Space Station Earth at the Royal Albert Hall – experiencing Tim Peake with orchestra

The perfect rainy Sunday in London starts with a trip to South Kensington’s Museum Road, includes French pastry and leads to the magnificent Royal Albert Hall. Opened in 1871, today it welcomes a beautiful mix of space enthusiasts of all ages: Students, researchers, children, the elderly and everyone else appreciating an eclectic mix of classical music and scientific celebration. Surely, some very organised individuals will have had a great morning already in the excellent Science Museum a few doors down.

The expected Q&A is an interview of ESA astronaut Tim Peake and composer Ilan Eshkeri, asking each other prepared questions on how they collaborated together on giving photographic and video footage (shot from the International Space Station) a dedicated soundtrack for appreciative multimedia consumption – discussing difficulties and assuring the audience that the music will put the viewer in the astronauts’ visual and emotional perspective.

Don’t miss the excellent shop and the exhibition on 150+ years of Royal Albert Hall history around the foyer

After thirty minutes and a further half an hour intermission the orchestra starts its hour-long performance. There are three massive screens and I count twelve singers, three celli and three synths players amongst e-guitar, brass and string musicians, all in blue European Space Agency overalls – whatever you expected from a film composer, this is indeed more Jean-Michel Jarre or Pink Floyd in Pompeii, more prog rock than Kraftwerk (let alone Danny Elfman). We see sun, moon and stars rise and sink, homages to technicians and the technology they operate (history in the making, all once science fiction before it came together and worked), rocket take-offs, the Earth from space during day and night, clouds, galaxies, and how an astronaut’s day looks on the ISS. Now Tim Peake’s words come back to mind who elaborated on the unnatural experience of weightlessness, sounds and silence, and how this changes the perspective of those few privileged enough to have experienced it (emphasizing that at this point in history space travel is reserved for crew members only, not yet passengers): Space is an ocean, space travel is spiritual, space is the most intimidating blackest black, going on for infinity.

When was the last time you looked up?

Spotlights emphasize the movements of celestial bodies and turn the Royal Albert Hall’s iconic ceiling discs to satellites. A choir of wordless vocals makes this show even more approachable for those visitors less fluent in English – this mind-blowing meditation on the excitement of science, innovation, the future and the unknown is a shared dream for everyone. After countless goosepimple moments, Tim Peake (the probably nicest person on British TV) joins the finale. What a life.

During the previous night, the Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti wished millions of viewers a fantastic Eurovision finale from space. And in this very venue it was where, just after the Brexit vote, I witnessed a choir of over 1000 singers performing the Carmina Burana, and the staff announcing that they will not make a public judgement on the vote but that they host singers from over fifty countries today, and that they would like to continue events like this. ESA seems a logical next step. If there really is no sound in space, I am glad I made it to this corner of the universe this afternoon.

Yes, that’s in the middle is Tim Peake playing

***** out of 5 stars (pun not intended)

I thank Chloe Nelkin Consulting for having offered me a press ticket; I sat excellently in the Stalls K, in Row 7 on seat 75.

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