Dear Friends,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome the Chamber Singers of the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum to their first Rush Hour appearance on Tuesday. Chamber singers are to a chorus what an instrumental chamber ensemble is to an orchestra – smaller, more intimate, perhaps more accessible. You will be able to hear individual voices blending together in a way that allows you to hear individual singers and the group simultaneously. And, because they are unaccompanied, you may be able to feel a certain “nimbleness” and directness in the music-making. This music was written for large, generous spaces like St. James, with ceilings that take the sound, “mix it,” and send it back down to the listener enhanced with natural, glorious acoustics and overtones.

This past week at Rush Hour, we heard Clancy Newman’s String Quartet, written in 2002. Tuesday’s music was written in the 1500 and 1600s, in a period known as the Renaissance, when a rebirth of life and art emerged after one of the most devastating plagues in history. It was a time which knew no cell phones, no international air travel, and no instant messaging. Yet, it held the same human need for quiet, beauty and inspiration as today.

It’s a rich exercise of the imagination for me to encounter this music, knowing that J.S. Bach was “around the corner,” Mozart not yet even on the radar screen… and Debussy, Bartok, Stravinsky… Tan Dun… still in the firmaments! It becomes a vibrant experience to touch the humanity of that time through its music while knowing the human story which followed to this day.

We’ve had the opportunity to interview Matthew Hall, the director of this talented group, along with several members of the Chamber Singers around their rehearsals here in Chicago, to learn more about their own interaction with this music as well as what life is like in a college vocal chamber group these days. Look for it next week in the Rush Hour Conversations area of our website. As always, we welcome your feedback and input.

Enjoy Tuesday’s journey to the Renaissance!

– Deborah Sobol

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