Tuesday marks the third year RH has partnered with the Poetry Foundation in combining words with music. We have had a history together of what I might call “experimental collaborations.” For the last two years, the Poetry Foundation commissioned poets to write for J.S. Bach’s Two Part Inventions and Three Part Inventions for keyboard. This year, the Poetry Foundation’s Stephen Young and I have created another interplay of disciplines: talented young people (all winners in the Chicago region of the Poetry Out Loud national recitation contest) reciting poems of their choice, and world-renowned clarinetist and veteran artist Larry Combs improvising music to their words.

What to listen for? You will hear a “single word” strung together with other “single words” to make a poem, create a feeling, an experience, a mantra. And, you will hear a “single note,” gradually added to other “single notes” to form “music” – a feeling, experience or statement in sound. Together, they will enhance each other and take the individual experience to another level of richness and depth.

I am delighted to welcome these multi-talented and dynamic students to Rush Hour. Larry Combs and I have collaborated on a wide variety of projects over the last twenty-five years. He is a remarkably versatile artist, at home equally on the symphony stage, in chamber music performances and with jazz groups. Not surprisingly, he welcomed the challenge of today’s new direction in RH’s “words-and-music” offerings. Here’s what he had to say about it:

“The program of poetry for RH will be a new experience for me, not that I haven’t improvised, as in the jazz sense, but in matching totally improvised music to the spoken word. I would emphasize that this is not jazz, although it could take on a jazz-like flavor. It will be a big challenge!”

We hope you enjoy the exchange of ideas offered in this year’s partnership.

– Deborah Sobol

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