A Symphony Live in Motion

Reviewer: Elizabeth Detloff

Venue: The Temple Theatre

Stepping into The Temple Theatre on a cold October night, with its warm lighting and vintage baroque details inlaid everywhere you look. It may feel as though you’ve stepped back in time. Then we are greeted by astronauts in the lobby and perhaps we are about to step into another world completely. 

Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra has themed their eighty-eighth season as A Journey Through Time and Space. Executive director Cameron Massey was spotted all over Saginaw this last week in an astronaut suit. He may have even been asked to leave an establishment. Massey’s passion and willingness to be silly created a huge buzz on social media as posts were seen asking why an astronaut is walking around town? It certainly worked as every seat was filled with fans of the orchestra and the cosmos alike. 

The galaxy in all its mystery has always been a source of inspiration and collaboration. The orchestra started our journey with Close Encounters and a score from E.T. by John Williams. What audience member was not transported back to watching that popular retro movie? Perhaps the memory of a tear cried or the elation when the extra terrestrial did not perish and did phone home? “Oh wow” I heard a young patron exclaim from the first row as the speed and volume increased on stage. The question of are we alone in the galaxy may remain unanswered but last night we were witness to how large and vast it truly is beyond the scope of our blue planet. 

As we head into our darkest days of winter it seemed accurate that Helios Overture was performed. Helios is the God of Sun in Greek mythology. He is responsible for pulling the sun across the sky to signal the beginning and end of the day. The Overture ends soft as a lullaby with just a few instruments strumming, the same feeling in our hearts as the season of sun closes. 

Patrons returned from intermission with anticipation for Holst’s The Planets, to be performed alongside images provided by Nasa. An employee of Nasa was present and encouraged us to open our hearts to the curiosity of the footage we were about to see. After listening to Holst for two weeks I am sure my coworkers were tired of hearing Mars and Jupiter on repeat around the office. I was prepared for Holst, I was not prepared for the beautiful images on screen. It has been a long time since I have looked at a photo of a planet and those found in textbooks do not do justice to what Nasa is able to capture now. 

We started with the planet Mars, Bringer of War and then to Venus, Bringer of Peace. A perfect mirror to human nature as we cannot stay in war or peace but cycle between them throughout history. Through each Holst piece we were rocketed through the stars, coming up to each planet as if it was a roadside attraction and not a year long journey by the satellite. We ended with Neptune, The mystic. It certainly was mystical as haunting ethereal voices floated from

backstage. The Saginaw Valley State University Treble singers and the Midland Center for the arts treble singers synchronized with the projections bringing to a close the night. The footage of the planets was hauntingly beautiful, made more so by the emotional music playing below. Patrons were awestruck at what is able to be captured by satellites of the planets and stars that surround us. And still there is much that remains a mystery. 

There are plenty more cosmos themed events to check out with SBSO. Music under the stars at the Delta College Planetarium will return in winter 2024. Also in April the orchestra will be live scoring the 2009 Star Trek movie.

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