50th anniversary of United States landing man on the moon inspires Allentown Symphony Orchestra ‘Family Concert’
The heavens as inspiration for composers has, in turn, inspired the Allentown Symphony Orchestra (ASO) concert, 2 p.m. Feb. 23, celebrating United States’ space exploration and the 50th anniversary of NASA’s man-on-the-moon landing.
“ASO Family Concert presents: To The Moon And Back” embraces “one giant leap for mankind” as the orchestra mixes classical music with movie soundtrack music, says Diane Wittry, ASO Music Director and Conductor.
“It’s a very eclectic program with fantastic music,” Wittry says.
The program opens with theme music from the 1968 classic film by director Stanley Kubrick, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which utilized the fanfare from Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathrusta.”
“That is an iconic piece,” says Wittry.
Accompanying the music will be narration by Equity Actor Kyle Brenn, who will be dressed as a astronaut.
Brenn, 20, was recently seen as Tobias Ragg in the “Live from Lincoln Center” national broadcast of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street - In Concert with the New York Philharmonic.”
He also was in “West Side Story” and “Leap of Faith” on Broadway and played Sam-I-Am in the touring educational concert production of Rob Kapilow’s “Green Eggs and Hamadeus,” based on the famous children’s book by Dr. Seuss.
Brenn’s narration will be accompanied by outer space photos provided by NASA and video clips from movies.
Wittrey says the 50th anniversary of man’s landing on the moon will be recognized with a “tribute to the moon” with excerpts from classical pieces about the moon, including Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” for which the effect of the first movement is compared to that of moonlight shining upon Lake Lucerne; and Debussy’s “Claire de Lune,” which is French for “light of the moon” and was inspired by a poem written by Paul Verlaine.
“Moonlight Sonata” will include a student soloist.
Both pieces will feature images from NASA of Neil Armstrong becoming the first person to step onto the lunar surface July 21, 1969.
Other classical pieces about space include the finale of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Jupiter Symphony (No. 41),” the longest and last symphony that he composed; “Mars” from Gustav Holst’s “The Planets,” a seven-movement orchestral suite about the solar system, and “Music of the Spheres” a waltz by Austrian composer Josef Strauss.
Wittry says the pieces will be accompanied by Hubble Space Telescope images of Jupiter, Mars and other planets in the solar system.
The ASO will also perform music from space-themed movies, including director Ron Howard’s 1995 docudrama “Apollo 13,” about the United States’ ill-fated third moon-landing mission; director George Lucas’ epic 1977 space opera “Star Wars,” as well as the groundbreaking “2001: A Space Odyssey,” each accompanied by clips from the films.
“I had a good time setting this up,” Wittry says. “There is so much good music about space.”
The audience can sing along to a performances of Elton John’s 1972 hit, “Rocket Man,” about a Mars-bound astronaut that was inspired by a short science fiction story by Ray Bradbury.
“I couldn’t resist,” says Wittry.
Prior to the concert, there’s a free “Musical Circus and Petting Zoo” at 12:30 p.m. in the Rodale Community Room on the third floor of Miller Symphony Hall.
Youths can try out instruments, from violins to tubas. ASO musicians will be there to help them. They also can meet Brenn and take part in music-related activities.
Admission for the “ASO Family Concert” and all symphony orchestra concerts is free for those up to age 21, thanks to a grant from the Century Fund.
“It’s a great deal,” Wittry says.
Tickets: Miller Symphony Hall box office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown; millersymphonyhall.org; 610-432-6715