We are about to embark on a 50-minute mission through the solar system. Our ship will have on board quantities of wind and brass instruments (including the infamous bass oboe and the far-flung bass flute), two timpanists, two harps, and our usual crew of strings. Strange sounds will emanate from the strings on the way to Mars; the first sounds to be heard are all of the strings playing col legno (with the wood).
We will pass by Earth again and hit Venus, a much more peaceful place with a bunch of cello solos. Continuing toward the sun we will say hello to Mercury, a small, agile planet that really gets around. The contrabassoon will have the last word on this leg of the voyage, then we hit the road again, so to speak, making the long trek to merry olde Jupiter in just a few seconds. Here you will hear an English hymn (I Vow to Thee, My Country) written during World War I, that makes every Englishman think of home.
Saturn is a planet that, when adjectivized, can be confusing. The word saturnine has many meanings, to wit: melancholy or sullen, suffering from lead poisoning, sardonic or disdainful. Nothing is mentioned about the rings, though. I decided not to buy a Saturn because I heard it was hard to find new rings for them. ANYway, this planet is big and slow, and given to sudden outbursts of tritones.
Continuing outward from there, we will encounter Uranus, which ancient peoples believed had magical properties. While no one will be pulling rabbits out of hats on stage, everyone will be preparing for the final leg of the journey. It looks like a cool place– literally. Of all the planets we will be broaching, Neptune is the spaciest. The ending, featuring a women’s chorus which we picked up somewhere in the asteroid belt, most resembles the space music we associate with TV shows such as Lost in Space, The Green Martian, or Homeboys in Outer Space. In a performance of Planets we did before the Tennessee Theatre was rebuilt, a cool effect was achieved by having this chorus walk down the stairs towards the dressing rooms to create a fade-out effect. Nowadays, the Tennessee backstage area does not lend itself to such an exodus.
Enjoy your trip!