Bandella, a musical group including astronauts, will play Hawks & Reed on July 27
Half a century ago, humanity took its first step into the greater universe around us on the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. To celebrate this feat, Bandella, a global folk-rock and acoustic band based in Houston, Texas, made up of retired astronauts, will perform with a benefit performance for New England Public Media at the Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield in July. 27.
Bandella plays a mix of original songs, bluegrass, jazz and folk-rock from the 1970s and 1980s and is fronted by retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield (vocalist and rhythm guitarist). Hadfield performed a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” aboard NASA’s International Space Station (ISS), which has been viewed more than 40 million times on YouTube.
There’s also NASA astronaut and Shelburne resident Catherine “Cady” Coleman (flute), Micki Petit, whose spouse is a NASA astronaut (vocals), retired NASA astronaut and professor from UC Davis Steve Robinson (guitar, banjo, double bass), and Dave Webb, a longtime friend of the band (keyboards). Although the band have never been together in space, they have been making music as a band for over 16 years.
Coleman told the Defender of the Valley she thinks art and science go together.
“With art, science and vision, it’s all about travel and exploration,” she said. “Different people do it in different ways and yet it’s part of all of us… Performing is the joy of music together — something that happens when you play together when you practice. There’s a certain chemistry that we have that’s quite magical. One of the things we bring when we play together is “Wow”. They are real people. They are good musicians. I like what I hear. Sometimes, unknowingly, they go home knowing that the people who have amazing jobs are real people and that one of them could be them.
Hadfield, who is the first Canadian to walk in space, said the band performed hundreds of songs around the world and chose about 30 songs for their set at Hawks & Reed.
“Since three of the band members have lived off-planet for long periods of time and have piloted spaceships, that’s quite an unusual thing,” he explained. “So some of the songs are about that and we’ll have some footage in place. I am the leader of the group. I will definitely interact with the audience with questions and answers. We’ve done things that no other band in the world has done, so it’s a bit of a waste if we don’t let people ask questions.
Coleman said that during the band’s performance there will also be a screening of selected scenes from Robert Stone’s new film series, chasing the moonwhich is a six-hour documentary on the space race culminating with the first moon landing in 1969.
While living aboard the International Space Station in 2011, Coleman had the opportunity to play a flute duet with Ian Anderson of 1970s British progressive/folk rock band Jethro Tull on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of manned spaceflight in honor of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarian, who was the first human to travel into space and orbit the planet in his Vostok 1 capsule in 1961.
She said Anderson sent her a flute to play in space before he went on tour with Jethro Tull in Russia, where he performed his half of the duo.
“He was very funny and very likeable,” Coleman explained. “We didn’t meet until after we got home, but we tried together to figure out what we could do to create ripples, create waves beyond what he and I have been through.”
Only a fraction of the 7.7 billion people living on Earth today have ever been in space, let alone played music aboard the ISS. For Coleman, most of the days she worked aboard the ISS were busy.
“I would often take my flute out late at night and play a bit,” she explained. “It’s just centered and brings back your sense of self. We sleep on either end of the space station. There’s a Russian end of the space station and an American end. We’re all kind of mixed up, but in the middle there’s has a cupola. And the cupola is an amazing place where we look out the window and have this 360 degree view… It made me feel connected to the Earth and it made me feel connected to myself.
Hadfield said his first spaceflight took place shortly after Coleman’s. He was aboard the space shuttle Atlantis with a mission to help build Mir, the Russian space station in 1995.
“I had basically been preparing for this flight since I was nine years old, studying and changing who I was, ever since I was inspired by what Neil, Buzz and Mike did 50 years ago this weekend,” he said. “And so, it was a huge event. I was part of the flight crew. I was an engineer, but also a test pilot. It’s very cerebral and a huge amount of work. It’s extremely dangerous The odds of the space shuttle breaking up that day and killing us at launch was one in 38, which is terrible.
He continued, “It’s also very powerful and visceral. It pounding, shaking, vibrating and pounding you with all the might involved. That’s 80 million horsepower at launch, which is pretty overwhelming. But at the same time, you’re working the ship and working your way through complex checklists and ready for 10,000 things to go wrong. But you don’t just ignore what’s going on. It is also extremely exciting and beautiful and magnificent and rare. You’re crushed in your chair as the vehicle rushes at the speed of sound and accelerates in 45 seconds. Large solid rockets explode after two minutes. And then you have another six and a half minutes of the most powerful dragster in the world as you keep going faster and faster until after about eight and a half minutes you’re going five miles per second. And then the motors turn off and you’re instantly, wonderfully, magically weightless.
Hadfield said he often thinks about humanity’s journey through space. That’s why he keeps a stone ax on his desk, which was made by a member of Homo erectus, the extinct hominid species that predates modern humans and dates back 1.8 million years. years.
“It’s over a million years old,” Hadfield explained. “It predates homo sapiens. Someone made this tool to try and improve the quality of life for themselves and their family. I’m doing a whole lecture tour about human exploration and achievement and I teaches at university and I’ve written books about this whole idea – how our inventiveness and our need to explore places and ideas is what has led to the quality of life for so many billions of people enjoyment is an unrelenting basic human need.
Coleman said she’s excited about the future of space travel and how the technologies people are developing to explore the solar system could be used on Earth to tackle issues like global climate change.
“[The first human space flight to Mars] is going to be so amazing and make people realize that anything is possible if we just work together to make it happen. I know it sounds corny, but it’s really true. If you let people bring what they can bring, we can solve anything. What’s really exciting is that if we’ve brought a person to Mars or we’re colonizing the Moon, and we’re actually going to those places and doing those things, which I’m sure we’ll be doing in the near future , this means that we have also developed the abilities to solve many earthly problems. To go to Mars, we have to recycle our air, recycle our water, learn how to grow plants in places where it’s really difficult to do so.
For more information or to purchase tickets for the band’s show at Hawks & Reed, visit https://www.ticketfly.com/event/1870059-bandella-band-astronauts-greenfield/.
Chris Goudreau can be reached at [email protected]