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Every evening at dusk, a group of drummers form a circle in front of the 63rd Street Beach House on Chicago's South Side. "They just know to come," said Rick Taylor, a drumming teacher, who has been part of the circle since 1983. "There is no organization." The drummers have been meeting here daily for the last 40 years, when the weather permits, of course.

"The circle is here at 63rd Street because of the nearby communities. Most of the drummers come from South Shore, Hyde Park and Kenwood," said Marcus Lenton, a construction manager, who has been coming to listen for 30 years and has many friends in the circle. Many in the audience join the circle after enjoying the nearby beach. Because the drummers don't play in a formalized amphitheater there is no need to reserve the space – something that fits perfectly with the circle's spontaneity.

The place where the circle forms is nothing special: the drummers set up over a wide stretch of sidewalk that leads from the parking lot to the Beach House entrance. Without the drumming community, this space would be just another silent, unused path. Instead, it comes alive each night when the group sets up between a colonnade of tall tree trunks on the east and low, full bushes on the west. The trees are the only fixtures that trace out a loose boundary for the group, separating the circle from the vast grassy lawn where picnickers spread out their blankets. The trees make the circle feel complete and protected, but also natural and unplanned…almost like a camp- fire site where the beat is the flame.

Lenton said the circle is great exactly because nothing has been built to host it: "There are no additives, it's totally natural." He was adamant about keeping it that way. "I wouldn't change a thing. Don't build anything. It would ruin it. It's got to be spontaneous."

A single drummer, explained Lenton, is enough to start the circle. Pretty soon, without fail, others set up chairs and instruments near the trees. The circle is widest and loudest just before nightfall and continues until around 10:30 when, according to Lenton, "the cops break it up" in time for the park to close at 11:00.

The circle is open to everyone. "If you can catch the beat, you can join in," explained Lenton. The drummers are a mixed group. "Some went to school for it, some just picked it up recently, and some were brought up doing it their whole lives."

Even though everyone calls the gathering "the drum circle," it's not limited to one kind of instrument. Some people shake maracas or tambourines; others play the trumpet and saxophone, while some just clap, sing, and stomp their feet. Even the police officers who walk this beat clap along and nod their heads from their places along the circle's periphery.

Kenyatta Jackson, who plays several kinds of drums in the circle, said he comes because the circle provides a "release for us as drummers and as human beings. It's a way to maintain our lives, day-to-day." It's also a community center: "[The drum circle] brings all the generations together," said Edward Phillips, Lenton's friend, "this is our common culture. It's like we all found our home here."

Jackson said a rule of the circle is "no drinking, no drugs, no profanity, and no arguing." As long as there are drummers, he said, "it's safe here. Check the police log if you want, but I can tell you there are no violent crimes when this circle is around." Taylor added, "Anytime you have music, anytime you have rhythm, the place starts getting crowded. It just builds and builds."

 
 
 

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♪♫♪...Today In The News

U.S.-Cuba deal to restore ties to be unveiled

Chairs are prepared before a news conference in Washington By Matt Spetalnick, Lesley Wroughton and Daniel Trotta WASHINGTON/HAVANA (Reuters) - The United States and Cuba have reached an agreement to reopen embassies and restore diplomatic ties severed more than five decades ago, and the historic deal will be unveiled on Wednesday, U.S. officials said on Tuesday. Nearly 6-1/2 months after U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro sealed a diplomatic breakthrough, Obama will announce the new steps toward rapprochement in the White House Rose Garden at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT) Wednesday. Signaling it is likely to act in sync with the United States, Cuba's Communist government said the chief of the U.S. mission, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, would meet the interim foreign minister in Havana on Wednesday to deliver a note from Obama to Castro on the re-establishment of ties between the two former Cold War rivals.


Obama to speak about Cuba in White House Rose Garden on Wednesday

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will deliver a statement on Cuba in the White House Rose Garden on Wednesday at 11 a.m. (1500 GMT), the White House said. Obama's administration is expected to announce an agreement with Cuba on Wednesday to reopen embassies and restore diplomatic relations severed more than five decades ago, a senior U.S. official said. (Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Cuba to receive note from Obama on restoring diplomatic ties

Cuba's interim foreign minister will receive the chief of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana on Wednesday so he can deliver a note from U.S. President Barack Obama to Cuban President Raul Castro regarding the restoration of diplomatic relations between the longtime former nemeses, Cuba said on Tuesday. U.S. officials said earlier the Obama administration would announce on Wednesday that it has reached an agreement with Cuba to reopen embassies and restore diplomatic relations severed more than five decades ago. Jeffrey DeLaurentis, chief of the U.S. interests section in Cuba, will deliver the note to Interim Foreign Minister Marcelino Medina, Cuba's foreign ministry said in a statement.

Airports commission recommends expanding Heathrow

FILE - In this Sunday, Aug. 2, 2009 file photo, a British Airways Boeing 747 taxis away from Terminal 5 at London's Heathrow Airport. Britain’s Airports Commission unanimously recommended the construction of a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport on Wednesday, July 1, 2015, in a long-awaited report on how to best expand the country’s aviation capacity. The commission decided that Heathrow presented a stronger case for the British economy than rival Gatwick. But it stressed that Europe’s largest airport needs to address air quality, noise and community concerns.(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, file) LONDON (AP) — Britain's Airports Commission unanimously recommended the construction of a third runway at London's Heathrow Airport on Wednesday in a long-awaited report on how best to expand the country's aviation capacity.


Greece confirms sent 'amended' proposal to creditors

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras answers questions after an EU summit in brussels, on June 26, 2015 The Greek government confirmed Wednesday it had sent an "amended" last-minute proposal to its international creditors in the hope of sealing a deal to stave off financial ruin. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wrote to the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund on Tuesday evening, just as the European part of Greece's bailout was set to expire. Sources in Brussels said there were "substantial" changes from the creditors' last offer, which was turned down by Tsipras on the weekend and branded "humiliating".


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