Tafelmusik in the Adelaide Advertiser

Tafelmusik’s space odyssey tour
Louise Nunn, The Advertiser
March 09, 2012

WHEN Italian astronomer Galilei Galileo unveiled the first viable telescope in 1609 it changed the way people viewed their place in the world.

A concert celebrating his creation and the scientific discoveries that followed will be performed tomorrow and on Monday for the Adelaide Festival.

The Galileo Project: Music of the Spheres is part of a national tour by Canadian early music ensemble Tafelmusik.

It has been an extraordinary success for the 17-member orchestra, which has performed it throughout Canada, and in North America, Mexico, Asia and China.

The word concert does not entirely capture the nature of the event, mind you.

Devised in 2009 to mark the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s ground-breaking invention, it’s a miracle marriage of music, theatre, science and history.

Images from the Hubble telescope and Galileo’s drawings are projected on to a large, orb-shaped screen behind the orchestra, and Canadian actor Shaun Smyth narrates writings by important scientific figures including Galileo and Isaac Newton.

Tafelmusik double bass player Alison Mackay developed the concept and script.

She says the orb appears like a celestial body above the stage, and at times the audience feels it’s “looking through the end of a telescope”.

“We’d worked with an actor before but we’d never experimented with a theatrical set and lighting design,” she says. “We thought it would be a marvellous opportunity to put all these things together.”

So as not to distract from the staging, the players took on the “monumental task” of memorising all the music.

“It gave us the opportunity to move around the stage, and go out into the audience, which we do four or five times during a performance,” Mackay says.

Music by composers including Lully, Telemann, Handel, Vivaldi, Monteverdi and Bach is played by Tafelmusik on original Baroque or replica Baroque instruments.

“One of the most exciting things about the concert is that it has brought us into lively contact with the community of astronomers around the world, including Australia,” Mackay says.

“And for this tour we have incorporated some images from the southern hemisphere night sky.”

Northern Sky from New Zealand by Alan Dyer

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Welcome to Musica Viva’s International Concert Season blog. Here you can follow and read more about our wonderful touring artists.

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