If you are looking for a short, professional cultural diversion on Tuesday nights this summer in Chicago, plan to attend the International Music Foundation's Rush Hour Concerts Series. Now in its 18th season at St. James Cathedral, 65 E. Huron Street, the series runs through August 29, 2017 offering a full range of free, concert programming.
There is also an online option, an extraordinary free archive of past performances available on Soundcloud.
In our Q & A profile this week, we asked Rush Hour Concerts Artistic Director Tony Devroye to tell us more about the program and what's ahead.
C/ET: This is your 18th year offering free concerts in Chicago. Tell us a bit about who was responsible for establishing the series and how it has evolved over time.
TD: Rush Hour Concerts was founded by the late Deborah Sobol, a beloved Chicago concert pianist, chamber musician, teacher and music entrepreneur. She began playing free informal chamber music concerts at St. James Cathedral (where she was a parishioner) as a way to make use of a lovely grand piano bequeathed to the church. These concerts grew into a regular series, and the series grew into a larger organization (also encompassing Make Music Chicago and various educational initiatives) which last year merged with the International Music Foundation, a multi-faceted organization providing free high-quality live music experiences year-round to Chicagoans of all ages and backgrounds.
C/ET: Take us through the schedule of a typical series event.
TD: The Rush Hour Concerts experience: Doors open at 5:00 p.m. Complimentary iced tea and snacks are available. Anyone interested is invited to attend the pre-concert conversation at 5:15 p.m., offering more perspective on the music that day and the performers making it. At 5:45 p.m., take in a creative, insightful, impactful chamber music performance by some of Chicago's finest performers and ensembles (about 30 minutes) in the resplendent acoustic of St. James. Afterwards, meet the artists or head out for dinner in a great neighborhood or back to the comfort of your own home.
C/ET: The 2017 series schedule has many highlights, large and small, and something for everyone. Talk about a few favorites that emphasize the diversity of the series offerings.
TD: This summer, many of our concerts focus on the rich history (covering 250 years) of the string quartet. Other programs involve early music (16th-17th century), new music (21st century), poetry, opera, organ & brass, ensembles with piano, and our first-ever audience choice concert, where the audience picked the program from a menu of options.
C/ET: There is a rich and growing archive of concerts available online at your website. How are these programs recorded and what might we find available?
TD: Our concerts are skillfully recorded by Eric Arunas of WFMT FM. Many programs air on WFMT the Friday following the concert, on Lisa Flynn's "Music in Chicago" at noon. Our Soundcloud channel contains most of the concerts we've presented over the past five or six years including a rich array of performances by ensembles like Civitas, Third Coast Percussion, Fulcrum Point New Music, the Avalon and Spektral String Quartets, Fifth House Ensemble, and musicians from the Chicago Symphony and Lyric Opera, among many others.
C/ET: What other programs and initiatives is the International Music Foundation involved in currently?
TD: The International Music Foundation also presents the following initiatives and programs:
- Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts - A FREE weekly series every Wednesday at noon at the Chicago Cultural Center.
- Do It Yourself Messiah - A Chicago holiday tradition since 1976, the Do-It-Yourself Messiah brings together a world-class conductor and soloists, an all-volunteer orchestra of local professionals and amateur musicians, including a choir of 100 singers, for a sing-along with the audience of Handel’s masterpiece, Messiah. The program takes place every December at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park.
- Live Music Now! - A monthly program which presents FREE educational concerts to Chicago Public Schools and family concerts to the Cultural Center and Kenwood Academy.
C/ET: Any plans underway for your 20th anniversary in 2019?
TD: The wheels are just starting to turn for our 19th season - talk to me in about 10 months.
RUSH HOUR CONCERTS SUMMER SERIES DETAILS
WHERE: St. James Cathedral in River North
WHEN: Every Tuesday through August | Doors: 5:00 p.m. | Pre-Show Discussion: 5:15 p.m. | Concert: 5:45 p.m.
UPCOMING FREE CONCERTS
JUNE 27 - Baroque with a Beat, Works by Fernández, Monteverdi, Strozzi, Visée and Ortiz, Third Coast Baroque
JULY 11 - Quartet Festival III, Gerard McBurney: Hildegard Quartet, Spektral Quartet
For more information and to see the full summer schedule through August HERE
Learn more about the International Music Foundation HERE