Northern Lights Grant Park Music Festival Concert Review – Telling Aurora’s Story


The noble cause of communicating science through art was advanced last night by the Grant Park Music Festival and KV265 organization’s paean to the grandeur of the Northern Lights. 



This was a world premiere of a newly commissioned work by composer Christopher Theofanidis to accompany a stunning visual collage of the Northern Lights.  That it was presented in the format of a children’s story, including a child performer  (Nicholas Black in the part of the Grandchild) was likely very engaging to the greater number of children attending the performance than is typical of Grant Park Music Festival concerts.



The visuals assembled by Dr. José Franciso Salgado, an Emmy-nominated astronomer with Chicago’s own Adler Planetarium, were indeed breathtakingly beautiful.



Anne Barlow, Co-Founder of KV 265, explains that gathering these stunning images of Aurora Borealis took some doing.  She says, “Photographing the Northern Lights was a challenge, since the Northern Lights need precise conditions in order to be able to see them. They need the right space weather, clear skies, and it helps to be in the far north under the Aurora Oval. We knew that the Canadian Space Agency, who has been of great help with this project, had cameras monitoring the Northern Lights from Yellowknife, located in the Northwest Territories of Canada. We journeyed there in March of this year, and the display of Northern Lights was magnificent.



“The other big challenge was the coordination of all of the elements: film, music and narration. We worked from a storyboard outline and an ever evolving script. Theofanidis did a brilliant job of integrating the narration with the music — it is similar to an opera only narrated.  Salgado has done amazing creative work in synchronizing the music with the incredible images and storyline. The result is a highly integrated multidisciplinary work combining music, visuals, drama, and science.”



This performance has been several years in the making.  KV 265 is a Chicago-based non-profit organization whose mission is the communication of science through art to communities in Chicago and worldwide, with a focus on youth concerts and educational programs through the schools. According to Paul Winberg, President and CEO of the Grant Park Orchestral Association, “KV 265 had talked with the Grant Park Music Festival for several years about a couple of different projects.  Carlos Kalmar loved the intersection of science and art and the Festival had presented work by Christopher Theofanidis in the past.  As we put together our entire 80th Anniversary Season, the inclusion of the world premiere of “The Legend of the Northern Lights”, a co-commission with KV265 was a perfect fit.”



KV 265 was founded in 2010 and is dedicated to bringing the arts and sciences back together again through multimedia performances, inspiring people to appreciate and learn more about both science and art.  The organization’s Science & Symphony films have been presented in more than 90 performances in 14 countries, reaching more than 150,000 people worldwide. 


Speaking for KV 265, co-founder Barlow summarizes, “We hope this production will inspire children and audiences to learn more about beautiful classical music, our dynamic Sun, the space weather it produces, and the awe-inspiring displays of light and color we call the Northern Lights.”


There are four more performances remaining in Grant Park Music Festival’s season.  These are free concerts held in the beautiful Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.  For information on remaining concerts visit the Grant Park Music Festival website.


Visit the KV 265 website to learn  more about the organization’s mission and ongoing educational programs.




Photos courtesy of KV 265 unless otherwise indicated.






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