This Saturn system montage shows some of the musical inspiration present in the night skies. (Photo courtesy NASA/JPL)

Planetary Inspiration in early October

How does a composer find inspiration for his or her music? As far-fetched as it may seem, a program created by Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) could provide a clue.

Since 2013, the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra and OSMP have collaborated on a “Nature & Music” series that connects community members with the natural world through music. “It’s a way to get nature lovers excited about the upcoming concert, and to get music lovers excited about nature,” says Dave Sutherland, OSMP interpretive naturalist.

Usually, Sutherland takes participants on a hike with a set of portable speakers, and they interpret what they see and hear and what might have inspired the composer. The program this year will be a little different, since it happens when all planets are visible in the night sky. In anticipation of the orchestra’s “Infinite Space” concert in mid-October, Sutherland will set up his telescope in north Boulder so people can view Jupiter’s moons, Saturn’s rings and Mars’ polar caps, as well as Uranus, Neptune, Venus and Mercury.

The “Infinite Space” concert celebrates the 100th anniversary of Gustav Holst’s orchestral suite, “The Planets,” and the 60th anniversary of the Boulder Philharmonic. It also highlights Boulder’s contributions to the aerospace industry. The concert will be accompanied by a women’s chorus and feature innovative videos. “The Planets Reimagined,” for instance, uses images by artist Gary Kelley that show the historical influences, including World War I and its aftermath, on Holst’s magnum opus. Videos will also accompany James Stephenson’s “Celestial Suite” and Cindy McTee’s “Circuits.”

Sutherland’s OSMP program is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 5, 11 and 12; for information, visit The “Infinite Space” concert, conducted by Michael Butterman, is at Macky Auditorium on Oct. 13. For tickets and information, visit

—Kay Turnbaugh