American Debut of David Lang's CROWD OUT Headed to Chicago

This October, the Chicago Humanities Festival and Illinois Humanities will partner and present the American debut of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang's crowd out.

Crowd out is a both a public performance and a civic occasion, open to all, which will feature the talents of 1,000 Chicagoans from all 50 wards. This massive project represents a democratization of public performance art and is a fitting piece to complement the 50th anniversary celebration of the Chicago Picasso and The Wall of Respect, two of Chicago's most famous and enduring works of public art, in the midst of the city of Chicago's Year of Public Art.

Lang's composition, a chorus for 1000 voices, will be conducted by Northwestern University choral organization director Donald Nally and Grammy-winner Tim Munro. The performance will pull together Chicagoans from every ward and all walks of life, as they rehearse and engage with one another, finally gathering en masse for a performance on October 1 at 3 p.m. in the heart of Millennium Park on the Chase Promenade by Cloudgate (The Bean).

"Crowd out is a unique embodied exploration of the one and the many," says CHF Artistic Director Jonathan Elmer. "Each one of us is inevitably alone-one body, one life, one soul-but we are just as inescapably part of larger collectives, and so we are never really alone. Crowd out enacts this push and pull of our lives, conformity changing to dissent, loneliness to togetherness."

Starting in June and leading up to the final performance, Illinois Humanities will lead a series of Community Gatherings in each of Chicago's 50 wards. These 50 Community Gatherings - held at public libraries, park field houses, schools, churches, and cultural spaces throughout the city - will serve as rehearsals for the final performance and as opportunities for discussion. The rehearsal will be in partnership with a local singing group, showcasing amazing talent from across the city, and will also be followed by a community conversation held in partnership with a local community-based cultural organization.

A representative trained by Illinois Humanities in dialogue facilitation will lead a community discussion to assess the ward's arts and culture resources and reimagine our individual roles in advocating for a brighter future for arts and culture in the life of the individual, the neighborhood, and the city - our part in the crowd. These gatherings will connect organizations, choirs, and residents in an active citywide community of stakeholders represented at the final performance.

"These 50 neighborhood programs, while in immediate service of crowd out, will also help to create a cultural infrastructure that can be activated by organizations like Illinois Humanities and the Chicago Humanities Festival," noted Illinois Humanities Director of Programs Paul Durica. "It can also be used in citywide initiatives like the Terra Foundation's 2018 Art Design Chicago and to foster artistic and cultural resource-sharing and collaboration among wards." The neighborhood programming will bolster citywide municipal systems like aldermanic offices, parks, libraries, and the CTA, highlighting them as integral components of this cultural infrastructure.

"We're excited to be partnering on crowd out, which is an ideal project during Chicago's Year of Public Art. The performance and its intense community-building efforts is exactly what we need as a city-it brings people together from across the city and explores what it means to communicate as both an individual and a collective," says CHF Executive Director Phillip Bahar.

The Chicago Humanities Festival will coordinate the presentation of this 1000-person chorus, composed of amateur and professional singers while Illinois Humanities will recruit those singers through executing the 50 ward-based programs.

The crowd out neighborhood network will lay the foundations for a grassroots arts network that will be tapped again and again via Illinois Humanities, the Chicago HumanitiesFestival and city-wide cultural initiatives (such as the City of Chicago's 50x50 Neighborhood Arts Project, the Chicago Architectural Biennial, and the Terra Foundation's Art Design Chicago).

The Crowd out performance and 50 ward-based programs are free and open to the public. The performance and programs have been generously supported by a grant from the City of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE).

For more information and to learn how to get involved, visit

At Chicago Humanities Festival, we believe that humanity thrives when people gather, connect and open themselves to ideas that go beyond their individual experience. That's why for more than 28 years, CHF has been curating live events that allow audiences to connect with thinkers--both established and emerging--and see the world differently. Under the leadership of Executive Director Phillip Bahar, Thoma Artistic Director Jonathan Elmer, and Associate Artistic Director Alison Cuddy, CHF is one of Chicago's most vibrant civic institutions. Join us and celebrate the social life of ideas. Visit

Illinois Humanities is an independent, nonprofit state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, with a mission to strengthen society by fueling inquiry and conversation about the ideas and works that shape our culture. Illinois Humanitiesengages communities across Illinois in conversation in a variety of humanities programs that focus on Public Policy, Media & Journalism, Business, and Art. Illinois Humanitieslowers barriers to participation and offers access to programs, events, and grants to all Illinoisans, regardless of their economic resources, cultural background, or geographic location. Illinois Humanities is supported by state, federal, and private funds. For more, go to

Photo Credit: Peter Serling

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