Exploring outer space through orchestral music


A rare collaboration of music and science is coming to Rockville Centre next month, combining an orchestra performance with images of space. On Sunday, Feb. 16, the Massapequa Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of David Bernard, will present Out of this World, a multi-media event that includes a performance of Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” with imagery and commentary presented by astrophysicist Dr. Jackie Faherty, at the Madison Theatre at Molloy College.

“This classical composition has been around for more than a century,” Bernard said, “and it’s amazing in terms of the sound pictures created.” 

Each movement of the suite is named after a planet and its corresponding astrological character as interpreted by Holst. 

Bernard, who currently serves as music director of the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, the Massapequa Philharmonic and for the Eglevsky Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” each December at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts, said the composition was the inspiration for John Williams’ scores for “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter.” “It paints the sound.”

While people familiar with the piece may have created their own personal images of outer space while listening to it, this event will allow the audience to actually see imagery from NASA and the Hubble Space Telescope, along with commentary from Faherty, a senior scientist and senior education manager in the Department of Education at the American Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium.

“It’s an opportunity to explore the planets,” Bernard said. “The music helps illustrate the mystery of our universe and solar system.”

This is the third collaboration between Bernard and Faherty, and the second time they will present this particular event. Faherty will give a scientific overview of each planet and present a slide show during the performance.

“It’s going to be really fun,” Faherty said. “I’ll give an up to the second view of what these planets look like.”

 This will include the latest images of Mars and images of Jupiter from Juno. She noted that space exploration has advanced a great deal since this piece was composed.

“Holst had an interpretation of what the planets look like and now, the audience is getting an update of what they actually look like,” Faherty said. “It’s fun for me to deliver this information to the audience; I know they are there for the music, but they’ll get an extra dose of scientific knowledge.”

She added, “People are losing track of astronomy and not paying attention to the night sky—no one is looking up.”

Faherty and Bernard both stressed that this is a concert for “all ages.”

 “This is something everybody should see,” Bernard said. “Adults and children will come away with a greater appreciation of both the science of the solar system and the music of composer Gustav Holst.”

“You don’t get many art and science collaborations,” Faherty said. “So I would encourage people to take a gander when you see one. It brings together two seemingly disjointed fields, but it’s magical when they work.”

The Treble Chorus of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra will also be performing. Additional information and tickets are available through the Madison Theatre’s Box Office website http://bit.ly/OutOfThisWorldMPO or by calling (516) 323-4444.