Last month, Dart Music International staged a week-long free concert in Austin, Texas. Living up to the organization’s name, the concert featured six bands from six continents back to back, three days running. It also featured a global first: a performance from space.
Astronaut Cady Coleman took part from the International Space Station, playing the flute to accompany her band in a toe-tapping performance that was shown to what surely must have been a cheering crowd. I wanted to cheer just watching it at home.
Colonel Coleman starts her video by taking us on a tour through the space station as she heads down to her favorite playing location, the cupola. There she presents three flutes that she took into space as a way of sharing the joy with others (and the owners of those flutes will be instantly recognizable to anyone who enjoys the Chieftains or Jethro Tull).
Then she shows us the view, at which point musicians the world over breathe a sigh of envy. She says she goes there so as not to bother her sleeping crewmates while playing, but it’s hard to imagine being annoyed by such playing as hers. C’mon, Cady, it’s about the view. And the acoustics aren’t bad, either.
UPDATE: I wrote this post two days ago, but just as I was getting ready to upload it today, I found another video. Turns out Ian Anderson (founder of the band Jethro Tull) did more than send his flute into space with Colonel Coleman. He also played with her in the first ever Earth-space duet, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of humanity’s first manned flight into space. (Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth 50 years ago today.)
Very cool! Plus, I happen to love this song. The video doesn’t identify it, but it’s Bourée, a Jethro Tull treatment of Johann Sebastian Bach’s lute composition, Bourrée in E minor. Also, this video has what may be the best stage entrance of a musician, ever.
By the way, that’s Ian’s flute that Cady is playing. The disparity between the two halves of the duet is due in part to the fact that Cady couldn’t hear Ian live (there’s a delay in transmissions between Earth and the ISS), and also to the fact that Ian Anderson is constitutionally incapable of playing anything straight up.