A weekend of music, talks and events inspired by the wonders of our universe

  • European premiere: The Planets – An HD Odyssey with new images from NASA
  • Brian Eno?s Apollo: For All Mankind performed by Icebreaker and BJ Cole
  • Pre-concert talk The Gift Of Apollo with Dr Christopher Riley
  • What Would A Martian Look Like?, Sounds of the Universe and Space Tourism talks
  • Sounds of Space Family Day: Mobile Planetarium, Aliens from Planet Flip Flop
  • Major new outdoor photographic exhibition, To Boldly Go…
  • Serenade for a Satellite performed by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
  • Lost in Space (new commission) composed by Pete Wyer for Orchestra of the Swan
  • M U S I C K O S M O S (new commission) performed by the Steve Tromans Debop Band
  • Win bespoke and limited edition prizes in the Alien of the Year social media competition

BIRMINGHAM, UK: The European premiere of The Planets – An HD Odyssey, which couples the latest images from NASA with a performance of Gustav Holst?s famous suite by the Houston Symphony, is amongst the highlights of Sounds of Space – a weekend of music, talks and events between 7-9 October at Town Hall and Symphony Hall Birmingham.

The Sounds of Space weekend will offer incredible live experiences for music fans, armchair astronomers, popular science enthusiasts and families alike, with classical, contemporary and jazz music including premieres and new commissions, talks on alien science and space tourism, a free family day and a major new outdoor photographic exhibition all taking place across both venues. A social media competition to design the ?Alien of the Year? will be running in the lead up to the weekend.

The centrepiece of the weekend is the first performance outside the US of a monumental NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Houston Symphony collaboration, The Planets – An HD Odyssey, at Symphony Hall on Friday 8 October, sponsored by the university of Birmingham. The Houston Symphony, led by Music Director Hans Graf, will perform Holst?s astronomical masterpiece accompanied by high definition planetary images taken from rover and satellite exploratory missions, radar images and computer-generated graphics.

Brian Eno?s seminal album, Apollo: For All Mankind, will be performed by 15-piece ensemble Icebreaker and renowned steel pedal guitarist BJ Cole on Saturday 9 October at Town Hall Birmingham. Original NASA footage taken from Al Reinart?s 1989 lunar documentary of the same name will be screened during the concert.

A work describing the majesty and mystery of space, Apollo: For All Mankind, was created and recorded in 1983 by pioneer of ambient music, Brian Eno, along with his brother Roger and Canadian producer and guitarist Daniel Lanois in 1983. Music from the album has since been used in the feature films 28 Days Later, Traffic and Trainspotting.

As a prelude to the concert, Dr Christopher Riley will deliver a talk, The Gift of Apollo, at 6.15pm in the auditorium at Town Hall. The space flight historian, writer and film maker will explore the period between 1968 and 1972 which saw twenty-four Americans flying to the Moon – arguably mankind?s greatest achievement which took over 400,000 engineers working round the clock for a decade to accomplish. Over forty years later the full significance of the endeavour is still being debated.

There are newly-commissioned works, Musickosmos performed by Steve Tromans on Friday 8 October in Symphony Hall Level 3 Bar and Bruno Maderna?s Serenade for a Satellite performed by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group on Saturday 9 October at Town Hall.

Talks include What Would A Martian Look Like?, a discussion on extra-terrestrial life with author Prof Ian Stewart and Sounds of the Universe, an exploration of the secret sounds of stars, galaxies and the big bang itself on Thursday 7 October at Symphony Hall. Space Tourism on Saturday 9 October sees Stephen Attenborough, Commercial Director of Virgin Galactic, talk about his organisation?s ambitious project to carry the first paying passengers into space, marking the beginning of a new age of human expedition.

To Boldly Go, a major new outdoor exhibition featuring images from the University of Birmingham?s space and astronomy research programme will be open to the public in Victoria Square from 28 September to 18 October. Entry is free.

The University plays a pivotal role in shaping our knowledge of our planet, the solar system and beyond, from creating special cameras to protect astronauts from solar storms to helping to build instruments used by the Large Hadron Collider to find out how the Universe was created.

