Voyage: A Musical Journey of Exploration and Imagination


By John Morris Russell

On July 5, the Cincinnati Pops will release a new recording of music to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing and its momentous “giant leap for mankind.” Titled Voyage, this space-themed album will be the Pops’ 96th release and the sixth under the direction of Pops Conductor John Morris Russell. JMR elaborates on the recording’s themes and scores, including the title track, Voyage, written by the Academy Award-winning composer Michael Giacchino, who was co-commissioned by the Cincinnati Pops and the National Symphony Orchestra to compose this new work.

NASA’s decade-long mission to land humans on the Moon in the 1960s defines the American spirit. The science, engineering, teamwork, determination and sheer guts that got Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin to the surface of the Moon—and back—in July of 1969 embodies the pinnacle of American exceptionalism. The technology developed for space travel opened the door to the digital revolution, completely transforming modern life around the globe. It also sparked a sense of wonderment in the world’s creative community, ushering in a golden age of science fiction. The producers of motion pictures and television had their own “space race” in the 60s and 70s, which included the creation of iconic and inspiring musical scores that will live far beyond the productions for which they were composed. The medley Spaced Out weaves together some of the most distinctive themes from favorite TV shows, including both themes from Lost in Space, which represent some of the earliest works by composer “Johnny” Williams.

Over a half-century later, John Williams is still creating the greatest tome of dramatic orchestral repertoire since Richard Wagner to accompany Star Wars films, of which Jedi Steps and Finale from The Force Awakens is perhaps his most intricately crafted. Of the generation of composers raised on John Williams’ work, Michael Giacchino continues to develop the language of orchestral cinematic music, including a deeply moving soundtrack for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Giacchino’s work has also defined the newest generation of Star Trek motion pictures, including the thrilling 2009 title track. It seemed only natural to have Michael compose a new work to commemorate the anniversary of the Moon Landing on July 20, 1969. Voyage portrays the physical and metaphorical struggle to escape the gravity of our home planet to reach the eternal vastness of space. This vivid and emotional work captures both the anxiety and thrill the world experienced as Neil, Buzz and Michael Collins made history together 50 years ago.

Both Williams and Giacchino frequently find inspiration from the classics, and it is no surprise that Gustav Holst’s brilliant suite, The Planets, has served as a model of orchestral color, texture and drama. We have also included a reading of John Gillespie Magee’s “High Flight” on this recording, which is often used to memorialize aviators and astronauts. Set to Holst’s Venus from The Planets, the eloquence of the words, music, and heartfelt reading by Kate Mulgrew is our own tribute to the men and women of NASA who have given their lives in the pursuit of humanity’s final frontier.