The term “Rush Hour experience” has emerged in the course of the last few seasons, be it in conversation on a local Chicago street corner or in a national news piece on NBC.  There are several ingredients. First, a user-friendly format that is reliably the same each week, combined with programming which is completely different, one week from the next. Additionally, its weekly audiences are culturally curious, uninhibited about “leaving their comfort zones,” open to new experiences or eager to dip into the familiar on a regular basis to re-charge their humanity. The result: a weekly summer gathering place for all ages and backgrounds, an island of calm to assuage the ever-increasing demands of our contemporary lifestyles. It is a weekly intersection with great art in the form of great live musical performances, which take us to the 35,000 foot level, help us experience our common humanity, and then enable us to get back to our daily lives with intention and inspiration.

Rush Hour audiences are indeed culturally curious, and we strive to honor that curiosity. This season, 56 artists from around the country will offer 13 programs of great music. They will meet and greet you at our weekly pre-concert receptions and share their excitement about their work with you. Our staff has been hard at work all winter to create many “entry points” into the Rush Hour experience, from our rich weblog and website (rushhour.org) to weekly program booklets. You can listen to our podcast series Rush Hour Conversations on our website, where you can hear extended interviews with artists, Rush Hour advisors, and other trailblazers and innovators in the arts and culture world today, hosted by me and other members of the Rush Hour team. We invite you to join us online to expand and continue your weekly experience here.

People often ask me how they can “access” or “better appreciate” classical music. My answer is unnervingly simple: All you need is your ears and your humanity. There are many ways to bring both of these to Tuesday’s performance. Here are a few to consider: the richness of 13 woodwind instruments and string bass, working together to make one sound, one expression; the human emotion/human psychology conveyed in sound through the lens of Mozart’s genius; the miraculous ability of these sounds, this music, written nearly 200 years ago to resonate with us today; the physical, practicality of how the artists make this sound with their instruments – (seemingly without breathing!); the uniqueness of each instrument’s range or tessitura and how it blends with its neighboring instrument (how different the wooden clarinet in construction from the brass horn, yet how unified their sound is together!); and last, but not least, what happens to you, the audience, the listeners, in a space as generous as St. James Cathedral filled with other engaged, active “listeners,” joining the artists performing, to create the energy of what we now know is the “Rush Hour experience.”

– Deborah Sobol
Artistic Director

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