Office of University Communications & Marketing


Feb. 9, 2009

Shoals Symphony at UNA Presents Out of this world concert

FLORENCE, Ala. — The largest orchestra in the history of the Shoals Symphony at UNA will perform a tribute to astronomy March 1 at the Shoals Theater in Florence.

The 2 p.m. concert will be an out-of-this-world experience as the UNA Planetarium and Observatory presents a digital slide show of the most recent pictures from space while the symphony performs “The Planets,’’ by British composer Gustav Holst.

“‘The Planets’ is an excellent example of human imagination,” said Viljar P. Weimann, conductor of the Shoals Symphony at UNA. “Each movement expresses the composer’s impressions of different planets viewed from Earth and how they could sound to the human ear.” The movements are Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Holst’s most popular work, “The Planets,” was completed in 1916 and calls for an extra-large orchestra and an offstage ladies choir. Weimann said about 10 musicians will be added to the usual 60-member orchestra so that there can be six horns, four trumpets, two tubas, three clarinets and a bass clarinet; three flutes a piccolo and a bass flute; three bassoons and a contra bassoon.

“I can’t wait to hear the performance,” Weimann said. “It will lift the roof off the Shoals Theater.”

The ladies choir will deliver one of the most revolutionary features of Holst’s composition – a fade-out. At the end of “Neptune,’’ the choir’s voices drift off into the atmosphere after the orchestra has stopped playing. It was the first fade-out in the history of classical Western music.

The performance is part of the celebration surrounding 2009’s designation as the International Year of Astronomy, according to Dr. Mel Blake, assistant professor of physics and astronomy and director of the Planetarium and Observatory at UNA. The UNA Planetarium and Observatory and the symphony are working together to bring “The Planets” to the public.

2009 was picked because it is the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei’s first observation of space through a telescope and the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing, Blake said. When Galileo looked through his telescope, “We went from being the center of the universe to just being part of the universe,” Blake said.

“If you’ve ever looked up at the stars and wondered, come to this concert and become part of the Solar System,” said Allen Wall, president of the Shoals Symphony at UNA.

Weimann said the March concert will end with another celestial composition, “Star Wars,” from the motion picture sound track by John Williams.

The Shoals Theater is located on Seminary Street in downtown Florence. Concert tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for students. They can be bought in advance online at or at the Kennedy Douglass Center for the Arts in downtown Florence. Tickets are also available at the door.

“The Planets” is the third performance in the current symphony season. The final performance — “Symphonic Cabaret: Symphony at the Movies” — will be at 7 p.m. May 2 at the River Heritage Park in Florence and will include fireworks and the “1812 Overture” by Tchaikovsky.