Concert under the stars: WSO and Manitoba Museum team up

The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra is taking listeners on a trip through time and space this week at the Manitoba Museum.

Symphony takes on challenge of performing in Planetarium, aboard Nonsuch

The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra played the Planetarium Tuesday night. (Travis Golby/ CBC)

The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra is taking listeners on a trip through time and space this week at the Manitoba Museum. 

The Main Street neighbours have teamed up for a unique concert series.

"We love to bring music into incredible places around the city," said Julian Pellicano, who is the resident conductor for the WSO. "What I have done is chosen music that I think artistically really captures some sort of a feeling or some sort of an essence of what is happening in the universe and in the stars."

The 19-piece orchestra treated their guests to music from the 17th century, from 20th century composer Charles Ives, and more modern works by American composer John Adams. 

"His piece is called Shaker Loops and the way that music works is [it] actually loops in cycles much like the cycles of the celestial bodies in the sky," said Pellicano. 

A challenge to match music to star movement was accepted by the Planetarium's Scott Young.

"Usually we work with recorded music and so we have had to adjust our visuals to be able to pace things as the conductor, as the orchestra ebbs and flows with the tempo," said Young. 

Young said he's heard rumours the orchestra has played under the dome in the past, but there isn't anything on record to prove it.

He said it's the perfect space for an intimate live performance.
Scott Young, who manages the Planetarium, says there are rumours the symphony played there when it first opened 50 years ago. (Travis Golby/ CBC)

"It's an amazing sort of audio visual thing in the truest sense," he said. "We've got the great music being played and then layering overtop of that we have the universe, basically a journey from our backyards here on the earth all the way out to the very edge of the cosmos and back again."

Of course, playing in the planetarium poses a few challenges for the musicians.

'It's really dark," laughed Pellicano. "Obviously we need light in order to play, but simultaneously we want to have a good balance of light with the visuals in the planetarium."

The orchestra is playing a brighter venue Wednesday night: on board the Nonsuch.

The gallery just reopened in time for the 350th anniversary of the original Nonsuch voyage to Hudson Bay in 1668.

"They will be playing in and around the actual ship itself with a different program of music and there instead of the planetarium stars it's going to be the magic of the gallery around," said Young. and 

Young said the music is themed around tunes from that era, as well as around voyages and discovery.

This show is standing room only with two performances: one at 7:00 and a second at 8:30.
A replica Nonsuch ship is beginning a new voyage at Manitoba Museum after the popular attraction was renewed with new rigging. (Manitoba Museum)