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Planets align for Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra's 'Stargazing'

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Kirk Muspratt

Happy autumn, everyone!

So ... you want to know what is super different and super enticing about our concert on Friday? While we are playing the astonishing planets suite of Gustav Holst, there will be short films from the Adler Planetarium on our two huge screens accompanying each moment of the music!

The film has been carefully timed so that it matches exactly what is going on at every interval in the music. The film has been directed by one of the head astronomers at Adler, Dr. Jose Francisco Salgado, and includes video taken from the international space station, the European space agency and the Hubble telescope. This collaborative work has been performed all over the world by such orchestras as the Chicago Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, the Boston Pops and the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra.

"THE PLANETS," is an astonishing piece of music. Holst paints each of these celestial bodies in such vivid ways. On stage, the orchestra is huge with six French horns, a euphonium, two harps, a huge percussion section, contrabassoon, bass flute, celeste and organ. 

In addition, the women of the chorus sing offstage at the very conclusion of the last piece, "Neptune." They end the entire composition with their hovering, ethereal, questioning voices hanging in the air. The music is arresting and with the addition of the video accompanying each of the planets, it should be something quite overwhelming.

Before each of the planets, Dr. Salgado will speak briefly about some of the science and astronomy of Mars, Venus, Mercury, Neptune, Jupiter and Saturn. And I will say a few words regarding the orchestration and the compositional techniques that Holst has so ingeniously employed.

Plus, on the first half of the program, we have German music from the middle 19th century, Spanish/Latin music from the late 1500s, and French music from 1956. The chorus is highlighted in each of these pieces — the spectacularly beautiful and meaningful "Song of Destiny" of Brahms,   Victoria’s "O Vos Omnes" and Poulenc’s "Finale" and "Salve Regina" from Dialogues of the Carmelites.

The latter is one of the most powerful and intense pieces of music in the repertoire. I played a video of this for our group members at Art in Focus the other day, and they said afterward they were  “stunned,” ''completely riveted," and it was "unlike anything that they had ever seen before."

The Dialogues of the Carmelites takes place during French Revolution's Reign of Terror in the 1790s. It is the famous story of the 16 nuns who are commanded to disband their order. The nuns refuse, are first imprisoned, and then, when they further refuse, are sentenced to death. In the end, the 16 nuns go, one at a time, to their deaths, all singing the "Salve Regina." Their immense courage and the conviction of their faith and beliefs, is mightily evoked in this music.

I wanted to share, too, with you that at the preconcert discussion is at 6:15 p.m. and free for all ticket holders. Nancy Menk, our chorus director, will join us to speak about the chorus music.

Also, I wanted share very happy news. On Tuesday morning, more than 6,000 children from Northwest Indiana will be attending our education concerts — learning about the families of instruments, about Holst and about the planets. We are so very pleased about this and look forward to reaching all these wonderful children.

The Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra presents “Stargazing,” 7:30 p.m. Friday at The Auditorium at Bethel Church in Crown Point, two miles south of U.S. 30 on Broadway. The concert will feature Holst’s "The Planets," accompanied by images and short films by KV265 — Science Through Art in association with the Adler Planetarium. Tickets are $25 to $65, and students are admitted for just $10 — as usual. For tickets or more information, please contact the Box Office at (219) 836-0525, ext. 200 or visit

Opinions are solely those of the writer's. Kirk Muspratt is the conductor of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra. Muspratt's column is an occasional feature during symphony season.


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