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Singers pop up for a contest; seeking time travelers

AMATEUR IDOLS Standing in line outside Symphony Hall yesterday, Brian Duarte still hadn't decided what to sing for the POPSearch judges. ''Maybe 'All in Love Is Fair' by Stevie Wonder," he said, ''or maybe 'Weekend in New England' by Barry Manilow . . . I really love that one." Duarte confessed to a mild case of nerves but said he was inspired to audition for the talent contest by his sister, Tracy Silva, who won last year. ''She just told me to relax and pick a song that showcases my voice," said Duarte. ''I'm usually the one giving her tips." In all, about 150 canaries and crooners tried out yesterday for a chance to sing with the Boston Pops at their nationally televised gig on July Fourth. (A second round of auditions will be held tomorrow.) Inspired by ''American Idol," the contest attracted slightly fewer folks this year, but the judges, including Pops guitarist Jon Finn, Berklee administrator Renese King, and Boston Conservatory vocal coach Beth Heinberg, all said the talent is better this year. (And that was even after hearing Carol Gerard of Tewksbury, the platinum-haired mom who impersonates Marilyn Monroe at birthday parties.) Leaving Symphony Hall yesterday after belting out ''Nature Boy," Susan Farley, a 54-year-old staff assistant at Harvard, said she was pleased with her performance. ''I wish I'd punched up that last note a little," she said, ''but I did the best I could."

RECIPE FOR ORTIZ Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, actress (and Pats QB Tom Brady galpal) Bridget Moynahan (inset), and chef Todd English are featured in separate 30-second commercials for Comcast. The Ortiz spot started airing this week and features the affable designated hitter looking up recipes online and ordering a video on demand. Moynahan's commercial will roll out in June and shows her watching high-definition TV with her mom -- a pro football game, of course -- and later sending her mom video mail. The English commercial will air over the summer. All three celebrities are Comcast customers and will be making appearances over the next few months. The spots were created by Boston-based Element Productions and 8 Beacon Partners as part of a ''Connecting is believing" campaign by Comcast.

GOT THE TIME? Time travel is the ultimate ''What if?," a tantalizing scenario that has been a staple of science fiction and fantasy from H.G. Wells's 1895 novel ''The Time Machine" to the 1985 film ''Back to the Future." But it took a group of current and former MIT students to throw out the welcome mat for visitors from the future with a ''Time Traveler Convention," which will take place tomorrow night at MIT's East Campus Courtyard. ''There's a very small chance that we will see a time traveler," concedes Amal K. Dorai, a 22-year-old MIT student from Lexington. ''But that small chance is why everyone's coming." In fact, Dorai says, the event has proven so popular that the limit for attendees has already been reached (100 visitors from off campus, plus ''a good handful" of MIT students). Whether or not a time traveler shows up, Dorai expects it to be ''a fun evening," with talks from MIT professors. He also hopes to install a plaque commemorating the event, to which visitors from the future could, presumably, one day return.

NYHAN MEMORIAL TODAY Former governor Michael Dukakis, former Globe editorial page editor Marty Nolan, newspaper columnist Mike Barnicle, and the Rev. Peter Gomes are all slated to speak at a memorial service today for the late Globe reporter and columnist David Nyhan at 10:30 a.m. at the Memorial Church in Harvard Yard. Also scheduled to speak is Alex S. Jones, director of Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School, who will announce with the Nyhan family that the Shorenstein Center will administer the David Nyhan Prize for Political Journalism, which will have a cash award.

Globe staff writer Don Aucoin contributed to this report. Names can be reached at or at 617-929-8253.

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