Somewhere in the impossible depths of space drifts a song. Stored on a hard drive within the solemn vessel is a recording — a story of humanity.
Its sails are filled by the souls of the musicians who sent this melodic message. Yet, the song is but a one-way track and unable to listen to the places it ventures.
There may be no technical sound in space, but as imagined by early 20th century composer Gustav Holst, the planets make real music. The Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra will relive the telescope creativity of Gustav’s seven-movement suite, “The Planets,” as the finale of their Saturday, Sept. 28, and Sunday, Sept. 29, performances at North Dakota State University’s Festival Concert Hall.
“There’s a part at the end of the piece, the very end just for two minutes, with a women’s chorus that has an ethereal sense of going out into space,” says Music Director Christopher Zimmerman. “It’s both beautiful and eerie at the same time.”
Zimmerman will essentially add conducting in space to his repertoire with the help of visuals from Minnesota State University Moorhead’s Planetarium. The large orchestra will travel from the quintuple time emissions of Mars, the Bringer of War, all the way to the mystical hair-raising fade-out of Neptune with corresponding visuals projected throughout.
To fit in with the cinematic effect of drifting through space, the symphony will begin by performing Alexander Courage’s theme from the original “Star Trek.” Aside from the hit theme, Courage also had a hand in creating film scores from the late 1950s through the ’90s.
“I’m not a complete die-hard,” Zimmerman admits about the sci-fi series. “The reason that piece was chosen, however, is because the main theme from the ‘Violin Concerto’ by Erich Korngold, a German composer who was a complete prodigy, is very similar to the ‘Star Trek’ theme.”
Korngold’s “Violin Concerto” will follow with Zimmerman’s son, Cristian Zimmerman, on violin. Korngold wasn’t just another Hollywood composer. At age 11, he composed his first ballet hit, “Der Schneemann (The Snowman),” with hits extending through three decades. His works varied from film scores to operas.
As humanity’s true ambassador to the galaxy, music communicates where language and visuals fail, illuminating the cultural corners of all our various carbon forms. The unique combination of music plus science invites the audience to imagine beyond the Milky Way.
“I like to zoom out and show the tiny speck that we are among everything else that’s out there,” says MSUM Planetarium Director Sara Schultz. “It makes you feel a little humbled to see how small we are in the grand scheme of things. It just gives you some perspective.”
Schultz graduated from MSUM with a bachelor’s, earned a master’s from the University of South Carolina and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in education online from the University of Wyoming. She oversees the MSUM Planetarium’s programming, including an entire season of upcoming events open to the public ranging from interactive journeys through space to seasonal shows like “The Skies of Hogwarts.”
“That’s why I went to school here, because of the planetarium,” Schultz says. “We’re kind of it. I get people from around the tristate area coming to see us. It’s definitely a gem of the F-M area.”
If open to the possibility, there’s new experiences around each corner in the metro. When talking about the exciting things happening in the community, Zimmerman responds, “It is true that Fargo is not a big place. I mean, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was offered the job, but I’ve had a really good time. I’m actually quite a fan.”
What: “The Planets and Beyond” by the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29
Where: NDSU Festival Concert Hall, Reineke Fine Arts Center, Fargo
Info: Tickets range from $32 to $50 at fmsymphony.org/mw1-planets; check out a full list of MSUM Planetarium programming at mnstate.edu/planetarium
This article is part of a content partnership with the Fargo Forum and appeared in print on Monday September 23, 2019.