Dear Friends,

Marc Geelhoed, the Associate Music Editor and Classical Music Writer for Time Out Chicago wrote recently of Rush Hour: “Rush Hour Concerts is the only concert series I know of that puts the listener first.”

We think a lot about you, the listener, at Rush Hour — we created this now well-known format with you in mind. We recognized from the beginning the equally important contribution the listener makes to the energy of a live performance, complementing the roles of composer and performer. And, we thought about what you might need at the end of the day to enable you to participate fully in a weekly cultural experience, allowing its beauty, power and magic to work in you.

I had a conversation recently with Laura Shapiro, a New York-based author and member of Rush Hour’s Advisory Committee. Laura grew up surrounded by music and concerts. Her father is Harry Shapiro, long-time member of the horn section of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She sang with the Harvard University Chorus throughout her undergraduate years at Radcliffe. I asked her her thoughts about the role of the audience these days in live performances and I’d like to share them with you today:

twyla.png“Here in New York the Lincoln Center Festival is having an amazing summer season — Chinese opera, kabuki, Robert Wilson, Philip Glass — and it’s got me thinking about the oft-maligned summer audience for the arts. Maybe in hot weather we’re all supposed to want Pops this and lite that, with some gigantic Beethoven’s Ninth at the end of the season, but you sure couldn’t prove it here. Years ago, Twyla Tharp told me in an interview that she thought people didn’t know how to watch dance. ‘They’re always wondering what it’s about,’ she said. ‘They should be asking, What’s in it for me?’ So I’m wondering whether maybe audiences are coming around to exactly that response.

“Maybe people really have learned to go to performances as if the audience mattered, as if we aren’t just wallpaper but participants. It’s always been true that the show can’t go on without us — maybe we’re learning to take advantage of that privilege. What happens on stage, stays on the stage. But what happens to us — our responses and questions and objections and demands — becomes an intrinsic part of the experience in the theater, and we keep it for the rest of our lives.”

We at Rush Hour would like to know your thoughts on this subject – tell us “what’s in it for you.” Write to us – when you have time – at info@rushhour.org. Finally, thank you, for all you bring to our live performances each week.

— Deborah Sobol

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