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A tuneful tradition

Palo Alto World Music Day turns 10

Each Father’s Day, University Avenue is closed to traffic and the streets of Palo Alto are alive with the sound of music of all sorts. The annual tradition, World Music Day, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, with musical festivities happening on Sunday, June 17, between 3 and 7:30 p.m.  

As in years past, around 50 musical artists and ensembles will perform on the street corners and plazas of downtown. Jazz, blues, classical, pop, rock, Klezmer, Greek, Balkan and Indian music, plus choral and dance groups and more will be represented. The performances are mostly acoustic, with some acts utilizing battery-powered amplifiers, and the musicians participating all do so for free.

Rebecca Roudman of the San Francisco-based blues and bluegrass group Dirty Cello has taken part several times and plans to do so again this year. She said she enjoys the convergence of such a diverse blend of music in one event, as well as the friendly, casual atmosphere, which allows listeners to come and go as they please.

The festival “is a lot more informal than we're used to, and one funny thing that happened was a very young girl who was watching saw our set list flopping around in the wind. She hopped up, snatched it and crumpled it up and took it away, leaving us to wing it the rest of the show,” Roudman recalled.

“We don't live in Palo Alto, so a fun thing we like to do is pick a different spot near the festival to have a celebratory dinner after each show,” she told the Weekly.

Palo Alto resident Claude Ezran was inspired to create the local event after taking part in France’s Fête de la Musique, which has since spread to more than 700 cities and 120 countries, as well as across the United States (often under the name Make Music). Ezran first proposed the idea when joining the city’s Human Relations Commission a decade ago, gaining the support of former Weekly editor Jay Thorwaldson (the Weekly is a media sponsor of the event) and the Palo Alto Recreation Foundation along the way. A team of dedicated volunteers helps coordinate the day’s happenings.

Ezran is proud that Palo Alto World Music Day has stood the test of time.

“The friendships I have formed with many of the musicians is what is most precious for me. Many of them come year after year despite the fact that they are not paid,” he said. “They love the event and the fact that it is above all a celebration of their art.”

What: Palo Alto World Music Day

Where: University Avenue (between Webster and High streets).

When: Sunday, June 17, 3-7:30 p.m.

Cost: Free.

Info: Go to PA World Music Day.

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