Musicians Honor Apollo Missions And Maestro Schwarz

Twenty SSO musicians donate their time to Museum of Flight Event


by Susan Gulkis Assadi - Principal Viola, Seattle Symphony

On November 14, 2009, I participated in a historical and very special event at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. The event was a celebration of the Apollo missions to the moon, and the 25th anniversary of Maestro Gerard Schwarz conducting the Seattle Symphony. The event took place forty years to the day (November 14, 1969) of the launch of Apollo 12, which was the second US manned lunar landing mission.

One hundred and thirty local musicians played at the celebration, helping to make this a very special day for the honorees and visitors alike. Twenty musicians from the Seattle Symphony Orchestra participated. Other musicians came from the Boeing Concert Band, the Marysville High School Band, Lake Union Civic Orchestra, Sammamish Orchestra, Microsoft Orchestra, Cascade Symphony Orchestra and students from the University of Washington.

Dr. Bonnie Dunbar, President and CEO of the Museum of Flight as well as a former NASA astronaut and veteran of five spaceflights, opened the celebration. She spoke about the Apollo anniversary and introduced Major General William Anders (Apollo 8), his wife Valerie Anders, and Nancy Conrad, Charles “Pete” Conrad’s widow (Apollo 12). Pete Conrad was the commander of the Apollo 12 mission.

After brief speeches, a replay of the actual countdown for the liftoff of Apollo 12 was heard over a loud speaker throughout the Museum. When the countdown reached one, the orchestra played the opening bars of Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra. It was probably the best and most unique introduction of this piece that I will ever play!!

We also played Mars from The Planets by Gustav Holst and the final movement of Antonin Dvorak’s New World Symphony. They were very appropriate pieces for the occasion. The passion and excitement of the orchestra was contagious… everyone was invigorated and felt good to be part of this wonderful community. Performing for astronauts that have traveled into space was the icing on the cake for the musicians!

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