Dear Friends,

Welcome to the 2008 season of Rush Hour! We have been counting the days until Rush Hour means summer in Chicago – or summer means Rush Hour, whichever your pleasure!

The term “Rush Hour experience” has emerged in the course of the last few seasons. It describes a user-friendly format that is reliably the same each week, combined with programming which is completely different, one week from the next. Its weekly audiences are culturally curious, not wary of “leaving their comfort zones,” interested in having new experiences or dipping into familiar experiences on a regular basis to re-charge their humanity. The result: a weekly summer gathering place, an island of calm to assuage the ever-increasing demands of our contemporary lifestyles.

Rush Hour audiences are indeed culturally curious and we strive to honor that curiosity and make it worth people’s while. This season, fifty-six artists from around the country will offer thirteen 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. We are excited to announce the launch of 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.

One such interview, with Tuesday’s composer, Clancy Newman, will be posted Wednesday, with excerpts from the performance to follow soon after. Speaking of which, I couldn’t think of a more exciting way to begin our ninth season: the prestigious Chicago String Quartet performing Clancy’s String Quartet from 2002.

There are so many ways to bring your ears and humanity to the performance. Here are a few to consider: the richness of four exquisite string instruments (several made in the 17th century) working together to make one sound, one expression; the brilliance and excitement of this piece written a few years ago and joining a rich heritage of music for string quartet over the last three centuries; the ability of the piece to reflect the “way” music sounds on string instruments – violin, viola, cello – as compared, say, to the organ, or the guitar, or the trombone; 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,” working together with the artists performing, to create the energy of what we now know is the Rush Hour experience.

– Deborah Sobol

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