Music to celebrate the moon landing
If you’re old enough to remember the Apollo 11 Moon Landing on July 20, 1969, you were probably sitting in front of a small television screen watching the drama as images of people riveted and praying all over the world were also televised. Commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin were the heroes of the day, landing the Apollo Lunar Module on that mysterious astronomical body that orbits the earth we all gaze at. Missing wasn’t an option. Six hours later, on July 21, Armstrong’s words as he stepped on the surface, “One small step for man, one giant step for mankind,” were indelibly inscribed in viewer’s minds, as he became the first person to place his feet on the lunar surface; Aldrin joined him 19 minutes later. As Aldrin would later say, “there’s no way to describe the enormity.” To commemorate that unifying time, a Long Island Concert Orchestra Moon Landing Celebration Concert will take place on July 21 at 3 p.m. with film clips accompanied by magisterial, electrifying music conducted by Jason Tramm, that includes compositions by Richard and Johann Strauss, Debussy, and John Williams as well as the Clarum Sonum chorus. David Winkler, executive director of the Long Island Concert Orchestra spoke to the Long Island Advance about the concert.
Long Island Advance: Space is such a mysterious physical universe. When you’re matching up music with scenes, talk about how it’s done.
David Winkler: The Patchogue Theatre is in charge of what we did. We gave them the lineup we felt was appropriate, Gary (Hygom) found matching space footage to match each piece of music so it’s an incredible flow of NASA footage from various angles and animated images. Gary was in charge of the visual component; we were in charge of the musical component.
LIA: Are there a couple of instruments utilized more than others, flugelhorns, bassoons to demonstrate the enormity of the landing but also instruments that demonstrate the absolute quietness?
DW: All of the pieces involve the full orchestra. We also invited a chorus, 30 voices. I would agree that there is an aspect to space that’s internal and quiet but the other side is of emphasizing the drama of places not gone to before. Richard Strauss’s first piece is a huge sounding work; it’s one of the principal pieces that opened the 2001 Space Odyssey movie because it has such power and gives you a spectrum of the color and vastness of what the concert will be like.
LIA: How does the live chorus fit in?
DW: They humanize the drama in the case of the first half and second half and provide an inner personal excitement that immediately connects to a person’s inner adventure.
LIA: How many in the orchestra?
DW: Forty-five. We have a core group from Long Island, about a third, the rest are from New Jersey, Connecticut, New York City. A greater number are now coming from Long Island. Years ago, there were fewer, they’d get their training in New York and move out. In the last couple of years the number has grown and in addition, in the past we’ve been working with youngsters from nearby schools. The LongIsland schools have a high level of orchestral trained kids. We’ll be working with high school choruses in upcoming programs. It also allows us to engage with the community as a whole, where everyone benefits from the outreach.
LIA: Composer John Williams has written scores for several outer space films, E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars. I see you are using several of his compositions including from Superman. His work soars to a crescendo a lot, a sort of musical transcendence. Can you talk about why you chose his work?
DW: His work was originally scored to support movies and an event like ours is music with a big picture, so to us it seemed natural to combine music composed for a picture and a way to experience the inspiration for this event. It’s kind of a marriage. Audiences are generally familiar one way or another even if they haven’t seen Star Wars, the music is ubiquitous so when the young people come, they have one foot in the door.
LIA: You have an awesome bio (Leonard Bernstein Composer Fellow, commissions from several prestigious orchestras like the National Symphony Orchestral/Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, you’re a composer in residence for the Paris Festival Orchestra), and received a special ASCAP award and you’ve written over 200 works for orchestras and ensembles worldwide as well as operas. I’m surprised you don’t have a special composition you’ll be including in the Moon Landing concert.
DW: I’m very careful about programming my own work, I think there is a little bit of a conflict. I’ll do it if the board leans on me but I keep it minimal. It’s interesting you should ask because I’m having four premiers, in a month:Rhapsodies for Violin and Orchestra - Sinfonia Cuenca, Equador; Symphonic Prelude for Organ and Orchestra - Ocean Grove Music Festival, New Jersey; Alice in Wonderland Ballet - Axelrod Arts Center in New Jersey, and Symphony No. 4 - Lerici Music Festival in Italy.
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