Snowy ChicagoIt’s February, and here in Chicago we’re having a blast of winter the likes of which we have not seen in recent years. February is the shortest month of the year, but the cold and dark make it feel like one of the longest. As my sardonic Irish father often says, “It’s always darkest before the bottom falls out.” As I recently shoveled the ten inches of snow out of my driveway, I could really relate to that.

Last week I braved the cold and darkness to attend a concert. As I took my seat, I tried to warm up and settle into the right frame of mind to hear and enjoy the music. For me, that means taking a mental deep breath, watching people in the audience, and reading program notes. I often attend concerts alone, so I looked around to see how different groups of people prepared themselves. There was a lot of conversation, a lot of laughter, and excited interaction with those around them. Then, as the lights dimmed and the performers made their way onstage, the hall fell silent and expectant. The dark silence we created was the perfect backdrop for the glorious concert those artists gave us. It made the beauty of the music that much more exquisite.

Francis Bacon said, “In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.” Chicago is especially glorious in the spring and summer in contrast to the lingering memory of the dark of winter. February can be tough, but when the first whiff of spring floats by in late March and April, it is intoxicating. Although native Californians might disagree, the stark contrast of the seasons makes Chicago a crazy and wonderful place to live. (I will try to be so cheerful the next time I’m facing down a -20 degree wind…)

The same theory holds true with music. That backdrop of complete silence, even if only momentary, creates a tension and anticipation that amplifies the experience and allows the light of the music to shine with brilliance. Remember as we brave the cold and gloom that warmth and light are just around the corner: Rush Hour starts in four short months!

– Megan Balderston

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