Vanderbilt Planetarium Launches Live Shows

The Konica Minolta GeminiStar III system projects an image of Saturn onto the planetarium dom. Photo by Evan Reinheimer
The Konica Minolta GeminiStar III system projects an image of Saturn onto the planetarium dom.
Photo by Evan Reinheimer


October 18, 2013

By Steve Parks

Among the most popular shows at the Vanderbilt Planetarium before its $4 million renovation were the recorded rock concert light shows – especially Pink Floyd, a Long Island fan favorite. Starting Sunday, the planetarium will host live concerts. But at 147 seats, the planetarium’s new William and Mollie Rogers Theater is far too modest for a live Floyd show – or even a Roger Waters solo. So Vanderbilt Museum director Lance Reinheimer turned to the Long Island Composers Alliance to present “Winds, Waves and Skies,” a concert by Monmouth Winds Quintet accompanied by video imagery projected on the planetarium’s 60-foot dome.

“It’s our first live event in the new theater,” says Reinheimer of Sunday’s concert. “The planetarium really drives our attendance, so we’re trying new things that have nothing to do with the stars.”

Next month, the Vanderbilt turns to dance with the Lumiѐre Ballet previewing its “Nutcracker” holiday season. In December, the Composers Alliance returns with a “Celebrating the Winter Solstice” concert featuring the Iktus Percussion ensemble.

Since the March 18 reopening of the Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium, the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum has drawn about 80,000 visitors – more than triple the full year’s attendance before the planetarium was closed. “It’s put us on solid financial footing at last,” Reinheimer says.

The 41-year-old Goto star projector was retired. It’s now a museum piece in the planetarium lobby. “The new projector gives us more clarity and versatility,” the director says. When not in use, it lowers into a pit, improving sight lines in the theater that allow for live concerts with surround sound and full-dome video enhancement. “Watching the star projector rise from its pit is a cool show in itself,” says Reinheimer.

The next seasonal planetarium show, “The Longest Night: A Winter’s Tale,” premieres Nov. 23. The seats in the new theater are all front-facing rather than circular, as in many planetariums. “It was done specifically so we could stage live events,” says Reinheimer.

Sunday’s concert, says Laurence Dresner of the Composers Alliance, promises “an evening of delightful, wide-ranging styles of original music by Long Island composers.” The program includes “Ecstasy of the Stars,” a solo flute arrangement by Dana Richardson. NASA images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope dance along with the music. Another featured piece is Marga Richter’s “Reflections,” inspired she says, by “the vast quietness” of the Grand Canyon and Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks. Her own photographs of those vistas will be projected onto the dome.

Monmouth Winds’ musicians are from New Jersey’s Monmouth Symphony Orchestra. “We enjoy playing the standard woodwind quintet repertoire,” says flutist Jenny Cline, “but also jazz, popular tunes and world music, including work by living composers.”

Maybe even music by Pink Floyd? Probably not.

WHAT Monmouth Wind Quintet concert

6:30 p.m. Sunday, Vanderbilt Museum Planetarium, 180 Little Neck Rd., Centerport. (Lumière Ballet Nov. 10, winter solstice concert Dec. 8)

$10-$15;, 631-854-5579


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