Make Music Chicago | Recap and photos
Photos: Sara Mays and Max Herman
Anyone wandering the streets and public spaces of Chicago Tuesday, the first official day of summer, might have stumbled across a most welcome sight. Er, actually, a sound: Music filled the city’s streets and plazas—especially in the Loop and around the Magnificent Mile—as Make Music Chicago plugged the Windy City into a worldwide phenomenon to celebrate a new season. It began 30 years ago in Paris, and has since spread to more than 450 cities in 110 countries. It’s a perfect idea, really: What better time to throw a daylong celebration than on the summer solstice—the longest day of the year?
From Hancock Plaza to Daley Plaza, the Lincoln Park Zoo to the Apple Store, free live performances erupted all around (at about 40 different sites). Happily, that crazy-strong tree-felling thunderstorm waited until after dark to strike the region, so the hundreds of newly minted street musicians didn’t have to risk ruining their instruments. We were there to catch some of the fun, including Sousapalooza in Daley Plaza (which, we have to admit, was our secret fave) and the family concert at St. James Cathedral in River North.
“Spontaneous musical combustion across our city!” is how Deborah Sobol described it. (She’s the executive and artistic director of Rush Hour Concerts, the organization which curated the entire event and corralled hundreds of musicians and volunteers.) “The stunning thing was how participatory this was. We had 5-year-old violinists and 85-year-old guitar players.”
One of the highlights of the day was the lunchtime programming at Daley Plaza, which included a call to all former band geeks to bring their instruments and once again toot, drum and crash their way through some rousing Sousa marches. Sobol arrived a half-hour early for the noon show, and she recalls seeing a number of people milling about—and one woman in her 60s, who’d brought her saxophone in a piece of rolling luggage, sitting in the sun already practicing her part. When the entire group finally assembled, about 50 musicians strong, the result was pure delight. And they sounded way better than you'd imagine for an ensemble that had never played together before! Others strolling by during their lunch break stopped to smile, clap and tap their toes.
Soon afterwards, during the show-tunes sing along, generations (and semi-spontaneous events) collided in a thrilling juxtaposition: As people on Daley Plaza sang “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In,” a pack of skaters, engaging in another massive event, Go Skateboarding Day (which supposedly stretched across three continents), whizzed by the Picasso.
Three hours later, at an all-ages concert at St. James Cathedral (home to Rush Hour Concerts), the kid-friendly Quintet Attacca took their audience on a musical tour around the world, playing compositions from France, Uganda, China and Argentina (as well as the U.S.). Then five very talented Suzuki students played a series of cello pieces.
Flash forward to the concluding minutes of the finale of the first—but not the last—annual Make Music Chicago: Shortly after sunset, “We sang the last refrain of ‘This Land is Your Land’ at 8:45,” Sobol recalls, “and there was a crack of thunder and the first raindrops fell.”
With such perfect timing, how could all the organizers be anything less than delighted with how the day unfolded? Even still, we expected them to be exhausted when we called them up today, but they were on a natural high—and already enthusiastic about next year.