Sky Orchestra - A Moment in Time takes flight over Bristol

2 Sep 2020
  • Hot air balloons took to the skies last night (1 Sep), serenading the public in Luke Jerram/Dan Jones collaboration
  • The music was newly commissioned by Bristol Old Vic for this project and performed by celebrated and emerging Bristol musicians
  • Members of Massive Attack and Portishead plus Bristol City Poet Vanessa Kisuule were among the contributors

A flotilla of hot air balloons delivered an uplifting musical and visual experience in surround sound to people in Bristol yesterday (Sept 1) as part of Sky Orchestra.

Serenading people with specially commissioned new music, Sky Orchestra - A Moment in Time was conceived to offer hope for the future and showcase the creative talent of the city.

An arts project by renowned international Bristol artist Luke Jerram and Bristol-based BAFTA-winning composer Dan Jones, Sky Orchestra - A Moment in Time featured the premiere of a new composition commissioned by Bristol Old Vic, played through speakers attached to the balloons, alongside live accompaniment.

The incredible line-up of Bristol musical and artistic contributors joining forces for the project included: Grant Marshall, founder member of Massive Attack, Stew Jackson, current writer and producer for Massive Attack, and Adrian Utley, founder member of Portishead, all involved in either creating or playing on the soundtrack.

Outgoing Bristol City Poet Vanessa Kisuule wrote a spoken word contribution which she recorded whilst renowned theatre and TV writer, composer and sound designer Elizabeth Purnell created the string arrangements. Drew Morgan was the cello soloist for the piece. Emerging young Bristol talent included Jo Bacon, Jerome Gamble and Joe Harding on the guitar, with Tom Nosek providing the vocals.

Jerome Gamble - who is mentored by Stew Jackson and Grant Marshall - played guitar live from a balloon. Adrian Utley and Stew Jackson attended the balloon launch.

The artwork was planned by Dan and Luke and developed in collaboration with Bristol Old Vic since the beginning of the lockdown. The local ballooning crews were brought together by lead pilot Peter Dalby. To avoid public crowds turning up to watch the launch, the dates and times of the performance were kept a secret. The launch happened from Ashton Court, Bristol, at just after 6pm.

People are encouraged to share their photos and video of the experience on social media, using the hashtag #skyorchestra. Funds raised from the sale of the EP of the musical composition, now available to download via Band Camp and or Wave Theory Records, will be donated to support emerging musicians in the city.

Sky Orchestra was first performed in the city at the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta in 2003, and in 2011 flew across the Capital for the London Olympics 2012.

Dan Jones, a BAFTA and three-time Ivor Novello award-winning composer who balances his time creating large scale musical artworks with a prolific career writing music for screen, co-created the new score. He said: "It's been exciting to be able to bring together some of Bristol's most celebrated musicians alongside emerging young talent from across the city; Bristol continues to be a launchpad for musical innovation that spreads right around the world.  This was a great opportunity for all of us to thank the city as a continued source of inspiration."

Luke Jerram, who is well known for artworks such as Museum of the Moon, Play Me I'm Yours and Park and Slide, explains: "As the city begins to breathe again and before we hold our breath to head into winter, we wanted a way to deliver an uplifting experience to people. Something spectacular, yet somehow intimate; to create a sense of renewal, hope and rebirth, to raise the public's spirits and mark a moment in time."

With seven hot air balloons taking flight as part of the project, this was one of the largest surround sound artworks in the world.

Tom Morris from Bristol Old Vic, which commissioned the new musical score said: "It's Bristol Old Vic's job to do whatever we can to help extraordinary artists share their work with the public. Luke and Dan's idea to present the Sky Orchestra as a gift to the city in the Covid crisis is beautiful and inspiring for all of us and we are delighted to have been able to help by commissioning a new score for today's event from the amazing range of musical talent which flourishes Bristol. And balloons playing a song of hope to every household in Bristol from the sky? What could be more theatrical than that!"

Sky Orchestra - A Moment in Time took place with kind permission from Bristol City Council, within social distancing guidelines.

AUDIO: Click here for audio clips of the new musical composition - both in mp3 and wav. Credits: Clips taken from tracks both written by Dan Jones and Stew Jackson + produced by Grant Marshall. "Flight" features Drew Morgan on cello.

PHOTOS: Click here for high res images. Please credit JonCraig_Photos

VIDEO FOOTAGE: Clips of drone footage can be downloaded hereGround shots here. (Download free VLC player if you can't view).  

Bristol Old Vic is the longest continuously running theatre in the UK, and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2016. The historic playhouse aims to inspire audiences with its own original productions, both at home and on tour, whilst nurturing the next generation of artists, whether that be through their 350-strong Young Company, their many outreach and education projects or their trailblazing artist development programme, Bristol Ferment.

They use their funding to support experiment and innovation, to allow access to their programme for people who would not otherwise encounter it, or be able to afford it, and to keep their extraordinary heritage alive and animated.

On 24 Sep 2018, Bristol Old Vic completed its 2-year multi-million pound redevelopment project, which transformed its front of house space into a warm and welcoming public building for all of Bristol to enjoy, created a new studio theatre and opened up its unique theatrical heritage to the public for the first time.

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