Oakton composer to dock at Capital One Hall for world premiere of space-themed symphony

The National Philharmonic performs Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” at Capital One Hall, accompanied by images of space from NASA (courtesy Elman Studio)

A local classical composer is preparing to blast off for the world premiere of his newest symphony.

The suite “Cosmic Cycles, A Space Symphony” will be performed for the first time by the National Philharmonic at Capital One Hall (7750 Capital One Tower Road) in Tysons at 7:30 p.m. next Thursday (May 11).

Composer Henry Dehlinger, who was born in San Francisco but now lives in Oakton, was commissioned to develop the piece for the orchestra as part of an ongoing collaboration with NASA for the 2022-2023 concert season, according to a press release.

A second performance is scheduled for May 13 at the Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda.

“Cosmic Cycles is a dream project because it bridges the gap between art and science,” Dehlinger said. “Together with two of D.C.’s biggest stars — NASA and NatPhil — we’re taking the audience on an exploration of the universe through an immersive experience that combines symphonic music and visual storytelling.”

Known for choral music and jazz arrangements as well as symphonic works, Dehlinger previously worked with NASA on “Return to the Moon,” a brass fanfare that debuted with the March 12, 2022 rollout of the main Artemis I launch vehicle for the agency’s new lunar program.

The National Philharmonic has also collaborated with NASA in the past, most recently when it played Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” in February 2022 at Capital One Hall and Strathmore. The music was accompanied by images of planets taken by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

“Capital One Hall is a great venue with an oversized screen that really lends itself to a visual and aural presentation that is designed to project the awesomeness of space and the universe,” said National Philharmonic Director Piotr Gajewski, who will conduct both concerts.

For “Cosmic Cycles,” the process was flipped: Dehlinger composed the music in response to images provided by NASA.

“Henry Dehlinger has been a long-time collaborator with NatPhil and his style of music with sweeping melodies and brilliant orchestrations is perfect, I thought, for the images that NASA was putting forward,” Gajewski said. “When I saw the images, I immediately thought of Henry.”

Gajewski counts Dehlinger as a close friend, per the press release. This will be the third time that the philharmonic has premiered one of Dehlinger’s pieces.

Here’s more on “Cosmic Cycles” from the National Philharmonic:

Cosmic Cycles, A Space Symphony is a seven-movement symphonic suite that draws inspiration from images captured by NASA’s Hubble and James Webb Space Telescopes and visualizations created by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Each movement carries a programmatic title, alluding to the images, illustrations, and videos which informed the composer’s writing process: 1. The Sun; 2. Earth, Our Home; 3. Earth as Art; 4. The Moon; 5. Planetary Fantasia; 6. The Travelers; and 7. Echoes of the Big Bang. In the upcoming performances, these symphonic poems will be paired with HD projections of the visuals.

The concert will be preceded by a lecture and question-and-answer session with a NASA astronaut, along with educational “Ask a Scientist” booths and a kiosk with a touchable lunar rock. At Capital One Hall, those activities will begin at 6:45 p.m., and the booths and kiosk will also be open during intermission.

Tickets are available online through Capital One Hall’s website. Prices start at $19, but all kids get free admission.

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