Sunday, October 7, 2007

Manheim Steamroller

Last night right after school my wife and I drove to Ames, Iowa to see the Manheim Steamroller Concert. I was invited because I am a Space Foundation Teacher Liaison. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. They are more famous for their Christmas music than anything. All that I knew was that it was a “space” themed concert that is sponsored by the Space Foundation and that the former director of Kennedy Space Center, Jim Kennedy had told me about it when I was in Florida. We left at 4:00 and the concert started at 7:30. It is a three and a half hour drive. We literally pulled into the parking lot on fumes with about ten minutes to spare. We got our tickets from will call and the lady said “you guys have good seats.” She wasn’t kidding. We had seats in the 9th row almost right in the middle. When we walked in there was a huge screen with the space shuttle and a countdown clock. The only sound was of Mission Control going through the countdown. Needless to say, I was excited. The auditorium was really cool with a whole series of balconies. I don’t know how many people it held but it was full.

The house lights stayed up until it got to 20 seconds before liftoff. Then the lights went down and the countdown kept going. When it launched, the sounds were amazing. For just a second I was standing back at Banana Creek watching/feeling/experiencing the space shuttle launch. It was the first time since the launch I have felt that rumble in my chest. I thought I would at the NASCAR race and I completely didn’t. This morning my wife and I were talking about it and without me saying it, she mentioned that you could feel the launch rattle your chest. That was a cool moment because I really felt like she experienced a part of the launch with me, three months later. They showed nothing but the launch until about 2 minutes into the launch. Then all of a sudden, the screen was yanked down and the music started blaring. The great thing was, they didn’t stop the sounds of the launch, or mission control. That was all part of the music. I bought their CD and it is the same on the CD. Their music is definitely different from what I normally listen to (country) but it was really cool. After the first couple of space songs from their album called “Music of the Spheres” they played a few far out songs from their other CDs, a couple of which are now on my wish list. The third song was probably my favorite. It is hard to describe but I remember thinking that this might be what imagination sounds like. I know that sounds weird but when you hear it you will understand.

The rest of the first half of the show was good, there were a couple of songs that I didn’t absolutely love but for the most part, they were really good. Oh, I almost forgot, after their first two space songs (which also had video of a landing that was really cool too) Jim Kennedy came out on stage. He did about a 15 minute presentation on the history of space travel. 50 years ago on the 4th of October was when Sputnik was launched, the first satellite. His presentation was good, but it wasn’t really anything I hadn’t heard before. Probably the neatest part of it was hearing the people around me and their reactions. They obviously weren’t space nuts like me but it was obvious that they were impressed. There were a lot of oohs and aaahs.

The second half of the show started out in a really cool way. Up on the big video screen behind (which for the entire show had space images, and galaxies up on it) the band was a picture of Clayton Anderson who is currently on the space station. He opened up the second part of the show with a tour of the space station and telling us that he hoped we enjoyed the show. Talk about a really cool way to start a show. They then played another series of songs from their new album one of which included a remake of the Star Trek theme song. They also played some music from their other new album which is a Halloween album. That music was weird. I bought three albums (they came in a package). Their new Christmas album which isn’t released until Monday, a 3 disk Halloween set and Music of the Spheres. It was pretty cool, they were also selling NASA stuff last night.

Overall, it was absolutely worth the trip and I will probably go back to see them for the space concert again. One of my favorite things from the concert (other than setting next to my wife) was watching the piano player. He was amazing! He had a funky grand piano and a keyboard setting on top and he would play both at the same time. Than at one point, he was playing a piano with one hand, a drum with another and sometimes he would pick up a tambourine type thing and play it and the piano or drum. Like I said, he was amazing. The last thing was that it was obvious that Chip Davis, the leader of the band/drum player, and all of the other people in the band looked like they were having an absolutely great time as they played. You can tell they love their job. I wonder if that is what I look like when I’m teaching? I hope so.

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