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Originally published Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 7:04 PM

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30 acts, 12 hours: It's May Day at Town Hall

"May Day! May Day!" overflows with Seattle new-music talent.

Seattle Times arts writer

Music preview

"May Day!May Day!A New Music Marathon"

Thirty new-music acts perform 1 p.m. Saturday-1 a.m. Sunday, Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., Seattle; $5 (800-838-3006 or

"May Day! May Day!"

No, that's not a call for help. It's cause for celebration.

Town Hall will host a 12-hour music marathon Friday-Saturday that features 30 of the finest contemporary-music performers and ensembles in town. "May Day! May Day! A New Music Marathon" — to give it its full name — is just one of many open-house events all over town being hosted by institutions hoping to win restoration-project funds from the Seattle-Puget Sound Partners in Preservation initiative. (See for details on the open houses of all 25 organizations seeking support.)

Organized by local flutist Paul Taub of the Seattle Chamber Players, "May Day! May Day!" testifies to the musical riches in our midst. Almost 150 people will perform, Taub reports, delivering fare that ranges from American classics to freshly penned works getting their first outing.

"I made an effort to have a very broad range of styles represented," Taub says. Although he didn't ask for world premieres, seven were offered, including one by Seattle clarinetist-composer William O. Smith. The "performer-driven" content, he adds, was "intended to show off the enormous diversity of style and talent that is represented in Seattle's (broadly defined) 'new music' community." The suggested "themes" for the event were "politics, pagan rituals, and calls for help in times of distress."

Highlights include John Cage's antic, rhythmic "Living Room Music" (performed by Pacific Rims Percussion Quartet), excerpts from Steve Reich's "Tehillim" (Julia Tai and Musicians), Henry Cowell's String Quartet No. 4 (St. Helens Quartet) and the haunting clarinet solo from Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time" (Sean Osborn, a Seattle Chamber Music Society regular).

The Garrett Fisher Ensemble will reprise two portions of its recent, ravishing, Yeats-based chamber opera, "At the Hawk's Well," while guitarists Michael Nicolella and Michael Partington, trombonist Stuart Dempster and pianist Cristina Valdes are among the featured solo artists.

Other big names: Seattle Symphony violist Mara Gearman (with pianist Vanessa Lee), Wayne Horvitz, Gamelan Pacifica, Byron Au Yong, Robin Holcomb and segments from a new a cappella opera by the Esoterics called "Haptadama: The Seven Creations."

Each act gets 24 minutes. The Seattle Chamber Players close around 1 a.m.

If you're looking for a crash-course introduction to cutting-edge musical activity in Seattle, this is it. (For a full schedule:

The Town Hall open house continues 1-5 p.m. Sunday, with free appearances by Caspar Babypant (aka Chris Ballew) and a miscellany of "writers, thinkers and civic leaders."

Michael Upchurch:

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