The free Sounds of Space Family Day (Symphony Hall foyers on Saturday 9 October) offers young budding space and science fiction fans the chance to explore a mobile planetarium, meet Aliens from planet Flip Flop, hear the sounds of space and help to create a special galaxy. The day will also see the culmination of Lost in Space, a new commission written by composer Pete Wyer for Town Hall Associate Artists, Orchestra of the Swan. Children from Birmingham Special Schools will be contributing readings from space related literature, speeches, film and TV to an installation which will also be open to the public during ArtsFest, the UK?s biggest free arts festival which takes place between 10-12 September.

A private personalised tour of the Planetarium at Birmingham?s Thinktank, a signed limited edition artwork by acclaimed sci-fi artist David A. Hardy and family tickets to the National Space Centre and Thinktank are prizes in the Alien of the Year competition, which will run between now and the Sounds of Space weekend in October.

The most apt and original extra-terrestrial designs submitted via Flickr, Facebook Tumblr,Twitter or Vimeo will be selected by Professor Ian Stewart prior to his talk at Symphony Hall on Thursday 7 October.

For information on how to enter please click here.

For more information on the Sounds of Space weekend or to purchase tickets for any of the events above, follow this link.

The Sounds of Space weekend is sponsored by the University of Birmingham.


Notes to editor:


Images available [300dpi]:
28 Sep – 18 Oct To Boldly Go Exhibition © University of Birmingham
8 Oct BICS Holst Planets_Jupiter and Io 1 © JPL & NASA
8 Oct MUSICKOSMOS Steve Tromans
9 Oct Apollo – For All Mankind
9 Oct Stephen Attenborough, Virgin Galactic
9 Oct Aliens from Planet Flip Flop outside Town Hall Birmingham


To Boldly Go…
Space photography from the University of Birmingham
Victoria Square, alongside Town Hall Birmingham
28 September – 18 October
Presented by the University of Birmingham in association with Town Hall and Symphony Hall

What Would A Martian Look Like? & Sounds Of The Universe
Illustrated talks by Prof Ian Stewart, Professor Andy Fabian and Dr Carolin Crawford
Symphony Hall, Birmingham
7pm, Thursday 7 October
£7.50, £5 students and under 16s

Steve Tromans Debop Band presents Musickosmos
Symphony Hall Level 3 Bar, Birmingham
5.30pm, Friday 8 October
Part of Rush Hour Blues, commissioned and presented by Town Hall Symphony Hall and Birmingham Jazz

The Planets – An HD Odyssey (European Premiere)
Houston Symphony, Conductor Hans Graf
Symphony Hall, Birmingham
7.30pm, Friday 8 October
£5 – £45
Sponsored by the University of Birmingham and part of the Birmingham International Concert Season

Sounds of Space Family Day
Symphony Hall foyers, Birmingham
11am – 4pm, Saturday 9 October
Space Tourism
Talk by Stephen Attenborough, Virgin Galactic
Town Hall, Birmingham
11am, Saturday 9 October
£7.50, £5 students and under 16s

Pre concert talk: The Gift of Apollo
Town Hall, Birmingham
6.15pm, Saturday 9 October
Free to concert ticket holders

Brian Eno?s Apollo: For All Mankind
Icebreaker and BJ Cole*
Town Hall, Birmingham
7.30pm, Saturday 9 October

Serenade For A Satellite
Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
Town Hall, Birmingham
9pm, Saturday 9 October

Alien of the Year competition
Friday 13 August – Monday 4 October
Online – free to enter

*Please note that Brian Eno will not be performing at this event.

(£2 fee per transaction on all bookings except those made in person at the box office)

Town Hall and Symphony Hall are managed together by Performances Birmingham Limited, a Registered Charity No 1053937. Between them, the two halls present an exciting and varied programme of over 600 concerts and events a year, designed to appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds. Over 500,000 people visit Town Hall and Symphony Hall annually, and a thriving Education and Community department reaches a further 10,000 people of all ages.

Town Hall Birmingham re-opened in October 2007 following a £35m renovation funded by Birmingham City Council (£18.3m), Heritage Lottery Fund (£13.7m), European Regional Development Fund (£3m).

Fiona Fraser
Press & PR Manager
T 0121 644 5008 (Direct)

Lyle Bignon
Assistant Press & PR Manager
T 0121 644 6028 (Direct)

Issue date: Thursday 12 August 2010