, a local acting company, will present "The Campaign Trail," a musical that looks at 200 years of politics. A sampling of songs titled "We're Ready for Teddy Again," "Get on the Raft With Taft," "I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier" and "I'm Just Wild About Harry" will be placed between political barbs and trivia. For further details about the McLean Community Center performances, call 790-9248.

Arlington County Visual & Performing Arts will open their arts season with a 10-kilometer run on Sept. 30. Runners will be contributing to such programs as "Artists in the Parks," which is scheduled for Oct. 13 in Lacey Woods Park. This will be a day of demonstrations, exhibits and a performance by the Arlington Dance Theatre.

Arlington County Arts has a number of theater programs. For the fall season, the schedule includes family, children, and adult productions to be performed around the county.

The Arlington Players will be performing in Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance," which opens Nov. 9. In a fresh version of this musical, the director did not select opera singers, as is usually done, but instead chose players who will emphasize individual characters.

The Children's Theatre has chosen the "Wizard of Oz" as their fall production. They will open that show on Oct. 19.

The Fairlington Players, one of the strongest performing groups in the area, will do the vintage Tennessee Williams script, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." That opening is scheduled for Oct. 26. For further details about all of the Arlington performance schedules, call 558-2165.

For the Little Theatre of Alexandria, the 1984 season marks their 50th anniversary as a theater group. They will be offering tours of the theater, by reservation, on weekdays. Another classic Tennessee William's play will be presented -- "A Street Car Named Desire," which opens Oct. 26. In January, the Little Theatre will present "Send Me No Flowers," which was the first production put on in their current location. For further details, call 683-5778.

The National Players, a drama group from Catholic University, will bring "As You Like It," and "Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead," to the Reston Community Center. On the evenings of Sept. 19 through 22, the works of these two playwrights, William Shakespeare and Tom Stoppard, will provide a chance to compare both classic and contemporary styles of theater. For futher details call 476-4500.

Other events:

The Arlington Symphony will feature the music of Gershwin and Tchaikovsky on Sept. 30 and Oct 28.

The Reston Community Center offers theater, music and community events. For the fall schedule, call 476-4500.

The Fairfax Choral Society fall season will include Haydn's "The Creation," Randall Thompson's "Requiem," and "Celebration!" which will honor the music of Bach, Handel and Schutz. For details, call 442-8212.

The Fairfax Symphony Orchestra will perform Oct. 28 a the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Subscriptions are available to the many varied performances that cover major and minor works. Call 821-8118.